THE Department of Energy (DoE) has prepared a draft circular directing the use of all available and unremitted funds accumulated under Energy Regulation 1-94 (ER 1-94) to bolster the government’s efforts to contain the coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) epidemic.

The order is authorized by the Bayanihan to Heal as One law, granted special powers to President Rodrigo R. Duterte to repurpose funds for the containment effort. The law empowers him to redirect cash, funds, and investments from any government-owned and controlled corporations and national government agencies to COVID-19 response.

ER 1-94 sets aside for power plant host communities a one centavo per kilowatt-hour take from total electricity sales.

The DoE said the funds were deemed to be “viable, doable and readily available source of funding” to aid the government in its fight to contain the disease.

The available funds also include the Electrification Fund (EF), the Development and Livelihood Fund (DLF) and the Reforestation, Watershed Management, Health and/or Environment Enhancement Fund (RWMHEEF).

Should the order be enforced, local government units (LGU) could use the funds to buy medical equipment, providing special risk allowance to health workers and facilitate mass testing, among other COVID-19 response projects allowed by the DoE.

Based on the draft, LGUs must submit a letter of intent to tap the funds.

A memorandum of agreement, however, is not needed during this public health emergency, the circular noted.

The DoE is circulating the draft for stakeholder comment. — Adam J. Ang