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Senate approves P750M emergency fund for electric coops

SAN FRANCISCO, AGUSAN DEL SUR, Philippines – Linemen undergo training at the Agusan del Sur Electric Cooperative (ASELCO) grounds in this town, 13 May 2017. The Senate has approved the Electric Coopratives Emergency and Resiliency Fund Act that will allow the government to help electric cooperatives cope with damages brought about by calamities, relieving consumers from the burden of costly rehabilitation works. Photo by Mark Cayabyab/OS WIN GATCHALIAN

The Senate on Monday unanimously approved on third and final reading the Electric Cooperatives Emergency and Resiliency Fund Act of 2017 (Senate Bill No. 1461), which allocates P750 million to the National Electrification Administration (NEA) to fund the disaster rehabilitation efforts of electric cooperatives in the wake of debilitating calamities.

“Electric cooperatives carry the heavy burden of restoring electricity as quickly as possible after every storm, earthquake or other calamity that hits their coverage areas. We should make sure that electric coops have the resources to rapidly and efficiently respond to the needs of our countrymen during those trying times,” said Senator Win Gatchalian, the chairman of the Senate Energy Committee and principal sponsor of SBN 1461.

Gatchalian explained that electric cooperatives have been at the tail-end of government’s priority list for post-catastrophe rehabilitation assistance, which he said was lamentable given the fact that the Philippines has been ranked as the third most at-risk country in the face of natural disasters in the 2016 World Risk Report.

“Electric cooperatives have been put in a tough spot for their incapacity to turn the power back on after calamity strikes. This measure will address the lack of disaster response funding and hopefully, empower electric cooperatives to act in a speedy and efficient manner,” he said.

The Electric Cooperatives Emergency and Resiliency Fund Act of 2017 assigns the NEA as administrator of the P750 million fund, which will be allocated for the exclusive use of electric cooperatives for immediate restoration of electricity and rehabilitation of infrastructure damaged by natural disasters.

To access the emergency financial assistance, electric cooperatives are required to prepare and submit a comprehensive and integrated disaster management program, which includes a Vulnerability Risk Assessment (the identification of critical assets and the development of disaster management measures to protect, restore, or strengthen critical assets prior to the onset of natural disasters); an Emergency Response Plan (contains the organizational structure and steps for the electric cooperative to restore its system in a safe and timely manner are indicated); and a Resiliency Compliance Plan (a list of projects and programs to protect and mitigate the vulnerability of identified critical assets are laid out).

“Electric cooperatives must be ready at all times to turn the lights back on in the homes of disaster survivors, who already have to worry about the economic and housing conditions of their families after natural calamities hit their communities. Let us all make sure that our fellowmen are not left to suffer in the dark after disaster strikes,” Gatchalian said.