Unserved and underserved areas eyed for solar franchise
MANILA, Philippines — After months of discussion over a bill granting Solar Para Sa Bayan (SPSB) a franchise to operate minigrids nationwide, lawmakers appear inclined to craft a compromise version limiting its scope to unserved and underserved areas.
In three Senate hearings conducted for electric utilities to air their concerns, the Philippine Rural Electric Cooperatives Association (Philreca) voiced fears that SPSB’s proposed franchise “might encroach into existing franchises of utilities.”
But for consumers from provinces where SPSB is already operating like Aurora, Cagayan, Davao Oriental, Masbate, Misamis Occidental, Occidental Mindoro, and Palawan, it is clear that SPSB should be allowed to continue operating in underserved provinces like theirs.
“Solar Para Sa Bayan has given our town cheaper and better service than the electric coop in our province. We appeal to the Senate to pass HB 8179 so even our neighboring towns can benefit from cheaper electricity,” said Jeffrey Huertas, a consumer from Paluan, Occidental Mindoro.
At the final hearing on Jan. 30, Senate Energy Committee Chairman Sherwin Gatchalian concluded, “We have to make sure at the end that the original intention of this franchise will be met, and the original intention is really to go into the underserved and unserved areas.”
In regards to defining this scope, Sen. Franklin Drilon stressed the need for “an example of these parameters, which can be clearly stated in the law.”
Sen. Ralph Recto said, “I believe there should be no disagreement on unserved areas. On the issue of underserved areas, it’s where you have high systems loss or where you have a lot of brownouts. If proponents want to enter these areas and give people better service, why should we not allow them?”
At the end of the hearing, Mayor Roberto Sanchez of Lubang, Occidental Mindoro, said, “We thank the Senate for reaching this solution. Utilities should not worry if this only covers areas with poor service, while consumers will benefit from better electricity in underserved provinces like ours.” /asu
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