House may approve bill amending Public Service Act

February 16, 2020

THE House of Representatives has moved closer to amending the 84-year-old Public Service Act by terminating plenary debates.

House Majority Leader and Leyte Rep. Martin Romualdez said the termination last week capped six months of discussions on House Bill (HB) No. 78, which seeks to limit the definition of what is a public utility.

“The House leadership is attending to important legislative measures even in the face of COVID-19 and other issues,” said Romualdez, who chairs the House committee on rules.

The Chamber tackled the bill even as Speaker Alan Peter Cayetano, other House leaders and relevant committees, checked on government measures to contain the novel coronavirus.

Deputy speaker and Aambis-Owa Rep. Sharon Garin, principal sponsor of the measure, heaved a sign of relief as Albay Rep. Edcel Lagman, who is opposing the proposed law, ended his interpellation.

The next step in the process is the presentation of committee and individual amendments, after which the bill is put to a second-reading vote. Final and third-reading vote takes place after three days.

Lagman said he will  further explain his opposition to the bill when it is voted on final reading.

Under HB No. 78, the definition of a public utility is limited to electricity distribution, electricity transmission, and water pipeline distribution or sewerage pipeline system.

The proposed law would amend Commonwealth Act No. 146, otherwise known as the Public Service Act of 1936.

The bill distinguishes “public service,” whose definition under the law is retained, from “public utility.”

In his explanatory note, Albay Rep. Joey Salceda, the measure’s author, said, “Competition and foreign investment are inhibited because limitations that should only apply to the operation of a public utility are applied to all public services.”                   RPP