Duterte signs Murang Kuryente Act

Ruth Abbey Gita

PRESIDENT Rodrigo DUterte has signed into law a measure mandating the use of the P208-billion Malampaya fund to pay off a debt that has been passed on to consumers as "universal charges."

Republic Act (RA) 11371, or the Murang Kuryente Act, will use the Malampaya fund to pay the National Power Corporation's (Napocor) "stranded costs" and "stranded debts" transferred to and assumed by the Power Sector Assets and Liabilities Management Corporation (PSALM).

Napocor's "stranded contract costs" refer to the excess of the contract cost of electricity under eligible independent power producer contracts that have been approved by the Energy Regulatory Board as of December 31, 2000, the law states.

The Napocor's "stranded debts," meantime, are its unpaid financial obligations which have not been liquidated by the proceeds from the government corporation's sales and privatization of assets.

"It is hereby declared the policy of the State to protect public interest by ensuring the provision of reliable, secure, and affordable supply of electric power to consumers," RA 11371 read.

"Towards this end, the State shall implement policies and programs to ensure transparent and reasonable prices of electricity to consumers by minimizing the universal charges for stranded costs and stranded debts," it added.

In a statement, PSALM said the signing of the law would unburden power consumers from paying additional universal charge for stranded contract costs and stranded debts that could possibly amount to P0.86 per kilowatt-hour (kWh).

For families consuming an average of P200 kWh monthly, this translates to P2,064 savings from reduced electricity cost per year.

Meantime, the President also signed RA 11361, or the Anti-Obstruction of Power Lines Act, which mandates the "continuous and uninterrupted" transmission and distribution of electricity to consumers nationwide to prevent power outages.

It also requires that the power line corridor must be kept clear and free from any power line obstructions, dangerous structures, hazardous activities and improvements, and other similar circumstances.

"The State further recognizes that the continuous conveyance of electricity is a matter of national security and is essential to sustaining the country's economic development. Finally, the State acknowledges the crucial role of property owners in ensuring that power lines remain free of any dangerous and hazardous activities and improvements," the law said.

Any individuals found to have violated RA 11361 will face a fine of up to P200,000 and imprisonment of up to 12 years.

Both measures were signed on August 8, 2019. Palace released copies of RA 11371 and 11361 on Wednesday, August 14, 2019. (SunStar Philippines)