By Ben Rosario
All it takes is a P28.5 billion budgetary allocation for government to energize in just three years over 19,000 sitios populated by some of 13 million Filipinos, party-list lawmakers said.
1Pacman Party-list Rep. Michael “Mikee” Romero, together with four other colleagues from the Partylist Coalition Foundation, Inc., bombarded the Lower House with privilege speeches as they batted for the quick electrification of at least two million households still groping in the dark all these years.
Romero said a P28.5 billion financial support is enough for NEA to fully address the electricity needs of 13 million individuals within a period of just three years.
Joining him in pushing for a three-year electrification strategy are Reps. Presley De Jesus (Philreca); Adriano Ebcas (Ako Padayon); Godofredo Guya (RECOBODA), and Sergio Dagooc (APEC) who delivered separate privilege speeches on Monday as personnel and operators of the country’s 121 electric cooperative cheered from the Lower House gallery.
The five party-list lawmakers underscored the necessity of fast-tracking the implementation of the rural electrification program to benefit even the remotest areas in the country.
The five party-list lawmakers were applauded by hundreds of members of electric cooperatives who trooped to the Lower House to lobby for the passage of a legislative proposal that would institutionalize the operations of NEA by transforming it into an authority attached to the Office of the President.
“As of this very moment that we speak, more than 2 million households in the rural areas still live in the dark. This translates to roughly 16 percent of the households in the entire country,” Romero disclosed in his privilege speech.
He pointed out that the estimated 13 million individuals living without electricity translate to around 19,000 sitios .
“This means the over 2 million households that live in the dark cannot conveniently use certain tools and appliances in their day-to-day living. This also means a lower level of safety and security for the family members that have no access to power,” said Romero, president of the 54-member Partylist Coalition Foundation, Inc, which is the second largest political bloc in the Lower House.
Under the current set up, NEA, an attached agency of the Department of Energy, is tasked with the implementation of the Rural Electrification Program through viable rural electric cooperatives.
With just P5 billion in allocation in the past three years, NEA and the electric cooperatives were able to connect 1,931 sitios to the grid under the Sitio Electrification Program, overshooting the target of energizing 1,817 sitios in 2018.
But NEA’s success still fell short of the objective of providing electricity to all corners of the country.
“The otherwise dark reality is that the budget of the NEA has not been able to focus most of its efforts on the electrification program due to the several layers of bureaucracy that it has to go through in order to implement its plans,” explained Romero.
He said NEA as an authority with enough autonomy, can fast track the goal of 100 percent electrification with the support of adequate funding for infrastructures and support for electric cooperatives.
To reach this objective in just three years, Romero proposed that aside from the grant of autonomy, the Accelerated Rural Electrification Program until 2022 should be “put into place and executed.”
“This will lessen the unserved and underserved communities by 5.3 percent every year until light is brought to the last home left in the dark,” he said.
A P28.5 million should also be made available. This will finance the establishment infrastructure, support for electric cooperatives and also for the purchase of equipment necessary to respond to natural calamities that often result to power outages.
For his part, De Jesus said the full electrification may be implemented with the following strategies: Sitio Electrification Program with P20.426 billion budget; Photo Voltaic PV Mainstreaming/Solar Home Systems Programs at P1.390 billion; Micro-grid/Hybrid Systems at P513 million and Enhanced NIHE at P17.961 billion.
“On top of these, a funding for the renewable energy (RE) projects of all 121 electric cooperatives is likewise needed amounting to P58.080 billion,” De Jesus said.