Press Release
August 8, 2022

Senator Pia's interpellation on Senate President Juan Miguel Zubiri's privilege speech on the high cost of electricity

I'd like to commend our Senate President for bringing up a very important matter. I'd like to also share, because as his honor had presented data in his area, in his hometown, in Bukidnon, I also took it upon myself to just message some close friends in Dipolog, Zamboanga Del Norte. And sa residential rate, one of my friends said na just in the last few months, [there was a] 30-40 percent increase. And then another friend who is a businesswoman, gave me some data. In July 2020, it was 6.87 pesos [per kilowatt-hour]. In July 2021, 7.90 pesos, and in July 2022, 11.90, almost 12 pesos, so almost double, your honor.

And we're talking about small businessmen. I know our Senate President is the champion of small and medium businesses, so this is what they have to deal with. But I'd also like to commend our new Chairperson of the Committee on Energy because from my personal experience, when I would go to the provinces, and Dipolog is one of my favorite places, what I noticed was the brownouts. So not to say that the power rates are not as important, as I am sure it is, pero as a visitor, pansin ko na walang kuryente ng apat na oras. And in my mind, I'm also a small business owner, I'm like, paano ito, di ba? How do you operate your business when you don't even know. Buti pa nga, I feel so privileged na kapag mawawalan ng tubig sa atin di ba in Metro Manila, we're so demanding na, bakit hindi niyo sinabi na meron palang power outage? Ganun. Pero in the provinces I visited, Mr. President, dear colleagues, siguro hindi na kailangan mag-announce kasi parang regular na pala ang mga four-hour brownouts na yan.

So I really feel that we must take this into consideration, because this is where I come in as your Chairperson of the Committee on Sustainable Development Goals, Innovations, and Futures Thinking. SDG 7 is to ensure access to affordable, reliable, and sustainable energy for all.

Now just very quickly, I just grabbed a random [copy of a franchise law], I don't even know the title I told my staff, don't even tell me the name of the franchisee here. So I am looking at the franchise agreement and looking for the relevant provision here, it says here on the responsibility to the public, so ito po ay isang franchise agreement para sa mga nakikinig sa atin, kapag binigyan ng franchise itong mga nagdi-distribute ng kuryente, may nakasulat na ganito: "the grantee shall charge reasonable and just power rates for its services to all types of consumers within their franchise area." So ang tanong nga is paano kung hindi reasonable and just ang power rates? Nabanggit na so hindi ko na papahabain, meron talagang karapatan na tanggalin ang prangkisa na yun, it is a privilege nga po, it is not a right.

So, on that note, all of us should feel that it is part of our responsibility na tayo [Congress] ang nagbigay ng mga franchise na yan, whether it was during our term, or in previous terms, to review these franchises kung hindi naman nila nadi-deliver. And there are also government agencies that are also tasked with that.

The other thing that I just wanted to quickly point out, your honor, is that how do we look at these franchises in terms of kapag sinabing binding contract yan? Well, number one, sinabi na nga natin na it is just a privilege. But if we will look at this franchise as a special kind of contract, in the case of Oposa v. Factoran - timely because Anna Oposa, the daughter of the plaintiff Tony Oposa - is here. In this landmark case, Oposa v. Factoran in 1993, sinabi talaga dito na meron talagang responsibility ang government at meron siyang karapatan na i-review and if necessary, ibahin or i-revoke ang contract na yun.

Citing some Supreme Court cases

I am just paraphrasing your honor, but this is a Supreme Court case, it can be researched. I am just spreading it into the record, na yan ang nakasulat diyan. Sabi dito: "In ABS-CBN Corporation v NTC, a franchise is defined to be a special privilege to do certain things, conferred by the government on an individual or corporation and which does not belong to citizens generally of common right." So hindi nga siya common right, binibigay lang siya as a privilege, paulit-ulit yan dito sa mga discussions ng franchises.

And again, under Oposa v Factoran, this is an exception to the non-impairment clause to the Constitution. To be clear, the Constitution declares the principle of non-impairment of contracts, pero this is considered as an exemption, your honor. I would like to just spread that into the record kasi nakikinig sa atin mga law students, mga business major, small business owners katulad nga po ng advocacy ng ating Senate President. And so, there are always exceptions to the rules. And these are some of those exemptions. Sabi pa dito, in the same case of Oposa v Factoran, property rights and contract rights are not absolute. So ibig sabihin, there are circumstances na pwedeng balikan ito and kapag napatunayan nga na may abuso o hindi naaayon sa napag-usapan sa kontrata, pwedeng buwagin ang kontrata.

And then, in Surigao Del Norte Electric Cooperatives Inc. v Energy Regulatory Commission, the Supreme Court ruled, "It is beyond cavil that the State, in the exercise of police power, can regulate the rates imposed by a public utility such as SURNECO... when private property is used for a public purpose and is affected with public interest, it ceases to be juris privati only and becomes subject to regulation."

So, I have a few more cases here, your honor, but I think the point is made very clear. We in Congress have the power to regulate, and as we have also discussed in many bills that we took up, we also have the power to delegate. And when we delegate, as long as it is properly delegated to the proper agencies, then they also have the right now to impose and ensure that the requirements that were set were followed, your honor. So mabalik tayo, yung sinabi ko early on: reasonable and just power rates.

So, your honor, that's it, I just wanted to share that. Whatever comments you have, but I think that it is vital that you brought this up and I support his honor's privilege speech and for us to all learn about it and to also be educated. I do not pretend to be an expert on this, your honor.


Before we end on this topic and the speech of our Senate President is referred to the proper Senate Committee, I just wanted to add that during the debates on the CREATE Law, one of the complaints of those who did not want to pass CREATE was that they were against the rationalization of the incentives.

But the Senate President correctly pointed out in his speech that there are other factors that affect our being attractive as a destination for investors, both local and foreign. And one big factor is electricity, I just wanted to emphasize that because as the defender of the CREATE Law, I hear there are some who say they want to review it - and of course it is our job to review - but of course, this electricity is a big, big issue your honor and I want to commend the gentleman from Bukidnon and Northern Mindanao and the Philippines for bringing this up. Thank you.

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