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Senate urged to expedite passage of Public Service Act

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By Ben Rosario

The chairperson of the House Committee on Economic Affairs on Friday called on the Senate to expedite the passage of its version of the proposed New Public Service Act, saying that delaying it would be “a disservice to Filipinos.”

In a press statement, Rep. Sharon Garin urged senators to act on the measure before the end of the First Session of the 18th Congress.

It took the House of Representatives five months of floor debates before House Bill 78, the proposed New Public Service Act, was passed on second reading.

Garin, who defended the measure on the floor as its main sponsor, said further delays in passing the measure would deny Filipinos the benefits the bill promises.

HB 78 proposes to amend the antiquated Commonwealth Act No. 146 by providing a clear distinction between public service and public utility.

Under the bill, public utilities will only cover the following: distribution of electricity; transmission of electricity; water pipeline distribution system; and sewerage pipeline system.

Thus, only public utilities will be covered by the constitutional requirement of 50 percent ownership by Filipinos.

Garin explained that industries that fall outside of the aforementioned definition will be open to full ownership by foreign investors.

This arrangement, according to Rep. Garin, is set to supplement Filipino capital, boost competition, and reduce prices of goods and services for Filipino consumers.

“Eliminating the ambiguity of the law is one thing, but what we are really after is providing a strongly rooted, comfortable, and secure life for all Filipinos,” said Rep. Garin, echoing the National Economic and Development Authority’s (NEDA) AmBisyon 2040.

Rep. Garin also quelled fears on the expected influx of foreign investors, claiming that safeguards are well in place to protect the interest of the Filipino people. One safeguard she cited is limiting the number of foreign employees in public services to 25 percent.

This provision, she said, aims to secure more employment opportunities for Filipino workers.

House Bill 78 hurdled second reading on February 19, 2020.

But Senate Bills 318, 1257 and 1372, all of which aim to modernize and amend Commonwealth Act No. 146, are still pending with the Committee on Public Services.

Garin said she is optimistic the Senate will be able to come up with a consolidated bill before the end of the First Regular Session.

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