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Duterte grants Solar Para Sa Bayan 25-year franchise.

PRESIDENT Duterte has granted a 25-year nonexclusive franchise to Solar Para sa Bayan Corporation despite competition concerns earlier raised by business groups.

Solar Para sa Bayan Corporation, owned by Leandro L. Leviste, son of former senator and now Antique Rep. Loren B. Legarda, is allowed to put up and operate solar grids in remote and unviable, unserved and underserved areas in the country.

Under Republic Act No. 11357 signed by the President last July 31, the corporation is given a nonexclusive franchise to construct, install, establish, operate and maintain in the public interest and for commercial purposes, Distributed Energy Resources and microgrids utilizing renewable energy technology or a hybrid to provide electric power to customers and end users.

Moreover, the franchise granted to Solar Para sa Bayan Corporation shall also not affect the duty of the Department of Energy (DOE) to promote private sector participation in the electrification of remote, unviable, unserved and underserved areas.

Other qualified third parties shall be able to continue to participate in any competitive selection to operate in these areas as determined by DOE, in accordance with some provisions of the Act, even without a similar franchise from Congress.

The DOE is also tasked under the measure to promulgate the necessary rules and regulations to operationalize this franchise without compromising the grid stability, the rate effect on consumers, the continued viability and sustainability of the grantee's operations and other technical and financial considerations.

Should any competing individual, partnership or corporation receive a similar permit or franchise with terms and provisions more favorable than those granted or which tend to place Solar Para sa Bayan at any disadvantage, such terms and provisions shall be deemed part of the Act and shall operate equally in favor of Solar Para sa Bayan.

However, any term and/or provision granted under the Act which are not contained in other franchises that may be granted hereafter shall likewise be enjoyed by the future grantees.

No subsidy

As for its rates for services, the retail rate charged by Solar Para sa Bayan Corporation to end users shall be the true cost and shall not be entitled to any government subsidy. Such retail rates shall be regulated by and subject to Energy Regulatory Commission (ERC) approval.

In June, business groups asked Duterte to allow his economic team to review the bill granting the franchise to Solar Para sa Bayan due to issues of corruption and alleged lack of deliberation.

According to them, the grant of the franchise 'may defeat the President's objective of leveling the playing field in the renewable energy sector and would prejudice power consumers.'

The joint statement was signed by the American Chamber of Commerce of the Philippines, Financial Executives Institute of the Philippines (Finex), Makati Business Club (MBC) and the Management Association of the Philippines (MAP). The Semiconductor and Electronics Industries in the Philippines (Seipi) Foundation Inc. and the Women's Business Council Philippines also signed the statement.

In its web site, Solar Para sa Bayan Corporation claimed an estimated 12 million Filipinos lack access to electricity as of 2016. This translates to 10.4 percent of Philippine households without electricity. By island, 5.2 percent of households in Luzon is in need of power access, 7.6 percent in Visayas and 27.6 percent in Mindanao.

The DOE is eyeing to achieve 100-percent electrification by the end of Duterte's term in 2022.
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Publication:Business Mirror (Makati City, Philippines)
Date:Aug 2, 2019
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