January 19, 2017
Legarda Bats for Enhanced Resilience of Electric Coops
Senator Loren Legarda today stressed the importance of enhancing the resilience to disasters and climate change impacts of electric cooperatives in the country.
Legarda, Chair of the Senate Committees on Climate Change and Finance, made the statement during the committee hearing on the proposed Electric Cooperatives Disaster Management Fund under Senate Bill No. 1253 authored by Senator Sherwin Gatchalian.
"I support this measure as it provides funds for disaster risk reduction (DRR) and preparedness of electric cooperatives. If our mindset, actions and budgeting are towards enhancing the resilience of our electric cooperatives, then the damage or adverse impact after a natural hazard strikes will be significantly lower," she explained.
At present, disaster-affected electric cooperatives apply for a calamity loan with an interest of 3.25% per annum from the National Electrification Administration (NEA).
Legarda requested for the Commission on Audit (COA) reports on the calamity loans and grants to electric cooperatives to examine how these funds have been utilized.
"We want to know which among the 121 electric cooperatives have accessed these calamity loans and grants and if there are those who did not receive such assistance. Through these reports, we can see which cooperatives need assistance in terms of building resilience. There could be cooperatives that are more resilient and thus have not accessed these grants or loans, we can use them as model for the other cooperatives," she explained.
The Senator stressed the importance of undertaking vulnerability risk assessment as well as tapping renewable energy sources of electricity, which are cost-effective, clean and resilient.
"Our electric cooperatives and the whole energy sector must be resilient because electricity is very important when natural hazards strike. Disturbances in the energy system upset economic activities and cause distress to other critical infrastructure sectors, like transportation, water supply, communications and public order," Legarda said.
The Senator hopes that the proposed bill will be approved by both houses of Congress and enacted into law by March 2017 so that funding will already be included in the National Expenditure Program (NEP) for 2018.
Meanwhile, Legarda also inquired about the status of power restoration in areas affected by Typhoon Nina last December, especially those in the Bicol Region.
Electric cooperatives in the Bicol Region have been given until January 31, 2017 to fully restore power in the whole region, but they said they have not yet received in entirety the needed funding support from NEA.
Legarda said the concerned electric cooperatives, the NEA, and the National Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Council (NDRRMC) should closely coordinate and fast-track the funding process, noting that there are available government funds.
The NDRRM Fund still has P3.943 billion continuing appropriations from the 2016 General Appropriations Act (GAA) and P15.750 billion in the 2017 GAA.
Legarda reminded the NDRRMC that since the 2017 GAA only has a one-year availability timeframe, the agency needs to utilize the combined funds from 2016 and 2017 GAA by December 31, 2017 or it will revert to Treasury.
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