House deliberates on DOE 2018 budget

The House committee on appropriations chaired by Rep. Karlo Alexei Nograles (1st District, Davao City) on Thursday deliberated on the proposed 2018 budget of the Department of Energy (DOE) and its attached agencies which include the National Electrification Administration (NEA), National Power Corporation (NPC), Philippine National Oil Company (PNOC), Power Sector Assets and Liabilities Management (PSALM), and National Transmission Corporation (TransCo).

Energy officials led by Secretary Alfonso Cusi requested a budget of P2,659,253,000, which is five percent or P1.33 million higher than the DOE's current 2017 allocation of P2,657,918,000.

In his opening statement during the hearing presided by committee vice chairman Rep. Celso Lobregat (1st District, Zamboanga City), Cusi said the DOE's budget will be used in delivering services to the Filipino people and in carrying out its mandate as provided by various laws such as the DOE Act, Electric Power Industry Reform Act (EPIRA), Renewable Energy Law, Oil Deregulation Law, and Oil Exploration and Development Act.

Our budget is a reflection of the energy sector's alignment with the (Duterte) administration's call for inclusive growth under 'Ambisyon Natin 2040, Cusi said.

We look forward to your support in providing much-needed resources in ensuring a resilient energy sector which empowers the Filipino through relevant information under our 'E-Power Mo: E-Safety Mo, E-Secure Mo, E-Diskarte Mo' campaign, Cusi said.

In his presentation, Energy Undersecretary Felix William Fuentebella said the DOE's proposed budget for fiscal year 2018 will be used to fund operations amounting to P1.87 billion, support for operations at P449 million, and general administration and support at P392 million.

He said the DOE's legislative agenda and policy advocacies will focus on the amendment of retail rules for liquid fuels, passage of the Liquefied Petroleum Gas bill, and joint administrative order for the distribution and transportation of LPG cylinders, among others.

House members took turns raising various national and local issues and concerns that fall under the jurisdiction of the DOE.

Rep. Tom Villarin (Party-list, AKBAYAN) raised the issue of the country's ratification of the Minamata Convention on Mercury, an international treaty designed to protect people's health and the environment from the dreadful effect of mercury, of which the country is a signatory.

He appealed to Cusi to expedite the DOE's concurrence with the convention so the Philippines can complete its adherence to the said treaty, which has already been ratified by at least 50 countries.

Villarin also highlighted the issue of the promotion of renewable energy, particularly the households taking the lead role in the installation of solar rooftop panels.

Mobilizing household-based participation for renewable energy can help reduce the cost of electricity in the country, Villarin stressed.

Rep. Rosanna Vergara (3rd District, Nueva Ecija) expressed dismay over the small budget of the DOE, saying it is a disservice to the country.

She said the DOE should have a bigger budget.

On another note, she suggested to the DOE to categorize energy-generating plants, like hydro, bunker, and others, and provide ceiling in their cost to ensure that no one among these power plants make a huge amount of money at the expense of the consumers.

She asked the agency to further study her proposal.

Rep. Harry Roque (Party-list, AKBAYAN) raised the issue on the entitlement of the province of Palawan on the revenues derived from Malampaya funds.

He sought clarification from energy officials on the Commission on Audit (COA) report that P25 billion of the Malampaya fund remains unaccounted for.

Roque expressed concern that when and if there is a final judgment or compromise agreement on the Malampaya fund case, there will be no more funds available.

DOE officials responded that the agency has already been cleared by COA on the said P25 billion report and that the money has been accounted for.

Roque also cited the amount of energy being produced by sugarcane-producing facilities in Negros Occidental, and asked the DOE to look into the possibility of allowing Negros province to transfer energy to its neighboring province of Cebu, which desperately needs energy.

Rep. Julieta Cortuna (Party-list, A-TEACHER) asked the DOE to fast-track the electrification of barangays and sitios, especially those in the island-provinces.

She expressed regret that the island-provinces in the country, which are rich in tourism potential, could not be developed due to lack of energy or electricity.

Cortuna also urged the DOE to provide support for inventors of energy-producing technologies.

Rep. Vicente Veloso (3rd District, Leyte) urged the DoE to help the province of Leyte in enticing investors to contribute in energy development.

Rep. Marlyn Primicias-Agabas (6th District, Pangasinan) appealed to energy officials to help her district in addressing the problems of farm irrigation, high cost of electricity, and flooding, as it is the host district of San Roque Dam, the biggest dam in the world and one of the main sources of energy for the entire country.

Source: House of Representatives

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