Overhaul laws on public utilities

CONSISTENT with the list of legislative priorities in the administration’s 2017-2022 medium-term plan, the 18th Congress should expedite the passage of laws overhauling the ancient Public Service Act and explicitly declare electricity and water concessionaires as public utilities.

For decades, the government has given water and the electricity sector enough time to solve persistent problems with their public utility services. In fact, very soon after the 18th Congress convenes the Lower House would resume investigations on the water services and electricity services in Metro Manila and other parts of the country.

It is now time to clean up the mess and among the areas Congress should focus on is explicitly declaring water and electricity concessionaires as public utilities. Brownouts in many provinces are a frequent burden. Panay Island, Mindoro, the Bicol Region, and other parts of the country suffer long brownouts and high electricity costs.

An explicit public utility declaration for water and electricity concessionaires has long been overdue and a National Electrification Administration overhaul is necessary, too, to make the electric coops efficient. The Energy Regulatory Commission should also consider reverting back to rate-of-return base vis-à-vis performance based ratings. It should see, too, if electricity producers where power distributors buy their electricity can be subjected to public utility classification.

Also, since regulators have either been slow or inept or both at doing their job, the filing of a bill that will prescribe details of their regulatory powers would be most welcome. There is even a proposal to formally ask the Philippine Competition Commission and the Department of Justice to review all the water concession agreements and joint ventures in all water districts.

The public have had enough of the poor service, the continuing lack of potable water, and the persistent brownouts.


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