Bill extending lifeline power rate subsidies filed in Senate

Robie de Guzman   •   June 4, 2020   •   542

MANILA, Philippines – Senator Sherwin Gatchalian on Thursday said he has filed a bill seeking to extend the implementation of the lifeline power rate subsidies.

In a statement, Gatchalian said he filed Senate Bill No. 1583 which proposes to extend for another 20 years the lifeline rate subsidies to provide continuous relief to marginalized households or those who consume 100 kilowatt-hours (kWh) or less per month.

The bill also seeks to further amend Section 73 of Republic Act 9136 or the Electricity Power Industry Reform Act of 2001 (EPIRA).

Under the EPIRA law, the lifeline rate or a subsidized rate was given for a period of 10 years to low-income captive market end-users who cannot afford to pay at full cost.

In 2011, the lifeline rate has been extended until 2021, by virtue of RA No. 10150. The law mandates the Energy Regulatory Commission (ERC) to set the lifeline rate for low-income households.

With the lifeline-rate subsidy set to expire next year, Gatchalian stressed the urgent need to further extend subsidies to help low-income power consumers up until 2041.

“The spirit of this measure is to really cushion the blow of power-rate increases to marginalized households who cannot afford to pay the full cost of their electricity bill,” said Gatchalian, who chairs the Senate energy committee.

“We already made strides in breaking that barrier to access electricity through the lifeline-rate subsidies and there’s no turning back now,” he added.

At present, customers with an average monthly consumption of 21 to 50kWh are entitled to a 50-percent discount while those consuming an average of 51-70 kWh will get a 35-percent discount.

On the part of those who consume an average monthly electricity of 71 to 100 kWh, they are entitled to a 20-percent discount.

Gatchalian said the lifeline rate has benefited numerous low-income households through the years.

In the Meralco franchise alone, 2,410,974 households availed of the lifeline rate in 2019 saving them P3.8 billion. This translates to P1,576 annual savings for each of these households.

Lacson, Gatchalian test positive for COVID-19

Maris Federez   •   January 7, 2022

MANILA, Philippines — Senators Panfilo Lacson and Sherwin Gatchalian have tested positive for coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19).

In a Twitter post on Friday, Lacson confirmed that he has contracted the virulent virus after undergoing the test on January 4.

He said he has informed all his close contacts since January 3 about his condition and advised them to take the necessary precaution.

“Immediately informed all my Jan 3 physical contacts of my Jan 4 COVID-positive test result which was released only last night, Jan 6 so they can take extra precautions to protect their loved ones and others. Thank God no one is exhibiting symptoms. Wearing our masks helped much,” Lacson said.

Meanwhile, Gatchalian announced his COVID-19 positive result in a Viber message to Senate reporters.

Gatchalian said he tested positive Friday but only experienced mild symptoms.

The senator assured that he is following strict health protocols by self-quarantining away from family members, friends, and the public.

He also appealed to the public to get vaccinated and boosted.

“This is to inform the public that I tested positive for COVID-19 today. Following strict health protocols, I went on self-quarantine away from family, friends, and the public,” he said.

“So far, I am only experiencing mild symptoms from the virus and this goes to show that the vaccines are effective and working against it. I enjoin everyone to get your booster shots right away,” he added. —/mbmf

Pacquiao, Cusi face off in Senate; Gatchalian ousts Matibag from budget hearing

Maris Federez   •   October 21, 2021

 

MANILA, Philippines — The Senate Finance Subcommittee hearing on the budget of the Department of Energy on Thursday went sour as Senator Manny Pacquiao took the floor to question DOE Secretary Alfonso Cusi.

Pacquiao and Cusi are members of two opposing factions of the Partido Demokratiko Pilipino-Lakas ng Bayan (PDP-Laban).

In the committee hearing, Pacquiao asked Cusi about the alleged “tongpats” or markup in the Wholesale Electricity Spot Market (WESM).

The lawmaker also questioned why the Philippine Electricity Market Corporation (PEM-C) remains as a market operator despite the existence of the Independent Electricity Market Operator of the Philippines (IEMOP).

“Nakita natin kung paano sinindikato ang mga nasa kapangyarihan ang EPIRA law. Kung yung trabahong para sa isa ay ginawang dalawa kaya doble doble ang bayarin ng mga consumers,” Pacquiao said.

Cusi then explained that PEM-C still manages IEMOP which was created in 2018 as part of the transition stage.

The DOE official also denied the alleged corruption and insisted that they abide by the regulations set by the Electric Power Industry Reform Act of 2001 (EPIRA).

“Wala pong corruption. Bakit po ang capitalization ng IEMOP is only 7,000? Kasi nga non-profit, non-stock corporation […] Wala pong kinikita yan,” Cusi said.

“Ito pong sinasabing accusation na ganyan, masakit din po ano. And I hope it can be done outside the walls of Senate at kung may kailangan ikaso, ikaso,” he added.

Pacquiao also questioned the alleged relationship between Attorney Matibag who is the president and CEO of the National Transmission Corporation (TransCo) and PEM-C, which Matibag himself answered.

“If Sen. Pacquiao only read the EPIRA Law, buo ang kwento nito eh. TRANSCO noon ang operator muna, bago nag PEM-C […] Wala na TransCo diyan. Alam niyo let’s call a spade a spade dito sa hearing na ‘to. This is all political, Sen. Pacquiao. Alam naman natin to, ito yung pinapasabi mo nung bago ka umalis eh. Na sinasabi mo meron kang pasabog,” Matibag said.

This resulted in a heated argument between Pacquiao and Matibag.

It was at this juncture that Senator Sherwin Gatchalian who chaired the committee stepped in and dismissed Matibag from the hearing.

“This is my committee and you have no right calling this hearing a political hearing. The senators are entitled to ask policy questions,” Gatchalian said.

“You’re out of order. You’re no longer recognized. We’ve given you a chance to answer the policy questions but instead, you insulted this committee by calling it a political hearing. Hindi naman fair ‘yon,” he added.

Pacquiao also slammed Matibag’s action.

“Bastos itong si Atty. Matibag eh. Sayang yung pagka-lawyer niya, eh parang walang pinag-aralan,” he said.

“Wag po kayong mainit, wag po kayo magagalit sa’kin katulad ng ginawa ni Atty. Matibag […] Nabastusan ako,” he continued.

Cusi, on the other hand, apologized on Matibag’s behalf.

“I have to apologize for the interaction if you were offended by Atty. Matibag. I have to make that apology considering that he comes from the DOE family, so my apologies,” he said.

The committee set another hearing for the budget of the other attached agencies of the DOE. —/mbmf (from the report of UNTV Correspondent Harlene Delgado)

Gatchalian seeks better learner performance in math, science to boost innovation

Robie de Guzman   •   July 20, 2021

MANILA, Philippines — Senator Sherwin Gatchalian on Tuesday pushed for the need to improve K to 12 learners’ proficiency in both math and science to foster innovation in the new normal and help in the Philippines’ post-pandemic recovery.

In a statement, Gatchalian said it is crucial to equip learners with strong foundational skills that will boost innovation, which, he said, is important in promoting economic recovery and building resilience, including preparedness for future health threats like the coronavirus pandemic.

He cited the results of the 2019 Trends in International Mathematics and Science Study (TIMSS), which showed that among Grade 4 learners who were assessed, only 19 percent had some basic mathematical knowledge, while 13 percent showed limited understanding and knowledge of scientific concepts and foundational science facts.

Another study, the 2019 Southeast Asia Primary Learning Metrics (SEA-PLM), also showed that among Grade 5 learners, only 17 percent developed the proficiency in mathematics to transition to secondary education.

Gatchalian also said that the Philippines ranked second lowest in both math and science in the 2018 Programme for International Student Assessment (PISA).

While the Department of Education (DepEd) is currently streamlining the K to 12 curriculum, Gatchalian noted that there is also a need to improve the quality of teachers and address issues hounding the “spiral progression approach” mandated in the Enhanced Basic Education Act of 2013 (Republic Act No. 10533).

The senator said that the spiral progression approach or the spiral curriculum “exposes learners into a variety of topics and concepts which makes the curriculum crowded.”

“For some, this concept is not conducive to teaching in depth or not helping students master the basic subjects,” said Gatchalian, who chairs the Senate Committee on Basic Education, Arts and Culture.

With this, Gatchalian again pushed for the passage of his Senate Bill No. 2152 or the Teacher Education Excellence Act, which seeks to improve the quality of teacher education and training in the country.

The proposed measure also aims to revamp the Teacher Education Council (TEC), and improve the coordination among the Department of Education, the Commission on Higher Education (CHED), and the Professional Regulation Commission (PRC).

“This will ensure the link and coherence between pre-service education and in-service education, and improve teacher education outcomes,” he said.

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