Senate Bill No. 2220 / Committee Report No. 261
JCEC Enhancement Act
Monday, May 24, 2021
Delivered by the Honorable Win Gatchalian, Senator of the 18th Congress:
A pleasant afternoon to you Mr. President, esteemed colleagues.
The Joint Congressional Power Commission or JCPC was established under Section 62 of Republic Act No. 9136, otherwise known as the Electric Power Industry Reform Act of 2001 or EPIRA. Composed of fourteen members from both chambers of Congress, the JCPC was originally constituted by law for a period of ten years. Its original primary mandate was to monitor and ensure the full implementation of the industry-transforming EPIRA law, as well as to identify and rectify gaps in the law by recommending remedial legislation and executive action as necessary. The life of the JCPC was extended for an additional ten years by Joint Resolution No. 1, series of 2011, up to June 26, 2021.
Over the years the jurisdiction of the JCPC has been expanded to include six other energy laws: RA 9513 or the Renewable Energy Act of 2008; RA 11039 or the Electric Cooperatives Emergency and Resiliency Fund Act; RA 11234 or the Energy Virtual One-Stop Shop Act; RA 11285 or the Energy Efficiency and Conservation Act; RA 11361 or the Anti-Obstruction of Power Lines Act; and RA 11371 or the Murang Kuryente Act. To reflect the expansion of its mandate to oversee the implementation of a wide range of energy laws not related to the electric power industry, the JCPC was renamed the Joint Congressional Energy Commission or JCEC in 2019 through RA 11285.
In furtherance of its oversight mandate, the Commission has convened for at least 69 hearings and meetings during the 12th to 18th congresses. The Commission has overseen the full implementation of three out of the seven laws under its jurisdiction: the Electric Cooperatives Emergency and Resiliency Fund Act, the Anti-Obstruction of Power Lines Act, and the Murang Kuryente Act.
The Commission has also taken an active role in defending and promoting the rights of power consumers by investigating issues such as the exorbitant bill shock experienced by MERALCO customers during the Luzon-wide ECQ of 2020.
Kung matatandaan natin, libu-libo ang nagreklamo noong unang bahagi ng pandemya dahil sa pagsipa ng singil sa kuryente ng MERALCO habang marami ang nawalan ng trabaho at walang maipambayad ng kuryente. Unti-unti ay naresolba ang isyu sa pamamagitan ng JCEC.
Malaki ang papel na ginagampanan ng komisyon sa loob ng mahabang panahon. Kung hindi dahil sa mandato nito, hindi maisasakatuparan ang pagsasabatas ng mga pangunahing solusyon sa mga problema ng bansa pagdating sa kuryente tulad ng pagpapailaw sa mga sambahayan lalo na iyung mga nasa liblib na probinsiya.
Despite the achievements notched under its watch, however, the Commission still has a lot of work left to do. Data from various government agencies indicate that there are still 60 items out of 277 total items contained in the four remaining energy laws under its oversight which have yet to be fully implemented. Significantly, the JCEC has yet to fulfill its original mandate of ensuring full implementation of EPIRA. 9 of the 184 items contained in EPIRA have yet to be fully implemented, including one of its most vital consumer-oriented provisions: Retail Competition and Open Access or RCOA. 13 out of 36 items in the Renewable Energy Act have yet to be fully implemented, including key provisions on renewables incentives, the Green Energy Option Program, and the Renewable Energy Trust Fund. Only 1 out of 16 items of the EVOSS Act, which was recently enacted in March 2019, has been fully implemented. Only 25 out of the total 41 items of another 2019 law, the Energy Efficiency and Conservation Act, are fully implemented at this point.
As co-chair of the Commission since 2016, Mr. President, I can personally attest to its usefulness in exercising the legislative branch’s pivotal energy oversight powers. The JCEC is a critical institution that provides a strong check-and-balance mechanism in the implementation of landmark energy laws through hands-on congressional oversight. It serves as a nexus of technical expertise and institutional knowledge to help legislators, policymakers, and industry stakeholders navigate the complicated labyrinth that is the country’s overarching energy legal and policy framework. Furthermore, the bicameral composition of the Commission promotes the efficient use of congressional time and resources by preventing duplication of work between the respective energy committees of the Senate and the House.
In this context, Mr. President, allowing the Commission to become functus officio next month would be detrimental to ongoing reforms within the energy sector. Therefore, the JCEC Enhancement Act seeks to remove the Commission’s sunset provision from Section 62 of EPIRA. The bill also seeks to expand the JCEC’s oversight jurisdiction to include existing energy laws without their own respective oversight bodies, such as the Oil Exploration and Development Act of 1972 and the Downstream Oil Industry Deregulation Act of 1998. Essentially, this would institutionalize the JCEC as a permanent oversight body tasked with ensuring the full implementation of landmark energy laws.
It should be noted, Mr. President, that the institutionalization and enhancement of the JCEC was strongly supported by the country’s energy-related agencies and advocacy groups during the hearing held by the Energy Committee on May 21, 2021 on this topic. The Chair of the Energy Regulatory Commission, Atty. Agnes Devanadera, aptly observed that “the JCEC is a very, very important institution through which stakeholders and the different agencies can come together and discuss.” She also noted that bringing together agencies and stakeholders in the JCEC avoids unnecessary filing in court because these actors are given an alternative forum to thresh out potential controversies. Atty. Jay Layug of the Developers of Renewable Energy for Advancement Inc. went so far as to voice his organization’s “1,000 percent” support for the institutionalization of the JCEC, and even proposed the expansion of the Commission’s jurisdiction to include other existing energy laws.
Representatives of the Power Sector Assets and Liabilities Management Corporation, the Philippine Electricity Market Corporation, the National Electrification Administration, the National Power Corporation, the National Transmission Corporation, and many other stakeholders also voiced support for the measure, based on their first-hand experiences of how the JCEC has helped them in fulfilling their respective mandates. The fact that it was the stakeholders themselves that proposed the further expansion of the jurisdiction of the JCEC drives home the energy sector’s unequivocal backing of the JCEC as a cornerstone institution of the energy industry.
Mr. President, the Joint Congressional Energy Commission has played, and will continue to play an important role in achieving our shared vision of greater Philippine energy stability, sustainability, and savings. As such, I am proud to sponsor this measure and I urge our distinguished colleagues to support its speedy approval given the impending expiration of the JCEC on June 26, 2021.
Thank you, Mr. President.