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Senate energy panel to tackle PHP750-M electric coop disaster fund

MANILA, Jan. 11 (PNA) -- The Senate Committee on Energy led by its chair, Sen. Sherwin “Win” Gatchalian, is set to discuss a measure meant to provide assistance to electric cooperatives during disasters next week.

Senate Bill No. 1253, otherwise known as the Electric Cooperatives Disaster Management Fund Act, proposes the establishment of a PHP750 million fund which would provide financial assistance to electric cooperatives for restoration and rehabilitation of power facilities and infrastructure damaged during typhoons, earthquakes, and other instances of natural calamities and fortuitous events.

The fund will also be used to finance disaster prevention, preparedness, and mitigation projects to be undertaken by electric cooperatives, including disaster vulnerability risk assessments and institutionalization of emergency response plans.

Moreover, it is meant to equip electric cooperatives with the resources they need to minimize damage caused by future storms and other natural disasters through the exercise of foresight and diligence.

Gatchalian, principal author of the bill, said that without a dedicated funding source for disaster repairs and rehabilitations, electric cooperatives have no choice but to seek interest-bearing calamity loans.

These calamity loans can take as long as two years to be converted into grants, and sometimes the loans are not converted at all due to budgetary constraints.

He said that under the current system, electric coops often have no choice but to pass on the costs of these calamity loans to consumers.

This, in turn, will result in higher power rates for people who are already struggling to put their lives back together in the wake of a calamity.

“Essentially, it's like handing out relief goods to calamity survivors and then asking them to pay for them later. This is a problem that needs to be addressed," Gatchalian said. (PNA)
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