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Senate OKs Murang Kuryente Act on third reading

MANDALUYONG CITY, Philippines – The skyline of Makati and the rest of the metro glows in this long exposure image as airplanes hover for landing, 4 April 2018. With Senate Bill No. 1950 inching closer to becoming a law, Filipino consumers are a step closer in enjoying lower electricity rates. Photo by Mark Cayabyab/OS WIN GATCHALIAN

The Senate has approved on third and final reading a bill authorizing the use of the ₱207-billion Malampaya Fund to pay off the stranded contract costs and stranded debt of the National Power Corporation (Napocor).

With the approval of Senate Bill No. 1950 (SBN 1950) or the Murang Kuryente Act, ƒSenator Win Gatchalian said that Filipino consumers move much closer toward attaining lower electricity rates and, at the same time, provide them with significant savings.

“The approval of Murang Kuryente Act in the Senate is a victory for power consumers, who have long been made to share the burden of paying Napocor’s debts through the universal charge for stranded debts and stranded contract costs incorporated in the monthly electricity bill,” Gatchalian, who sponsored the bill, said.

“It is high time for the Filipino people to receive tangible benefits from the Malampaya Fund. With the approval of this measure, the government share realized from the Malampaya Natural Gas Project will end up lowering retail power rates for millions of consumers across the country,” he added.

The Murang Kuryente Act, which is based on a bill authored by Senate President Pro Tempore Ralph Recto, seeks to use the Malampaya Fund – accrued from the net profit share earned by the government from the operation of the Malampaya Natural Gas Project in the West Philippine Sea – for the payment of the stranded contract costs and stranded debts.

Up to now, the ₱207-billion fund, which was initially intended to fund the exploration, development, and exploitation of energy resources, has remained largely unused since 2001.

Gatchalian asserted that the bill would help lower electricity rates and provide significant consumer savings for Filipinos. For a household consuming 200 kilowatt hours per month, Gatchalian said this would result in savings of ₱169.48 per month or ₱2,033.76 per year.

He pointed out that households may use ₱169.48 savings to buy additional 2 to 3 additional kilos of rice per month or roughly a sack of rice per year.

He allayed fears of fund disbursement abuses should the bill be approved, saying that he has placed several safeguards for its use.

Gatchalian explained that the Power Sector Assets and Liabilities Management Corporation (PSALM) may only tap the fund after it has already applied the collections from its different sources of revenue. The funds to be used for the power debt payment servicing will be allocated through the General Appropriations Act, according to the lawmaker.

Once the obligations have been fully paid, Gatchalian said the remaining funds will be used to pay missionary electrification and environmental charges as well as the feed-in-tariff allowance.