Deputy Speaker Arthur Yap is pushing for a legislation granting Solar Para sa Bayan Corporation (SPBC) a franchise “to construct, install, establish, operate and maintain distributable power technologies and minigrid systems throughout the Philippines to improve access to sustainable energy.”
Island barangays in Bohol are among the target beneficiaries of the solar power campaign.
Yap introduced the idea through House Bill 8013 that is also contained in similar a similar Bill, House Bill 8015, co-authored by Rep. Maria Carmen Zamora.
The two Bills are now substituted by HB 8179.
HB 8179 was authored by Yap, First District Rep. Rene Relampagos, Zamora, and 31 other congressmen, but after committee hearings, over 70 other congressmen had been convinced to support to bill.
Yap defended the bill in the plenary on November 14.
For Bohol, Yap pointed out that it is a way for the island barangays and even some island towns to be assured of cheaper and reliable power supply.
Yap described SPBC as “a company with a social mission to end poverty and mitigate climate change through the use of affordable sustainable energy”.
He cited the estimate of National Electrification Administration (NEA) that as of December 2017, there are already 2,399,108 households in the Philippines that remain without electricity- -529,952 in Luzon, while 524,040 in Visayas, and 1,345,116 in Mindanao.
“Many more endure frequent power outages and the highest electricity rates in Southeast Asia,” Yap stated in his explanatory note.
He also cited a Pulse Asia survey in June 2018 that indicates that 82 percent of Filipinos favor having new options for electric service, and 89 percent of Filipinos favor increasing the use of renewable energy.
“Unprecedented advances in technology offer hope for solving our country’s power issues. An increasing number of Filipinos now source part of their energy from distributable power technologies such as solar rooftop systems, while batteries and hybrid technologies enable minigrid systems to serve the energy needs of those for whom affordable and reliable clean energy was once unreachable,” according to Yap.
Moreover, President Rodrigo Duterte called on the private sector in March this year to contribute to improving electric service for all.
“Heeding this, SPBC installed Southeast Asia’s largest minigrid for the town of Paluan, Occidental Mindoro to bring reliable 24/7 power for the first time in its history. It has since begun work on more minigrids at the request of communities across the country,” Yap said.
Granting SPBC the franchise will “enable Filipinos to enjoy not only reliable and affordable but also cleaner energy, to achieve a more sustainable future and better life for all,” Yap added.
He clarified that it is a nonexclusive congressional franchise “to a startup solar company that offers consumers a cheaper, cleaner and reliable source of electricity” and HB 8179 includes provisions that prevent SPBC from “monopolizing the distribution of solar and other renewable energy sources”.
It is actually “consistent with a 2005 Supreme Court decision declaring unconstitutional the grant of exclusive franchises to public utilities, as earlier quoted by national media from Yap’s explanation.