May 26, 2024 People's Tonight 85 views

SENATOR Sherwin Gatchalian, vice chairman of the Senate Committee on Energy, said the submission to the Senate of the bill renewing the franchise of Manila Electric Company (Meralco) will provide the opportunity to scrutinize the giant utility’s performance.

“These franchise renewals, my view always is that we have to use this opportunity to review the performance of the grantee. And that’s a good way of putting accountability to the grantee,” Gatchalian said on the sidelines of the forum “Solar and Storage Philippines 2024 at the SMX Convention Center in Pasay City.

“So, I will look at the performance of Meralco,” he said.

“The price, for example, since they buy power, and the service which includes connection, brownouts, speed of repairing lines, etc,” Gatchalian said.

“For me, I have to look at the performance of Meralco before I can say whether to support it or not,” the senator told reporters.

House Bill (HB) No. 9813 seeks to extend Meralco’s existing franchise which will expire in 2028.

“Typically, the franchise emanates from the House,” Gatchalian said.

“So, we cannot move until they transmit the franchise to the Senate. So, that’s how the process works,” he said.

“So far, no one has filed yet a franchise renewal with the Senate. But in this case, I think we will have to wait for the House to transmit it to us,” Gatchalian added.

Consumer groups are opposing the rush to renew the Meralco franchise.

United Filipino Consumers and Commuters (UFCC) said the bid to renew the Meralco franchise four years ahead of its expiry was ill-timed because it is happening just when Meralco customers are feeling the weight of increasing electricity rates as a result of increased demand.

UFCC president Rodolfo Javellana Jr. said the ongoing push by a few lawmakers to renew the Meralco franchise ahead of time was clearly being done with haste and appeared to be setting the tone in Meralco’s favor.

“They are now conditioning the mindset of the public,” said Javellana, whose group has been advocating consumers’ right and has filed several cases before the Energy Regulatory Commission against Meralco for alleged overcharging.

“If we give Meralco an early franchise renewal, we are giving them a free pass on all the allegations against them,” said another group advocating consumer protection, People for Power (P4P) coalition.