Bicameral Conference Committee Report on SB 1877 & HB 8145 Lifeline Rate Extension Act
24 March 2021
Delivered by the Honorable Win Gatchalian, Senator of the 18th Congress:
Mr. President, as the lead conferee on behalf of the Senate I am proud to present the Bicameral Conference Committee Report resolving the disagreeing provisions of Senate Bill No. 1877 and House Bill No. 8145, the versions of the Lifeline Rate Extension Act approved by the Senate and the House, respectively, on third and final reading. There are a couple of notable changes made by the bicam for which we seek the ratification of the body. Allow me to explain briefly.
First, we have made changes with regard to the eligibility of household beneficiaries under the Pantawid Pamilyang Pilipino Program or 4Ps. Under Senate Bill No. 1877, qualified 4Ps household beneficiaries on the list submitted by the Department of Social Welfare and Development would be automatically eligible for the lifeline rate subsidy as marginalized end-users. However, the Bicam Report imposes an additional criterion – that the level of power consumption of the household be within the threshold to be determined by the Energy Regulatory Commission. Essentially, this means that the 4Ps beneficiary should still be a low consumption household. This amendment will ensure that the subsidy will only benefit truly marginalized end-users suffering from energy poverty.
Second, language has been inserted to require qualified marginalized end-users to continually meet the criteria under the law in order to avail of the lifeline rate. Essentially, this means that households whose economic fortunes improve or exceed the consumption threshold will no longer be eligible for the subsidy. Again, this is to ensure that only the most marginalized households will benefit from the subsidy.
Third, a Transitory Provision has been inserted as Section 2, which provides that the current level of consumption, subsidy, and rate shall continue to be applied to all present marginalized end- users until the new standards and thresholds have been promulgated by the ERC as required under this Act. This will maintain the status quo for lifeline rate beneficiaries until such time as the more precise and efficacious regime under the Lifeline Rate Extension Act is ready for full and fair implementation.
Lastly, and most importantly, instead of extending the lifeline rate for ten more years until 2031, the Bicameral Conference has lengthened the extension to 30 years from 2021 or until 2051. Given the economic uncertainties created by the COVID-19 pandemic, it would be wise to provide a more long-term subsidy in favor of poor households. It should be noted that this extension will have a minimal impact to non-lifeline rate consumers. DOE’s updated estimates based on the pandemic predict that non-lifeline consumers will only be paying PHP 0.0087 per kilowatt hour by 2051 to fund the subsidy. In short, the relief provided to millions of poor households through this extension will far outweigh the minimal costs shouldered by more affluent consumers.
I would like to reiterate, Mr. President, the necessity of extending the life of this critical subsidy, which will end in June 26 of this year. The changes in the Bicam Report as discussed will allow for the even more efficient and fiscally responsible implementation of the extended lifeline rate.
Thus, with gratitude to my fellow conferees – Senators Angara, Binay, Hontiveros, and Marcos – I move for the approval of the Bicameral Conference Committee Report as presented to the body. So moved, Mr. President.