Solar Para sa Bayan open to compromise on franchise bill
Danessa Rivera (The Philippine Star) - February 11, 2019 - 12:00am

MANILA, Philippines — Solar Para Sa Bayan Corp. (SPSB) led by Leandro Leviste is open to a compromise bill as the Senate mulls limiting its franchise to unserved and underserved areas, among others.

“We have no intention to enter areas where we are unwelcome and even at the expense of the viability of this undertaking, are willing to limit ourselves to these unserved and underserved areas which the [Senate] committee deems appropriate,” Leviste said.

Senators are crafting a compromise version limiting SPSB’s scope to unserved and underserved areas and putting the company under the radar of the power regulator.

“We actually manifested our openness to accept the majority of the amendments proposed by the electric utilities such as regulating the operations of the minigrids,” Leviste said.

“And whereas the original scope of the franchise allowed us to operate in all parts of the Philippines, we have actually also manifested our openness to decrease this to the parts of the country that are unserved and underserved,” he said.

The Senate has yet to list which areas in the country are unserved or underserved.

However, Leviste said this “signifies all of the most viable markets of the country being put off the table because these viable markets are largely already served by distribution utilities like Manila Electric Co. (Meralco).

Originally, House Bill (HB) 8179 seeks to grant a non-exclusive legislative nationwide franchise to SPSB“to construct, install, establish, operate and maintain distributable power technologies and mini-grid systems throughout the Philippines to improve access to sustainable energy.”

A mini- or micro-grid system is a group of interconnected loads and distributed energy resources with clearly defined boundaries which act as a single controllable grid and can connect and disconnect from the national grid to enable it to operate in both grid-connected or island mode.

In December, the House of Representatives approved on third reading HB 8179, granting SPSB the 25-year franchise.

But at the Senate level, lawmakers are looking at a compromise bill to prevent encroachment into existing franchises of utilities.

“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,” Sen. Sherwin Gatchalian said.

Sen. Ralph Recto said unserved and underserved areas are those with high systems loss or a lot of blackouts.

These unserved and underserved areas could include Aurora, Batangas, Bohol, Cagayan, Camiguin, Compostela Valley, Davao Oriental, Isabela, Masbate, Misamis Oriental, Occidental Mindoro, Palawan, Tawi-tawi, among others.

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