THE Joint Congressional Power Commission (JCPC) on Thursday approved amendments to the implementing rules and regulations (IRR) of the Electric Power Industry Reform Act Law (EPIRA) to facilitate the granting of benefits to host communities.

“We want to empower and to give the benefits as quickly as possible to the LGUs (local government units),” Senator Sherwin T. Gatchalian, who co-chairs the JCPC, said in a hearing.

He said there are “P6 billion to be released to the LGUs and because of red tape and complication of the process. This P6 billion is not being utilized by the LGUs,” he said.

The Department of Energy, upon the issuance of Department Circular 2018-08-0021, proposed to directly remit the benefits to communities hosting power generation facilities, which was not addressed in the current IRR of Republic Act 9136, or the EPIRA Law.

The circular calls for all financial benefits which accrued from Oct. 26, 2018 to Dec. 25, 2018 to be directly remitted within 15 days. For the succeeding quarterly billing periods, the benefits are to be remitted also within 15 days following the end of each billing quarter.

The EPIRA Law requires generation companies to provide financial benefits equivalent to P0.01 per kilowatt-hour of total electricity sales to the host community.

Energy Secretary Alfonso G. Cusi said the proposed circular “would really help deliver the money faster to the host community and the host community will be able to make use of it.”

“There are something like P6 or P7 billion that has been stranded over time. This money should have been used much earlier, so we hope now with this circular, the host community would be able to implement their projects in a timely manner,” he told the panel.

The DoE, through the DC 2018-03-0005, also proposed to include indigenous peoples as beneficiaries, which was also approved by the JCPC in the same hearing. — Charmaine A. Tadalan