By Mario Casayuran
Senator Sherwin T. Gatchalian, chairman of the Senate Committee on Energy, has asked the National Electrification Administration (NEA) to activate the Electric Cooperatives Emergency and Resiliency Fund (ECERF) to provide aid to electric cooperatives and power consumers that may be adversely affected by the onslaught of typhoon “Ompong.”
Ompong, considered by weather officials as the strongest typhoon to hit the country so far this year, is expected to make landfall in Cagayan or Isabela this morning and spawn heavy rains and strong winds throughout Northern and Central Luzon.
Gatchalian based his request to the electric cooperatives on the newly-signed Republic Act 11039, or the Electric Cooperatives Emergency and Resiliency Fund Act.
The law, he said, states that the NEA should prepare in advance for the quick disbursement of funds from the ECERF to empower electric coops to undertake immediate restoration and rehabilitation works on power lines and other power infrastructure that may be damaged by the storm.
Ompong is the first powerful weather disturbance to hit the Philippines since President Duterte signed RA 11039 into law on June 29, 2018.
The statute, principally authored and sponsored by Gatchalian, seeks to strengthen resiliency among electric cooperatives by institutionalizing government support and financial assistance during times of disaster.
A total of P750 million has been appropriated for the initial implementation of the law, to be taken out of the P7-billion budget of the National Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Fund (NDRRMF).
The funds are to be coursed through NEA’s Quick Response Fund for smooth distribution to qualified electric coops.
Gatchalian said he expects much of Northern and Central Luzon to be affected by widespread brownouts in the aftermath of typhoon Ompong.
NEA must work hand-in-hand with electric cooperatives to ensure the speedy restoration of electricity in these areas,’’ he said.
“This is the first big test for the ECERF Law. The government and electric cooperatives must put it to good use. Ayaw nating madagdagan pa ang pasanin ng ating mga kababayan na maaapektuhan ng Bagyong Ompong (We don’t want to add more problems to our countrymen who would bear the brunt of Ompong),” he added.