THE ENERGY committee of the House of Representatives approved on Tuesday bills that aim to empower consumers in energy-related matters, including rate-setting, rule-making, and legal representation before various state agencies.

The committee tackled House Bill (HB) No. 2152, authored by Party-list Representatives Sergio C. Dagooc and Presley C. De Jesus. Their proposed measure seeks the establishment of the Energy Advocacy Counsel Office (EACO) to provide legal representation for energy end-users.

Similarly, HB 6237, introduced by Party-list Rep. Rudys Caesar G. Fariñas, aims to create the Energy Consumer Advocate Office (ECAO), which would represent all consumers in energy sector matters affecting the public interest.

Both bills seek to address the lack of representation for ordinary consumers in electricity-related proceedings, particularly in rate petitions and hearings before the Electric Regulatory Commission (ERC). Mr. Dagooc said the bills aim to safeguard consumers’ rights and balance their protection with the interests of electric cooperatives. 

However, the Department of Budget and Management (DBM) expressed concerns that HB 6237’s automatic budget appropriation clause contradicts the function of the DBM.

“Earmarking limits the flexibility of the government in allocating resources. HB 6237 provides automatic appropriations which we also discourage because it undermines the mandate of the DBM to efficiently and effectively allocate government resources,” DBM Chief Budget and Management Specialist Nihal C. Abdulrauf-Pacalna said.

The energy committee’s deliberation of HB 2152 reflected concerns regarding potential redundancies with EACO’s functions.

“For the creation of the EACO, we deemed that there are existing agencies that perform the intended functions of the proposed office,” said Ms. Abdulrauf-Pacalna. “The ERC has a consumer affairs office. We suggest the committee to expand the existing agencies instead.” Kenneth Christiane L. Basilio