Senator Christopher “Bong” Go, chairman of the Senate Health and Demography Committee, has expressed his support for and intent to co-author a measure that will extend the provision of a discounted rate, also called the lifeline rate, given to low-income electric consumers who are unable to pay their electricity bills at full cost.
In his manifestation during a Senate plenary session yesterday, Go recognized the devastating economic and health impacts of the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) pandemic which closed many businesses and put thousands of Filipinos out of work.
The economic downturn has disproportionately affected low-income households, many of them now struggling to pay their electricity bills which had accumulated after months of reprieve due to lockdown measures.
“Gaya po ng sinabi ko kamakailan sa budget hearing ng Department of Energy (As I have mentioned during a recent budget hearing of the Department of Energy), profits should not be prioritized over the welfare of the general public. The government will not tolerate any unfair business practices at a time when people’s lives are at stake,” Go said.
“Maraming Pilipino po ang naghihirap ngayon dahil sa COVID-19 pandemic sa bansa. Maraming nawalan ng trabaho, maraming nagsarang negosyo at maraming nagkakasakit. Sana naman ay huwag nating dagdagan pa ang kanilang pag-aalala sa iba’t-ibang mga bayarin,’’ he added. (Many Filipino are now having difficulties due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Many lost their jobs, businesses were closed and many got sick. Let us not add to their worries on how to pay for their bills),” he appealed.
The bill, sponsored by Senator Sherwin Gatchalian, will amend Section 73 of Republic Act (RA) 9136, the Electric Power Industry Reform Act (EPIRA) of 2001.
Specifically, SB 1877 will extend the implementation of the lifeline rate from 20 years to 30 years. Household-beneficiaries of the Pantawid Pamilyang Pilipino Program(PPP) and marginalized end-users, to be determined through a criteria developed by the Energy Regulatory Commission (ERC), shall benefit from the lifeline rate.
Under the EPIRA law, the lifeline rate is a discounted rate given to a low-income consumer who consumes up to 100 kWh of power every month.
The discount is determined by the average monthly electricity consumed. It may be applied for up to ten years and is shouldered by higher-income consumers.
“Many Filipinos have been benefitting from the Lifeline Rate, and it is my position that if we extend the period of exempting qualified marginalized end-users from the cross subsidy phase-out, it will redound to the benefit of poor Filipinos,” Go said.
“Let us always prioritize our people over profits. Sa karamihan ng ating mga konsumers, buhay at kinabukasan mismo ang nakasalalay dito,’’ he added. (For most of our consumers, their lives and future are at stake here.)