JPE: interest groups delay passage of power reduction bills  

Senate President Juan Ponce Enrile suspects that powerful interest groups are still pushing the House of Representatives to delay the passage of crucial legislation he has put forward to bring down the cost of electricity in the country.

Enrile, who is seeking another term under the Partido ng Masang Pilipino, filed last year the proposed bills to slash power rates to benefit industries, commercial establishments and individual consumers, but none of the proposals were approved at the end of the congressional sessions last February 3.

“Palagay ko malakas ang lobby ng mga may interes diyan,” Enrile said during a radio interview in Davao when asked why the lower house failed to act on the pending legislation. “Ipinaglalaban ko ‘yan hanggang ngayon… dahil ako ay pro-consumer.”

Enrile filed Senate Bill 3147 or the Uniform Franchise Tax Act, and Senate Bill 3148 or the Electricity Rate Reduction Act – twin measures envisioned to give immediate relief to power consumers. The proposals are also designed to amend the Electric Power Industry Reform Act (EPIRA) passed in 2001.

Enrile, who is the most knowledgeable legislator in the power sector, was the only lawmaker who voted against EPIRA at that time because he was not convinced that it could bring about lower power rates.

One important amendment that Enrile is seeking is the lifting of the Value Added Tax (VAT) on distribution, power generation and transmission, which is subsequently passed on to consumers by distribution companies, including Meralco and electric cooperatives all over the country, even if consumers do not consume a single watt of electricity.

SB No. 3147 proposes to impose a uniform franchise tax of 3 percent on distribution utilities and eliminate layers of tax.

Reverting to the old system is more “manageable” and “fair” and in line with the principle that “public utilities ought not and must not be used as sources of public revenue as these public utilities render public services to the taxpayers,” Enrile said in a previous interview.

Power rates would have been reduced by 23 centavos per kwh for household consumers and 5 centavos to 12 centavos per kwh for business establishments had the lower house passed the twin proposals.

“Malaki talaga ang ibaba ng presyo ng kuryente kung maaprubahan iyan ng House,” Enrile explained, adding that reduction in power rates would translate to savings which consumers can use to consume good and services therefore spurring the economy.#