The Senate and House of Representatives have ratified the final reconciled version of a measure that would provide government funding for emergency and resiliency initiatives of 122 electric cooperatives providing power to tens of millions of Filipinos nationwide.
“With this reconciled version of the bill, we will create a culture of resiliency in our electric cooperatives and will be responsive to their needs in the aftermath of natural disasters,” said Senator Win Gatchalian, the principal sponsor of the Electric Cooperatives Emergency and Resiliency Fund Act, as he presented the bicameral conference report before the Senate.
Gatchalian, the chair of the Senate Energy panel, reported that both chambers of Congress have ironed out the disagreeing provisions of Senate Bill No. 1461 and House Bill No. 7054. The bill will appropriate an initial amount of Php 750-million pesos for the purpose, carved out from the Php 7-billion peso budget of the National Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Fund (NDRRMC) for electric cooperatives (ECs).
“The amount shall be immediately released to the National Electrification Administration Quick Response Fund for proper release to qualified electric cooperatives,” he said, noting that ECs would no longer have to pass on the reconstruction costs of its damaged infrastructure due to natural calamities directly to their more than 11-million members-consumers.
The senator explained further that subsequent budget allocation would be included in the General Appropriations Act (GAA) under the Electric Cooperatives Emergency and Resiliency Fund (ECERF).
“The allocation of the fund shall be exclusively for the restoration or rehabilitation of the electric cooperatives’ damaged infrastructures after a fortuitous event,” he explained, stressing further that the amount should not be used for the conversion of a calamity loan into a grant.
Gatchalian, who is the author and the primary sponsor of the Senate version, said that the bill requires all ECs to submit to the National Electrification Administration (NEA) their respective Vulnerability and Risk Assessments, Resiliency Compliance Plans, and Emergency Response Plans every year as part of the requirements to access ECERF.
With regard to donations given by both local and foreign sources, he said that NEA shall now have the mandate to receive funds, materials, or equipment intended for the purpose of restoring, or rehabilitating damaged infrastructures of ECs caused by natural calamities.
Gatchalian is confident the ECERF Act will be signed by President Duterte before his third State of the Nation Address (SONA) scheduled on July.