THE Department of Energy (DoE) and Energy Regulatory Commission (ERC) said that they will submit their detailed comments on the proposed midstream natural gas industry development act or Senate Bill (SB) No. 1819 by Monday.

SB 1819 aims to regulate the midstream natural gas industry, which covers operations like aggregation, supply, importation, receipt, unloading, loading, processing, storage, regasification, transmission and transportation of natural gas in original or liquefied form.

The measure was introduced in light of the imminent depletion of the Malampaya gas project, which provides fuel to five power plants that account for 20% of the Luzon grid’s installed capacity. The bill seeks to allow private sector participation across the value chain, provide flexibility for the government to develop the market, and protect consumers.

In a Senate hearing Tuesday, DoE Assistant Secretary Leonido J. Pulido III and ERC officer in charge for the Investigation Enforcement Division for Generation Companies Leila O. Cirio both asked for more time to submit their respective agencies’ formal comments on SB 1819.

Mr. Pulido said the DoE had sent the “wrong document” to Senator Sherwin T. Gatchalian, who chairs the Senate Committee on Energy.

“We would like to beg the kind indulgence of the committee on energy and to our stakeholders if we could be given time to file a revised comment on the bill… We would like to apologize for that,” Mr. Pulido said.

The DoE, along with the Energy Regulatory Commission (ERC) and the private sector, had been due to submit their comments on the bill during Tuesday’s hearing.

Mr. Pulido told Mr. Gatchalian that the agency’s bureaus were still discussing the specifics. “There’s still a bit of healthy internal discussion insofar as the specific provisions are concerned so…we (ask to) be given until Monday next week to submit our formal comments on the bill,” the DoE official said.

During the hearing, Mr. Gatchalian said: “I understand there is no position yet on the bill, or there is a general position but there is no detailed position on the concepts of the bill,” he said.

SB 1819 proposes to give the DoE the authority to supervise and monitor the development of the midstream natural gas industry, prepare a development plan within one year from the act’s signing, and convene a technical working group to ensure compliance with standards and regulations, among others.

Mr. Gatchalian said that after two years of talks, there was some confusion on the Energy department’s position about the proposed bill, which is why he had hoped to get the agency’s inputs during the Tuesday hearing.

Ms. Cirio also asked for an extension on behalf of the ERC.

“If you will allow us to submit our comments within the week or on Monday… to (look at) this provision especially on the powers and responsibility of the ERC,” she said.

SB 1819 puts the ERC is in charge of promulgating the natural gas transmission code once the measure becomes law, issue its “own use and rTPA (regulated third party access) permits to natural gas transmission facilities, and investigate natural gas transmission facilities that fail to comply with the natural gas transmission code, among others.”

Both the DoE and ERC’s comments are scheduled to be tackled in the bill’s second hearing on Jan. 12.

During the hearing, Senator Risa Hontiveros-Baraquel said: “The bill has been in development for a couple of years and in fact, this hearing has been rescheduled twice and certainly, our DoE and ERC resource persons are fully aware of that, so I’m just a bit puzzled about this turn of events.”

Mr. Gatchalian added: (The hearing) was deferred for almost a month and quite sadly, the two main actors in this bill are not ready to discuss in greater detail the concepts of the bill. — Angelica Y. Yang