Gatchalian lauds signing of electric coops fund law

MANILA -- Senator Sherwin Gatchalian on Thursday lauded the signing into law of a measure which will strengthen resiliency among electric cooperatives by institutionalizing government support and financial assistance during times of disaster.

"Essentially, we are arming electric cooperatives with the capacity to quickly restore power in the homes and businesses of the 11 million consumers they serve, without having to imposing pass on charges. Ayaw nating dagdagan pa ang pasanin ng ating mga konsyumer na bumabangon mula sa anumang kalamidad (We don't want to put added burden to our consumers who are just reeling from any calamity)," Gatchalian said.

The law also requires each electric cooperative to submit to the National Electrification Administration (NEA) Vulnerability and Risk Assessment, Resiliency Compliance Plan, and Emergency Response Plan to gain access to Electric Cooperatives Emergency and Resiliency Fund (ECERF).

NEA shall be responsible for monitoring and evaluating the use and disbursement of the ECERF. It also has the role of crafting a comprehensive National Electric Cooperatives Emergency and Resiliency Plan based on all submissions of electric coops, which in turn shall form part of National Disaster Risk and Reduction Management Plan.

Through this law, Gatchalian is hopeful that electric cooperatives would develop strong disaster preparedness, mitigation, and response measures.

"Sa pabagu-bagong kalagayan ng ating kapaligiran, hindi natin alam kung kelan tayo tatamaan ng trahedya. Sa huli, dapat handa ang ating mga kooperatiba na harapin ang ganitong mga sitwasyon (Because of climate change, we don't know when will a disaster happen. In the end, our cooperatives should be ready to confront such emergency situations)," the lawmaker said.

Earlier this week, President Rodrigo Duterte signed into law Republic Act 11039, otherwise known as the Electric Cooperatives Emergency and Resiliency Fund Act.

"The signing of RA 11039 is an important milestone in maintaining stability in the power supply of the 122 electric cooperatives nationwide in the wake of natural calamities and other emergency situations," said Gatchalian, the chairman of the Senate Committee on Energy and principal author of the law in the Senate.

RA 11039 establishes the ECERF, which will be administered and managed by the NEA. The government shall allot funding to the ECERF under the national budget to be used exclusively for the restoration or rehabilitation of damaged infrastructure of electric coops.

For the initial implementation of the law, the government shall allocate PHP750 million, which shall be taken out of the PHP7-billion budget of the National Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Fund, and will be released to NEA's Quick Response Fund for the smooth distribution to qualified electric coops. (Senate PR)