ALMOST two decades after the enactment of the controversial Electric Power Industry Reform Act (EPIRA), electricity prices in the Philippines still remain among the highest in Southeast Asia.
It will be recalled that the two-chamber Congress passed EPIRA (Republic Act No. 9136) in 2001 with the intention of ensuring affordable and reliable electricity to all power consumers in the country.
Considered as relatively high compared to global standards, the power rates are mainly due to the country’s heavy reliance on imported fossil fuels and uncompetitive market structures.
The EPIRA mandated the Energy Regulatory Commission to promote competition, encourage market development, ensure consumer choice and penalize abuse of market power in the restructured electricity industry.
Today, several proposed measures pending consideration in Congress, such as Senate Bill (SB) No. 1583, seek to amend EPIRA.
In fact, Senator Richard “Dick” Gordon of Olongapo City, one of the youngest members of the “1971 Constitutional Convention,” signed on Thursday a committee report pushing for these bills.
The bills seek to extend lifeline subsidies for 20 more years in order to provide continuous relief to marginalized households or those who consume 100 kilowatt-hours or less of monthly electricity.
“We have to cushion the blow of power-rate increases to marginalized households who cannot afford to pay the full cost of their electricity bill, especially with the economic effects of this COVID-19 pandemic,” according to Senator Gordon.
However, the highly-articulate senator was quick to emphasize that “we have to ensure that those who are benefiting from this relief are really those who are on the poverty line.”