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EU-PHL Business Network cautions against solar national franchise

November 25, 2018 News

THE EUROPEAN Union-Philippine Business Network (EPBN) has cautioned against the passage of House Bill 8179, which will grant Solar Para sa Bayan Corp. a license to operate nationwide.

“We think that should be properly looked at by Congress before passing it,” said Ruth Yu-Owen, chairperson of the EPBN Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy Committee, during the Energy Smart Mindanao 2018 conference in Davao City organized by the European Chamber of Commerce of the Philippines on Nov. 22.

Ms. Owen, asked for comment during the open forum, said the EPBN had a meeting recently to formalize the group’s stand on HB 8179, but a policy paper has yet to be released.

“We believe that the franchise given to one entity, that may not be exclusive according to the (proposed) law, but the provision is giving a lot of advantage,” she said.

HB 8179 will grant Solar Para sa Bayan — a company led by Leandro L. Leviste, son of outgoing Senator Loren B. Legarda — a franchise to construct, install, operate, and maintain power and minigrid systems anywhere in the country.

“And we believe in competition, give everyone equal opportunity. They do say that it is not exclusive, but it is difficult for like an SME (small and medium enterprise), for example, to go to Congress and have a franchise similar to what is given, or to be given to Solar Para Sa Bayan,” said Ms. Yu, who is also vice-president for external affairs of the Philippine Energy Efficiency Alliance.

The EPBN, a project co-funded by the EU and implemented by a consortium of European Chambers of Commerce based in the Philippines, has a Renewable Energy and Energy Efficiency Advocacy Paper 2018, where it expresses support for increased green energy use in the Philippines.

It notes the pending law on energy efficiency and conservation (ECC), which covers incentives, among others provisions. The Senate version was approved in February this year, while the House consolidated version passed committee level in August.

“This is significant in expanding the use of energy-efficient technologies, and in attracting foreign investors in the energy sector. In addition, this will serve as a legislative framework key to a sustainable and secure Philippine energy system,” the EPBN said in the paper.

The Association of Mindanao Rural Electric Cooperatives, Inc. (AMRECO), meanwhile, expressed full opposition to HB 8179.

“We are opposing that bill… we, the electric cooperatives in Mindanao, and Luzon and Visayas, are going to Congress to defend our stand,” said Adelmo P. Laput, president of AMRECO’s Power Supply Aggregation Group.

The National Association of General Managers of Electric Cooperatives and Philippine Rural Electric Cooperatives Association earlier issued a statement against the bill.

The Philippine Solar and Storage Energy Alliance (PSSEA) has also questioned the proposal. — Marifi S. Jara

This article was originally published in Business World last November 25, 2018.