Senate Minority Leader Aquilino Pimentel III (left) and deputy, Senator Risa Hontiveros (Photo courtesy of Senate PRIB)

MANILA – The two-member Senate minority bloc committed on Monday their support to review and amend Republic Act (RA) 9136, or the Electric Power Industry Reform Act (EPIRA).

It is one of the legislative agenda mentioned by President Ferdinand Marcos Jr. in his first State of the Nation Address last July 25.

Senate Minority Leader Senator Aquilino Pimentel III said he supports amending the EPIRA to give relief to power consumers.

"Basta kami sa minority, madali lang naman kaming mag-usap ni (As for us in the minority, I can talk easily with) Senator Risa (Hontiveros). Magkape lang kami, minority caucus na 'yun eh (Over  coffee, it's already a minority caucus). This amendment to the EPIRA, we are open to this basta (as long as it is) for the good of the people," Pimentel said in his interpellation after Senate President Juan Miguel Zubiri’s privilege speech regarding high electricity rates in the provinces.

"I don't know kung overhaul ang kailangan (if overhaul is needed) or tweaking of the concept. On paper, dapat gwardyado 'yung interest ni consumer eh (On paper, the interest of the consumer should be safeguarded)," Pimentel added.

Hontiveros thanked Zubiri for bringing up the EPIRA, suggesting that the Senate should also be fair to electric cooperatives.

"I will count on ‘yung (the) assurance of Senate President na bilang matagalang champion ng mga kooperatiba sa Senado na kapag pinamumunuan tayo ng  Senate President sa pag-review ng EPIRA sa posibleng pag-amyenda sa kanya, posibleng pag-repeal, at pagpapanganak ng Senado ng bagong batas na pang enerhiya na (I will count on the assurance of the Senate President, being a long time champion of the cooperatives in the Senate, that if we are being led by the Senate President on reviewing the EPIRA, on the possibility of amending it, possible repeal, and to create a new law on energy), the Senate will continue to be fair to the electric cooperatives," Hontiveros said.

She also suggested requiring stronger rules against "cross-ownership" in the energy sector when the EPIRA will be reviewed.

EPIRA mandates the Energy Regulatory Commission to promote competition, encourage market development,
ensure consumer choice, and penalize abuse of market power in the electricity industry.

Senator Raffy Tulfo, chair of the Committee on Energy, vowed to conduct hearings as soon as possible to discuss and find a solution to the frequent blackouts experienced by electric consumers in the provinces. (PNA)