ENERGY stakeholders on Wednesday rejected calls to repeal the Electric Power Industry Reform Act of 2001 (Epira), which is being blamed by some quarters for high power rates, saying what the law needs is only “finetuning.”
Speaking before the Energy Regulatory Forum held in Makati City, Tonci Bakovic, chief energy specialist of the International Finance Corp. (IFC) brushed aside ideas to repeal the Epira law.
Instead, what the Philippine government should do is to “fine tune” the legislation like what other countries such as Chile, Colombia and Brazil did.
“Don’t change the Epira law, if needed only fine tune the legislation like the above countries did it. Fine tune it with secondary legislation or secondary norms,” Bakovic said.
He expressed belief that Epira has delivered what it was asked to do by attracting private capital and introduce competition.
Independent think tank IBON Foundation argued that the law itself and not its poor implementation should be blamed for high power rates.
The group maintained that the Epira by design allows private power companies to impose the most profitable rates on electricity.
It also pointed out that Epira “facilitates the complete takeover of a handful of local and foreign businesses in the power sector, the deregulation of generation costs makes it easy for firms to abuse power consumers with exorbitant rates.”
Because of this, the group has called on government to stop and reverse the privatization and deregulation of the electricity industry.
It called on lawmakers to repeal the Epira and work towards building a more rational power sector using the country’s resources.
But Energy Undersecretary Zenaida Monsada said without Epira, power cost could have been higher.
Monsada also said that the Department of Energy (DOE) has formed a task force to study some amendments to the law.
For his part, Energy Secretary Carlos Jericho Petilla said with the passing of Epira, the “government’s role was trimmed to just being the facilitator and catalyst of the energy sector.”
“To some, it may seem that the government was placed in the losing side, however, the reality is that we need to capitalize on the dynamism of the economy as well the influx of foreign and local investors,” Petilla said in his prepared speech read by Monsada.
The DOE is also pushing for amendment of the law to give the government the ability to put up a power plant that would act as a stand-by reserve in case of power shortages.
Petilla said that the ideal situation is for government to be able to operate a plant even just for one to two hours a day or when the need arises.