A bill which aims to shore up the resiliency of the country’s electric cooperatives against the constant effect of natural disasters on electricity infrastructure throughout the country has been filed at the Senate.
Senate Bill No. 1253, otherwise known as the Electric Cooperatives Disaster Management Fund Act, proposes the establishment of a P750 million fund which would provide financial assistance to electric cooperatives for restoration and rehabilitation of power facilities and infrastructure damaged during typhoons, earthquakes, and other instances of natural calamities and fortuitous events.
Sen. Sherwin Gatchalian, principal author of the bill and chairman of the Senate Energy Committee, said the measure will be tackled at the committee next Thursday
Gatchalian said without a dedicated funding source for disaster repair and rehabilitation, electric cooperatives have no choice but to seek interest-bearing calamity loans from the National Electrification Administration.
Calamity loans could take as long as two years to be converted into grants, and sometimes the loans are not converted at all due to budgetary constraints.
“Under the current system, electric coops often have no choice but to pass on the costs of these calamity loans to consumers, resulting in higher power rates for people who are already struggling to put their lives back together in the wake of a calamity. Essentially, it’s like handing out relief goods to calamity survivors and then asking them to pay for them later. This is a problem that needs to be addressed,” Gatchalian said in a statement.
The senator said the fund will also be used to finance disaster prevention, preparedness and mitigation projects to be undertaken by electric cooperatives, including disaster vulnerability risk assessments and institutionalization of emergency response plans.
“The best medicine is always prevention. Therefore, the Electric Cooperatives Disaster Management Fund Act also aims to equip electric cooperatives with the resources they need to minimize damage caused by future storms and other natural disasters through the exercise of foresight and diligence,” Gatchalian added.