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House shelves solar power firmâs franchise
Rep. Lito Atienza of party-list group Buhay, one of the House members opposed to the proposed franchise grant, said yesterday that Majority Leader Rolando Andaya Jr. “is complying with his commitment to freeze the bill in the meantime.”
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House shelves solar power firm’s franchise

Jess Diaz (The Philippine Star) - September 30, 2018 - 12:00am

MANILA, Philippines — The House of Representatives has shelved plenary action on a bill seeking a mega power franchise for a subsidiary of Solar Philippines, a company formed and headed by Sen. Loren Legarda’s son Leandro Leviste.

Rep. Lito Atienza of party-list group Buhay, one of the House members opposed to the proposed franchise grant, said yesterday that Majority Leader Rolando Andaya Jr. “is complying with his commitment to freeze the bill in the meantime.”

“The plenary passed several franchise bills, which did not include the franchise for Solar Para Sa Bayan Corp. (SPSBC),” he said.

He was referring to five broadcasting franchises the House approved on second reading on Wednesday, the chamber’s last session day for this week. The SPSBC grant is also up for second-reading approval.

House Bill 8179 seeks to grant SPSBC a franchise “to construct, install, establish, operate, and maintain distributable power technologies and mini-grid systems throughout the Philippines to improve access to sustainable energy.”

In Resolution No. 2182, Atienza, Michael Romero of 1-Pacman and 12 other colleagues opposed to the bill said the committee on franchises held only one hearing last Aug. 29 and “railroaded” the measure’s approval on Sept. 3.

“There were members of the House who intended to participate in the deliberations but were not able to do so due to the apparent haste in passing the bill,” they said.

They said some provisions of the measure “are patently unconstitutional and/or contrary to Republic Act No. 9136 or the Electric Power Industry Reform Act (Epira) of 2001.”

Romero said House Bill 8179 was filed and approved “in a record period of nine or 10 session days.”

“It was filed on Aug. 6. We were on recess from Aug. 16 to 27. Aug. 21 and 27 were holidays. Committee-level approval was on Sept. 3. The bill was filed and approved in less than a month, including our 12-day recess, Saturdays, Sundays and holidays. If that is not railroading, I don’t know what is,” he said.

By the language of the bill, he said the Leviste firm’s subsidiary could become a “super monopoly allowed to operate in all areas of the power industry in violation of the Constitution and Epira.”

Atienza said the committee on franchises did not listen to the views of stakeholders or did not consider the position papers they submitted.

“Proof of this is the fact that the position papers were dated on or after the day the committee approved the bill. The position paper of Meralco is dated Sept. 3, while that of 19 distribution utilities is dated Sept. 5. Clearly, these stakeholders were not heard,” he said.

He said he could not understand why the committee rushed approval of the proposed franchise grant.

Bohol Rep. Arthur Yap, principal author of the bill, denied there was railroading. 

He said the proposed franchise grant would not create a monopoly and would provide cheaper and better electric power services to communities throughout the country.

He said the committee on legislative franchises included in the franchise bill several safeguards, including non-exclusivity of the proposed privilege and prohibition on its sale, lease or transfer.

He added that the proposed franchise grant “does not violate the existing franchises of distribution utilities and electric cooperatives because those are not exclusive.”

HOUSE OF REPRESENTATIVES SOLAR PHILIPPINES
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