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Senate OKs energy anti-red tape bill

VALENZUELA CITY, Philippines – An 8.6-megawatt solar farm in a former fish pond in this industrial city bathes in morning light, 6 Oct 2017, where it can produce enough energy supply from the sun for 62,000 households. The Senate has approved Senator Win Gatchalian’s landmark anti-red tape measure poised to drive down electricity costs and provide savings to power consumers by modernizing and streamlining the permitting process behind the construction of power plants. Photo by Mark Cayabyab/OS WIN GATCHALIAN

The Senate has approved on third and final reading a landmark anti-red tape measure poised to drive down electricity costs and provide significant savings to power consumers by modernizing and streamlining the permitting process behind the construction of power plants.

Senate Bill No. 1439, also known as the Energy Virtual One Stop Shop (EVOSS) Act of 2017, aims to significantly reduce the length of the permitting procedure behind energy generation projects by establishing an online platform 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.

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.

“The streamlined procedure embodied by the EVOSS Act will boost competition in the energy sector and drive down power generation costs, ultimately resulting in consumer savings on the monthly electricity bills. In essence, cutting the red tape tying down power plant projects is a win-win solution for everyone,” said Senator Win Gatchalian, the chairman of the Senate Energy Committee and principal author of SBN 1439.

The senator explained that the faster, simplified permitting process would allow 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.

Gatchalian estimates that the reduced generation costs could result in the reduction of consumer electricity prices by as much as P1 per kWh. Pegged at the average household consumption rate of 200 kWh per month, this would result in savings of P2,400 per household every year.

The Department of Energy (DOE) will be responsible for the maintenance and modernization of the information technology and infrastructure system for the smooth operationalization of the EVOSS.

“The passage of this landmark energy legislation is a crucial step toward ensuring that the country’s energy sector will promote the welfare of household energy consumers. This is the beginning of the end for exorbitant power rates in the Philippines,” Gatchalian said.