House panel OKs ‘murang kuryente’ bill

CONSUMERS will soon be spared from paying the debts and contract costs of state-owned National Power Corporation (NPC) if the “Murang Kuryente” bill is signed into law.

The House Committee on Energy approved on Tuesday the “Murang Kuryente” bill seeking to provide funds from the Malampaya to pay  the stranded debts of the NPC.

Reports stated that the NPC’s standing debt is now P123 billion which  being passed on to consumers’s monthly electricity  bill.

The Power Sector Assets and Liabilities Management (PSALM) Corporation, the government corporation created through Section 49 of Republic Act No. 9136 or the Electric Power Industry Reform Act (Epira),  inherited all of NPC’s stranded obligations and contract costs.

Based on the unnumbered substitute bill, portion from all the proceeds of the net national government share from the Malampaya fund amounting to P123 billion will be allocated solely for the payment of the NPC contract costs and debts transferred to and assumed by the PSALM until 2023.

The share will be remitted to a special trust fund, included in the General Appropriations Act, and to be administered by the PSALM.

Committee chairman Marinduque Rep. Lord Allan Jay Velasco said the Malampaya subsidy could “help consumers” with a “savings of 57 centavos per kilowatt hour” in electricity bills.

The stranded contract costs of NPC or distribution utility “refer to the excess of the contracted cost of electricity under eligible contracts over the actual selling price of the contracted energy output of such contracts in the market.”

Under the bill, when the liabilities are fully paid before the termination of the corporate life of the PSALM, the fund would accrue back to the special fund to finance energy resource exploration and development programs pursuant to Presidential Decree No. 910.

Also, the PSALM is required to submit annual reports to the Department of Energy and is subject to congressional oversight.

PSALM officer-in-charge Lourdes Alzona welcomed the measure.

However, Velasco said the Department of Budget and Management insisted that the Malampaya fund -- which has a P221 billion balance as of Sept. 2018 -- should be classified as a general fund.

Velasco said they hope to pass the measure before Congress goes on an election break on February 9.