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Congress OKs 'Murang Kuryente' bill

MANILA, Philippines – The 17th Congress approved on 3rd and final reading the bill that would reduce electricity rates by allocating the net government share from the Malampaya fund for the payment of stranded contract costs and stranded debts of the National Power Corporation (Napocor).

On Monday, February 4, the House of Representatives voted 171-6-0 in favor of House Bill (HB) No. 8869, while the Senate approved Senate Bill (SB) No. 1950 with a vote of 17-0. Lawmakers have dubbed these measures as the "Murang Kuryente Act (Cheap Electricity Act)."

Under the bills, the multibillion Malampaya Fund will be used to pay Napocor's debts. The funds will be transferred to the Power Sector Assets and Liabilities Management Corporation, the entity created by the Electric Power Industry Reform Act to handle the privatization and finances of Napocor.

The Malampaya fund, which according to senators amounts to P204 billion as of December 2017, would be used to pay stranded contract costs and stranded debts, missionary electrification and environmental charges of the Napocor and the feed-in-tariff allowance. These items are currently passed on to consumers through the universal charge (UC) in the monthly electric bill.

1-CARE Representative Carlos Roman Uybarreta said under the House version, there would be an estimated decrease of P0.57 per kilowatt hour (kWh) in electricity billings.

"Katumbas 'yan ng humigit-kumulang P115 to P120 na matitipid sa bayarin kada buwan para sa isang household na may buwanang konsuma na 200 kWh (That's equivalent to more or less P115 to P120 in savings for a household with a monthly consumption at 200 kWh)," Uybarreta said.

Under SB 1950, authored by Senate President Pro-Tempore Ralph Recto, consumers could save more, amounting to P0.8474 per kWh.

Senate energy committee chair Sherwin Gatchalian said this translates to a savings of P169.48 per month and P2,033.76 per year, which would be enough for a household to buy an extra sack of rice.

Lawmakers will have to reconcile the conflicting provisions of the House and Senate versions of the bill in the bicameral conference committee before it gets signed into law. – Rappler.com

Camille Elemia

Camille Elemia is Rappler's lead reporter for media, disinformation issues, and democracy. She won an ILO award in 2017. She received the prestigious Fulbright-Hubert Humphrey fellowship in 2019, allowing her to further study media and politics in the US. Email camille.elemia@rappler.com

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Mara Cepeda

Mara Cepeda writes about politics and women’s rights for Rappler. She covers the Senate and the Office of the Vice President. Got tips? Send her an email at mara.cepeda@rappler.com or shoot her a tweet @maracepeda.

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