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Bicam approves landmark ‘Energy Virtual One-Stop Shop’ bill

DAVAO CITY, Philippines – Senator Win Gatchalian (facing the camera) and officials of Thermal South, Inc. (TSI) coal-fired power plant in Toril, Davao City discuss the operations of the 300-MW facility touted to be the country’s most modern and environment-friendly power generating facility capable of providing electricity to 300,000 households, 7 August 2016 file image. The Energy Virtual One-Stop Shop Act of 2017 has been approved at the bicameral conference level that should pave the way for a streamlined permitting process for power infrastructure projects. Photo by Mark Cayabyab/OS WIN GATCHALIAN

The Bicameral Conference Committee has approved the reconciled version of a landmark anti-red tape measure seeking to modernize and streamline the permitting process of power generation, transmission, and distribution projects in the country.

The Senate Committee on Energy, chaired by Senator Win Gatchalian, and the House Committee on Energy, chaired by Rep. Lord Allan Velasco have agreed to adopt the Senate Bill No. 1439 or “The Energy Virtual One-Stop Shop Act of 2017” as the base of the reconciled bill.

“Passing this measure is quite timely, especially when inflation continues to hover around 6 percent as of November. We are optimistic that this bill is poised to drive down electricity costs and provide significant savings to power consumers by modernizing and streamlining the permitting process behind power infrastructure projects,” Gatchalian said.

In a nutshell, the bill will create and establish an online platform called the Energy Virtual One-Stop Shop (EVOSS) where prospective developers can apply, monitor, and receive all the needed permits and applications, submit all documentary requirements, and even pay for charges and fees.

EVOSS will be managed and maintained by the Department of Energy (DOE), while its operations will be determined and monitored by the EVOSS Steering Committee,

To further speed up the process, all government agencies involved will be required to follow a strict timeframe to act on pending applications. The failure of an agency to act within the prescribed timeframe will result in the automatic approval of said application and potential administrative sanctions against inefficient public officers to penalize the delay.

On the other hand, private entities – the system operator and market operator – who fail to act within the prescribed timeframe will be slapped with a P100,000 fine per day of delay.

Gatchalian pointed out that the passage of EVOSS will encourage foreign investors with the capacity to build cutting-edge power plants to enter the market and stimulate competition in the Philippine energy generation industry. The increased competition would then drive down generation costs, according to the senator.

He estimated that the reduced generation costs could result in the reduction of consumer electricity prices by as much as P0.35 per kWh. Pegged at the average household consumption rate of 200 kWh per month, this would result in savings of P840 per household every year.

“The elimination of red tape in the permitting process will go a long way toward rejuvenating our energy sector. It will remove a formidable barrier to entry that has often discouraged foreign firms from entering the generation market,” Gatchalian said.

“The greater efficiency under the EVOSS system will result in a welcome bump in disposable income for the average Filipino family. We will be putting a lot of money back where it belongs –  in the pockets of Filipino families struggling to pay their basic day to day expenses,” he added.