Glad tidings for the more than five million underprivileged Filipino families as Senator Win Gatchalian said the proposed measure seeking to extend for another 10 years the subsidy in their electric bills has inched closer to being enacted, just in time before it expires next year.
Those consuming electricity of not more than 100 kilowatt hour (kWh) or less per month and cannot afford to pay at full cost are the ones entitled to the discount, according to Gatchalian.
“Hiling natin na maisabatas ito sa lalong madaling panahon para makatulong sa mga naghihikahos nating mga kababayan. Ang bawat pisong matitipid ay malayo ang mararating sa mga pamilyang kapos sa buhay,” Gatchalian said.
Dubbed by his colleagues as a “happy measure”, Senate Bill No. 1877 intends to allow the struggling 5.5 million households to enjoy an annual average savings of Php900 on electricity expenses. The bill has already breezed through second reading.
“Halos kalahating kaban ng bigas ang katumbas ng Php900 na matitipid nila dito. Sapat na para maitawid ang ilang linggong kunsumo nila ng kanin na hindi galing sa mga ayuda ngayong may pandemya” he added.
“Humanitarian considerations dictate the extension of the ‘Lifeline Rate.’ It is called the Lifeline Rate because it is intended to help low-income households stay afloat as they struggle to pay for the basic needs of their families,” the Senate Energy Committee Chairman said, referring to the provision in the Section 73 of the Electric Power Industry Reform Act (EPIRA) providing a socialized pricing mechanism called “lifeline rate” for qualified marginalized end-users.
Under the bill, qualified marginalized end-users are either those who are household beneficiaries under the Pantawid Pamilyang Pilipino Program (4Ps), or who have applied and have been certified by their respective distribution utilities based on criteria set by the Energy Regulatory Commission (ERC), taking into account the poverty threshold set by the Philippine Statistics Authority (PSA).
“By specifically defining the qualified marginalized end-users, we will ensure that only those genuinely underprivileged households and not those staying in condo units with the same level of consumption will be able to avail of this subsidy,” he said.
“Now more than ever, extra savings by our underprivileged kababayans are needed as they struggle even harder due to the difficulties brought about by the COVID-19 pandemic. The adverse impacts of the pandemic are likely to extend next year and even further,” Gatchalian added.
The Lifeline Rate provision, which was already extended 10 years ago, is due to expire on June 26, 2021, thus the need to pass the amendatory bill.
Although the cost to cover the subsidy to lifeline rate beneficiaries is being passed on to regular consumers, the lawmaker emphasized that the amount is somewhat insignificant as only one (1) percent or approximately P0.07 centavos is being charged to their electricity bills.
Gatchalian expresses hope that this will be passed into law before June 26 next year.