By Genalyn Kabiling and Argyll Geducos
President Duterte has signed into law two measures that aim to reduce electricity rates for consumers and ensure an uninterrupted supply of electricity in the country.
Republic Act (RA) No.11371, the “Murang Kuryente Act,” allows the use of the government share from the Malampaya natural gas project to settle obligations of the National Power Corporation (NPC).
Prior to the passage of the law, these debts were charged to consumers in their monthly electricity bill.
“It is hereby declared the policy of the State to protect public interest by ensuring the provision of reliable, secure, and affordable supply of electric power to consumers,” the law read.
“The State shall implement policies and programs to ensure transparent and reasonable prices of electricity to consumers by minimizing the universal charges for stranded contract costs and stranded debts,” it added.
Under the new law, P208 billion of the proceeds of the net government share from the Malampaya fund will be used for the payment of NPC’s stranded contract costs and stranded debts.
If the obligations are fully paid before the funds are exhausted, the remainder of the amount will be used to finance energy resource development and exploration programs.
Sen. Sherwin Gatchalian, sponsor of the measure, had earlier pushed for the passage of the Murang Kuryente bill, saying the use of Malampaya fund would help lower power costs.
Gatchalian said the implementation of the law would result in P172 monthly savings in household consuming 200 kilowatt-hours per month.
The President also signed Republic Act No. 11361, the “Anti-Obstruction of Power Lines Act,” which mandates that all power line corridors must be kept clear and free of any obstruction that may disrupt electricity from power plants to consumers.
The new law aims to ensure the protection of integrity and reliability of power lines and provides penalties for any violation.
“The State further recognizes that the continuous conveyance of electricity is a matter of national security and is essential to sustaining the country’s economic development,” the law read.
“Finally, the State acknowledges the crucial role of property owners in ensuring that power lines remain free of any dangerous and hazardous activities and improvements,” it added.
The power line corridor is defined by the new law as “the land beneath, the air spaces surrounding, and the area traversed by power lines, including its horizontal, vertical, and similar clearance requirements.”
The law prohibits the planting of tall growing plants within the power line corridor, construction of any hazardous improvements, and the conduct of hazardous activities within the area.
It is also unlawful to prevent the entry of the owner or the operator of power lines to the property in performance of duty. Also prohibited are activities that will impair the conveyance of electricity and cause damage to power lines.
The power line operator may also seek the help of local government officials, police, and military if needed, to prevent or remove any power line obstruction.
Violators of the new law may face penalties ranging from one month to 12 years imprisonment and a fine from P50,000 to P200,000.
Both laws were signed by the President on August 8.
Coast Guard hospital
President Duterte has signed into law a measure creating the Philippine Coast Guard (PCG) General Hospital which will provide healthcare services to its personnel, employees, retired uniformed personnel, and their dependents.
Republic Act (RA) 11372, signed on August 8, takes effect 15 days after its publication in the Official Gazette or in a newspaper of general circulation.
The hospital will be built at the Coast Guard Base in Taguig City.
Aside from healthcare services, it will also conduct the medical examination of all Coast Guard trainees.
The law also considers the legitimate, illegitimate, or legally adopted children living with the Coast Guard personnel as dependents as long as they are not older than 21 years, unmarried, and not gainfully employed, or over the age of majority but incapacitated and incapable of self-support due to a mental or physical defect.
Community service for minor offenses
President Duterte also signed the Community Service Act, a law authorizing the courts to require the rendering of community service instead of jail terms for minor offenses.
Duterte signed Republic Act (RA) No. 11362 last Aug. 8.
Under the law, the State will promote restorative justice and decongest jails by authorizing courts to require community service in lieu of jail time for offenses punishable by arresto menor and arresto mayor.
Arresto menor is imprisonment from one day to 30 days, and arresto mayor is imprisonment from one month to six months.
A court may require defendants to render community service in the area where they committed the crime, depending on the gravity of the case.
The defendant will also be required to undergo rehabilitative counseling under the social welfare and development officer of the city or municipality concerned with the assistance of the Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD).
Sen. Richard Gordon, who sponsored the measure, said the Community Service Act will help decongest the country’s jails.
National Students’ Day
President Duterte has signed the measure declaring November 17 every year as National Students’ Day to recognize the “invaluable contribution” of student activism to Philippine democracy.
In Republic Act (RA) No. 11369, signed by Duterte on August 8, it will be the policy of the State to value the dignity of every person, and to guarantee full respect for human rights.
The State also recognizes the value of inculcating love of country and social responsibility among the youth, and supports the observance of International Students’ Day which was led by the International Students’ Council in 1941 to commemorate the execution of nine Czechoslovakian students who fought against the Nazi occupation.
“In accord with the observance of International Students’ Day and in recognition of the invaluable contribution of student activism to Philippine democracy for initiating efforts to foster leadership among Filipino students, November 17 of every year is hereby declared as National Students’ Day,” the new law states.