New consumer group to focus on fair service in power sector

NEWLY-launched consumer group said on Wednesday that it aims to ensure the welfare of electricity consumers, and pursue transparency in the country’s energy industry sector. During the group’s virtual launch, national coordinator Nic Satur, Jr. said their organization is “open for collaboration with all sectors of the power industry,” including politicians, lawyers and the media, among others. “Our sole focus is (for) consumers to have a fair service of what (they) are paying for. The consumers’ welfare is our agenda, with consumers’ participation in the ERC (Energy Regulatory Commission) for representation and transparency,” Mr. Satur said. The group said the country has an “energy crisis,” which is “aggravated by the lack of consumer participation in the energy industry.” The group has been active through Facebook since last year, but their own platform was officially launched Wednesday. “The Philippines remains to charge one of the highest electricity costs in Asia. This and the continued poor services especially during the current pandemic are affecting the ordinary Filipino’s capacity to cope. Many are also losing their jobs,” Mr. Satur said in a statement.

Senator Sherwin T. Gatchalian, who attended the event, said consumer protection and the competitive operations of the electricity industry are enhanced in the proposed Energy Advocate Act under Senate Bill No. 173. “The rationale for the Energy Advocate Act is to give organizations a bigger voice in terms of rates setting and going into the approval of retail rates here in our country,” he explained. The lawmaker, who chairs the Senate committee on energy, was also quoted in the group’s statement as saying that “consumer advocacy groups such as Kuryente.Org must come together to make noise and study the complexity of the energy industry to protect the rights of the consumers.” — Angelica Y. Yang

POPCOM pushes for law to decrease adolescent pregnancies

THE COMMISSION on Population and Development (POPCOM) called on the current Congress to pass proposed laws that will help prevent the rising number of adolescent pregnancies. Among the pending legislation are prohibition of child marriage, and raising the age to determine statutory rape from below 12 years old to below 16. Results of a nationwide survey conducted by the Social Weather Stations and commissioned by POPCOM, which were presented in an online briefing Wednesday, show 59% of the respondents said teenage pregnancy is the most pressing problem of women today, followed by physical violence (11%), unintended pregnancy (11%), and sexual violence (7%). With the lockdown due to the coronavirus pandemic from March 2020 contributing to the pregnancy boom in the Philippines, POPCOM projects 62,510 thousand live births by minors and 133,265 minor-led families at the end of 2021. In 2019, the National Economic and Development Authority (NEDA) declared the high adolescent pregnancy rate in the country as a national social emergency. POPCOM Executive Director Juan Antonio A. Perez III said while there are various programs already being implemented under the Reproductive Health Law, further measures and funding focusing on adolescents are needed. “We need Congress to act on the access of minors to reproductive health services,” Mr. Perez said. — Bianca Angelica D. Añago

Dismissal of charges against those in amnesty list not automatic, says Guevarra

JUSTICE Secretary Menardo I. Guevarra on Wednesday said legal cases involving persons included in a recent amnesty proclamation will not be automatically dropped. “The dismissals of these cases are not automatic,” Mr. Guevarra said in a Viber message to reporters. He said the National Prosecution Service will make an inventory of pending investigations or trials of people covered by the amnesty, and these will be subject to an evaluation by the National Amnesty Commission (NAC). The commission was recently created through an executive order signed by President Rodrigo R. Duterte. NAC has yet to draft the screening and evaluation rules, but the most important criterion “is whether or not the offense committed by the subject individual was in pursuit of a political objective,” Mr. Guevarra said. — Bianca Angelica D. Añago