AGHAM – Advocates of Science and Technology for the People expressed its stance on the proposed bill which seeks to amend various sections of the Electric Power Industry Reform Act of 2001 (EPIRA), welcoming positive amendments but reiterating its earlier position against the privatization and deregulation of the power industry that happened following the enactment of EPIRA.
While AGHAM acknowledges the importance of ensuring a quality, reliable, secure, and affordable supply of electric power in the country for economic recovery, development, and sustainability, it disagrees with the framework laid down by the EPIRA which emphasizes private and foreign capital as the primary means of achieving this goal. Despite its claims on lowering electricity prices, residential power rates have escalated by 132% from Php 4.87/kWh in 2000 to Php 11.32/kWh as of April 2023, putting Philippine power rates among the highest in Asia, third only to Japan and Singapore. As of March 2023, the financial obligation of National Power Corporation (NAPOCOR) remains at PHP 387.371 billion in stranded debts and contract costs, shouldered by public funds.
Among the amendments that AGHAM supports in the context that they lead to lower electricity rates and greater energy independence are the exclusion of Value Added Tax (VAT), the gradual return of control and administration of the energy industry to the government, the de-monopolization of public utilities, the imposition of limits to private investor ownership to a maximum of 15% in distribution utilities, and the prohibition of foreign governments or state-owned enterprises from owning capital in transmission enterprises.
AGHAM proposes that the State should own at least 50% plus one of power and energy facilities to prevent monopoly control of private and foreign corporations, the divestment of foreign governments should be completed within one year, and the strengthening of the Energy Regulatory Board and the Philippine Competition Commission by including representatives from consumer groups and other civilian stakeholders.
However, AGHAM remains cautious and critical of provisions in EPIRA that continue to favor private corporations and foreign entities, such as the lack of control over cross-ownership of energy systems and the absence of a prohibition on foreign ownership in transmission and distribution utilities.
AGHAM calls for the repeal of EPIRA and the cessation of privatization and deregulation in the energy and power industry, and advocates for the establishment of a nationalized, independent, efficient, and modern power and energy industry that truly serves the interests of the people.#