Senate approves bill establishing fund for electric cooperatives

The Senate today passed on third and final reading a bill establishing a P750 million fund to provide financial assistance to electric cooperatives.

Senator Win Gatchalian, chairman of the Senate Committee on Energy and sponsor of Senate Bill No. 1461, or the Electric Cooperatives Emergency and Resiliency Fund bill, said the fund aimed “to enhance resiliency by equipping and training electric cooperatives in disaster prevention, preparedness and mitigation.”

He said the bill would provide disaster-stricken electric cooperatives access to interest-free grants, and to ensure the speedy restoration and rehabilitation of the cooperatives’ damaged infrastructure.

“As we continue to implement reforms to enhance the stability of the Philippine energy sector, I hope this measure will have a meaningful impact on electric cooperatives and the quality of lives of their consumers,” Gatchalian said.

“The plight of disaster survivors, who are forced to suffer in the dark for weeks or even months after disaster, has been neglected for far too long. Upon the passage of this measure, we can be sure that when calamity strikes the next time around, the lights will stay on for good,” he added.

Gatchalian said electric cooperatives currently have a few options other than to apply for interest-bearing loans from private financial institutions or the National Electrification Administration (NEA) “to fund their electricity restoration and infrastructure rehabilitation efforts in the wake of a calamity.”

“This lack of disaster response funding puts electric cooperatives in a tough spot. They often have no choice but to pass on the additional cost of the loan to the consumer which results in higher power rates,” he said.

Gatchalian explained that under the bill, the NEA would establish and administer the P750-million Electric Cooperatives Emergency and Resiliency Fund. The fund will be used exclusively to finance the “restoration or rehabilitation of the electric cooperatives’ damaged infrastructure after a calamity.”

“The NEA would also be in charge of ensuring a streamlined process of availing the fund, to equip electric cooperatives “with timely resources to quickly turn the lights back on after a storm, earthquake, or any other fortuitous event ravages its cover­ age area,” Gatchalian said.

Gatchalian said that every electric cooperative must submit a Vulnerability Risk Assessment, a Resiliency Compliance Plan, and an Emergency Response Plan to the NEA.

In turn, the NEA would take into account all of the submission of the electric cooperatives into the National Electric Cooperatives Emergency and Resiliency Plan, which shall be integrated in the National Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Plan under Republic Act No. 10121, or the “Philippines Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Act of 2010.”

“Through the creation of these plans, it is our hope to cultivate a culture of disaster-preparedness in our electric cooperatives,” he added.

Gatchalian added that in case the fund was deficient, “the NEA shall seek for the allocation of a supplementary budget from the National Disaster Risk Reduction Management Fund, subject to the approval of the President.”

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