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House committee approves bill tapping P123 billion from Malampaya fund for Napocor subsidy

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Malampaya scale model replica
Visitors take pictures of a scale model replica of the Malampaya gas reservoir. -- BW FILE PHOTO

THE House Committee on Energy on Tuesday approved a measure proposing to tap P123 billion from the Malampaya fund as a subsidy to help settle obligations of the National Power Corp. (NPC).

The unnumbered Substitute Bill, known as the “Murang Kuryente Act,” provided that a portion of the Net National Government Share from the Malampaya Natural Gas Project be used as payment for NPC’s Stranded Contract Cost (SCC) and Stranded Debts (SD) until 2023.

“Instead of an additional increase in the rates of electricity, the said P123 billion will actually temper or (result in no) increases in electricity rates,” committee chair Lord Allan Jay Q. Velasco of Marinduque said during the meeting.

He said that according to the Power Sector Assets and Liabilities Management Corp. (PSALM), the measure will reduce rates by P0.57 per kilowatt-hour (kWh), which translates to a P115 saving for households that consume an average of 200 kWh per month.

The Department of Energy reported the total balance of the Malampaya fund is P221 billion as of September.

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“We only have nine days left, I think this bill is unprecedented for the number of years the Malampaya fund hasn’t been touched. Definitely there is a sense of urgency in approving it,” Mr. Velasco told reporters after the hearing, Tuesday.

The bill further provided that once the SCC and SD have been paid before the termination of the corporate life of PSALM, the net national government share shall accrue back to the special fund for the purpose of funding energy resource exploration and development programs.

Its counterpart measure, Senate Bill No. 1950, proposes to use P207 billion of the Malampaya fund. It is currently awaiting second reading in the chamber.

The committee’s vice-chair 1-CARE Rep. Carlos Roman L. Uybarreta said he sees the passage on third reading for the bill ahead of the congressional break on Feb. 6.

“If all goes well, the House can have the Murang Kuryente Act passed on 2nd reading this week and 3rd and final reading the following week before House adjourns session on Feb. 6,” Mr. Uybarreta said in a statement.

Congress will adjourn beginning Feb. 6 to make way for the campaign period. It will resume on May 20 and adjourn again on June 7. — Charmaine A. Tadalan

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