Senator Win Gatchalian on Wednesday expressed concern in the House of Representative’s decision of P1000 for Energy Regulatory Commission’s (ERC) 2018 budget.
This came after the House approved a P1000 budget for the ERC, which had originally requested an allocation of P365 million to fund its operations next year.
Gatchalian appealed that the House should reconsider the massive budget cut as he cautioned his fellow legislators of it will potentially devastate the impact on the stability of the power sector.
“The ERC plays an indispensable role in the energy sector as its foremost regulatory institution. I fear that this budget cut will send a bad signal to energy investors and breed uncertainty in terms of electricity supply and power rates,” he said.
Under the current energy regulatory framework, the ERC is responsible for approving power rates and issuing key permits required to get pending power projects off the ground.
Gatchalian also stressed that the massive budget cut would severely hamper the ERC’s ability to fulfill these functions.
Actually, Gatchalian has filed Senate Bill No. 1490, also known as the ERC Governance Act of 2017, which seeks to enhance accountability and transparency within the regulatory body by instituting structural reforms and liberalizing access to information concerning the Commission’s deliberations and output. He urged House members interested in cleaning up the ERC to champion these reforms in the lower chamber.
Moreover, he expressed concern about the effect of the budget cut on the rank-and-file employees of ERC, noting that the P365 million deleted from the budget of the regulatory body included a P14 million appropriation for retirement and life insurance benefits.
The senator also encouraged the members of the House to support his initiative to legislate institutional reforms in the ERC. “I agree with my peers in the House when they say that the ERC really needs to shape up, and I believe that legislating long-term institutional reforms is the most constructive way of making this happen.”
President Rodrigo Duterte orignally proposed to give the agency the budget of P351 million for next year as part of the amount of the P3.8-trillion national budget he presented to Congress last July 24. | Tina Joyce Laceda – PTV