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Renewable energy alliance urges Duterte to veto Legarda solar firm’s franchise bill

An alliance of renewable energy developers has asked President Rodrigo Duterte to veto a bill seeking to grant a 25-year franchise to the solar energy firm owned and operated by the son of Antique Representative Loren Legarda.

The Developers of Renewable Energy for AdvanceMent Inc. (DREAM), sent a letter to Duterte appealing  for the President’s to reject House Bill 8179 or the Solar Para sa Bayan Corporation (SPBC) franchise bill.

DREAM consists of various associations whose members are developers of renewable energy projects, including the Philippine Solar Power Alliance, Biomass Renewable Energy Alliance, PhilHydro Association Inc., Wind Energy Developers Association of the Philippines, and the National Geothermal Association of the Philippines. 

“We hope that the President will not sign the Mega-Franchise Bill to law as it would not be beneficial to the Filipino people,” DREAM said in a letter dated June 25.

“While it seems that the bill has a noble purpose of providing electricity services, its true nature violates the guarantee of due process and equal protection in the Constitution and encourages anti-competitive practices.”

The alliance also claimed that the bill intends to benefit only SBPC, a private corporation owned and operated by Leandro Leviste.

GMA News Online reached out to presidential spokesperson Salvador Panelo for a statement but has yet to receive a reply as of this posting.

DREAM said there is no “substantial distinction between SBPC and other power companies that have more capacity, resources, experience, and capability to operate distributable power technologies and mini-grid systems.”

“Allowing one private company to have the single responsibility of electrifying remote and unviable villages in the Philippines practically eases out any potential competition that could offer the same or even better service to the Filipino people,” it added.

The group warned that eliminating competition would potentially result in lack of innovation and improvement in electricity services leading to an increase in power rates in areas “which are likely inhabited by people who do not have the financial capability to pay unfairly priced services.”

“By approving this legislative franchise, the recipients of these electric services in remote and unviable villages would suffer from the effects of anti-competitive practices that the bill ironically seeks to promote,” DREAM said.

The Electric Power Industry Reform Act (EPIRA) and “numerous” administrative issuances already provide for existing mechanisms that address the problem of electrification of isolated areas, the alliance added.

GMA News Online has also contacted Leandro Leviste for a statement on this development, but has not received any reply as of this posting.

Ratified by Congress last month, the bill allows the solar power firm to construct, install, establish, operate and maintain distributable power technologies and minigrid systems in the country.

The bill requires SPBC to operate its distributable power technology (DPT) and minigrid systems in the least cost manner and to provide open and non-discriminatory access to its DPT and minigrid systems for any end-user within the franchise area.

Under the Constitution, any bill that is neither signed nor vetoed by the President will automatically lapse into law 30 days after it was forwarded by Congress. —VDS, GMA News