By Mario Casayuran
The bicameral conference committees of the Senate and House of Representatives have approved the reconciled version of a landmark anti-red tape measure seeking to modernize and streamline the permitting process of power generation, transmission, and distribution projects in the country.
Senator Sherwin T. Gatchalian, chairman of the Senate energy committee, and his Lower House counterpart, Rep. Lord Allan Velasco, have agreed to adopt the Senate Bill 1439, “The Energy Virtual One-Stop Shop Act of 2017”, as the base of the reconciled bill.
Gatchalian said passing the measure is quite timely, especially when inflation continues to hover around six percent as of November.
‘’We are optimistic that this bill is poised to drive down electricity costs and provide significant savings to power consumers by modernizing and streamlining the permitting process behind power infrastructure projects,” he explained.
In a nutshell, the bill would create and establish an online platform called the Energy Virtual One-Stop Shop (EVOSS) where prospective developers can apply, monitor, and receive all the needed permits and applications, submit all documentary requirements, and even pay for charges and fees, Gatchalian said.
`EVOSS will be managed and maintained by the Department of Energy (DOE) while its operations will be determined and monitored by the EVOSS steering committee,
To further speed up the process, all government agencies involved will be required to follow a strict timeframe to act on pending applications. The failure of an agency to act within the prescribed time frame will result in the automatic approval of said application and potential administrative sanctions against inefficient public officers to penalize the delay.
On the other hand, private entities – the system operator and market operator – who fail to act within the prescribed timeframe will be slapped with a P100,000 fine per day of delay.
Gatchalian said the passage of EVOSS would encourage foreign investors with the capacity to build cutting-edge power plants to enter the market and stimulate competition in the Philippine energy generation industry.
The increased competition would then drive down generation costs, he added.
Gatchalian estimated that the reduced generation costs could result in the reduction of consumer electricity prices by as much as P0.35 per kilowatt hour (kWh). Pegged at the average household consumption rate of 200 kWh per month, this would result in savings of P840 per household every year.
“The elimination of red tape in the permitting process will go a long way toward rejuvenating our energy sector. It will remove a formidable barrier to entry that has often discouraged foreign firms from entering the generation market,” Gatchalian said.
“The greater efficiency under the EVOSS system will result in a welcome bump in disposable income for the average Filipino family. We will be putting a lot of money back where it belongs – in the pockets of Filipino families struggling to pay their basic day to day expenses,” he added.