Win: Public will lose with House move to punish ERC with measly P1,000 budget

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Sen. Win Gatchalian (L), who has championed the Fiscal-Monetary Report Act of 2017, listens while Sen. Bam Aquino explains a point in an earlier Senate hearing. SENATE PRIB FILE PHOTO

MANILA – It’s not just the reduction of the Commission on Human Rights’ 2018 budget to a ridiculous P1,000 that has gotten senators worried: the House of Representatives’ move to give the Energy Regulatory Commission a similar P1,000 budget could have dire consequences on the country’s power situation, according to the Senate’s energy committee chief.

According to Sen. Win Gatchalian, the supply of electricity could be impacted, and the country may even suffer brownouts in 2018 if the House of Representatives action giving the ERC a P1,000 budget is not reversed.

Gatchalian, chairman of the Committee on Energy, pointed out on Thursday that it’s the ERC that is tasked with approving contracts with new suppliers of electricity, and if it cannot approve new contracts because it cannot function in 2018 with its P1,000 budget, then that could impact the power situation.

Ang direktang epekto nito sa consumers ay wala tayong kuryente by next year; wala tayong papasok na bagong supply ng kuryente. Magkakaproblema tayo [The direct effect of this on consumers is we won’t have enough electricity next year. We will have a problem].”

It is thus imperative, he said, to restore the ERC’s budget of P360 billion.

Gatchalian said he will tackle the issue with his House counterparts, noting that it is in the country’s best interest to have a regulator for electricity like ERC.

As for the allegations of corruption at ERC, the senator said there is a pending investigation in the House concerning this, and the legislative probers have made no conclusion yet. In the absence of such conclusion, he said the ERC operations must continue because a regulator is essential in the energy sector.

A P1,000 budget effectively abolishes the ERC, he said.

Gatchalian supports removing corrupt officials but if the ERC were eventually abolished, he said, many of the 400 employees who will lose their jobs are not involved in wrongdoing.

Gatchalian believes the House remedy to give ERC a P1,000 budget is too drastic and will not solve the problems bedeviling the agency, but cause collateral damage for the public which will suffer power disruptions.

In the Senate, the ERC budget has been approved at the committee level.