By Vanne Elaine Terrazola
Senators will restore the P351-million budget of the Energy Regulatory Commission (ERC) for 2018 despite the Lower Chamber’s decision to give them a meager P1,000 allocation amid allegations of corruption.
Senator Sherwin Gatchalian, chair of the Senate committee on energy, on Thursday said his colleagues in the Senate do not agree with possible abolition of the ERC and said they will fight for the restoration of its proposed budget for next year.
“The general sentiment is magkaroon ng (to have) regulator,” Gatchalian told reporters when about his fellow senators’ opinion on the budget cut.
“In fact, there is a proposal to increase their budget, because they lack manpower. We have discussed how we will raise the budget so they can hire more experts,” he added.
Gatchalian, whose committee already approved the P350.95-million proposed budget of the ERC, underscored the importance of the embattled agency especially to consumers of electricity. He feared that the public and the economy may suffer should the Congress push through with giving the ERC a meager P1,000 budget, which, in effect, will result in its abolition.
“It’s an important regulator in the energy sector. Ang aking kinakatakutan, dahil wala tayong regulator, wala tayong bagong supply ng kuryente (I’m afraid because we don’t have regulator we will have no new supply of electricity)… By next year, wala tayong papasok na bagong supply ng kuryente…magkakaroon ng problema sa pag-apruba ng bagong supply ng kuryente, apekatado ang negosyo, ang taong bayan, industriya. Problema sa ating ekonomiya (we will have no new supply of electricity…there will be a problem for the approval of new supply of electricity, affecting business, the people, industry. Problem in our economy),” he said.
As for the controversies hounding the agency, the senator said the House of Representative’s decision last week to give the ERC a measly annual budget for next year was “too drastic” to address the alleged corruption in the agency.
“I think it’s too drastic. Masyadong drastic yung remedy dahil let’s also remember na hindi lang ERC ang mapepenalize kundi tayong lahat na gumagamit ng kuryente. Nakasalalay tayo sa ERC pagdating sa kuryente (It’s too drastic because, let’s also remember, not only ERC will be penalized but all of us who consume electricity. We depend on ERC when it comes to electricity),” Gatchalian said after a budget hearing Thursday.
Gatchalian said he supports the Lower Chamber’s investigation on the alleged corruption in the ERC but said involved officials should only be held accountable. “Pag inabolish yung ERC, yung 400 employees na wala namang kinalaman sa kurapsyon, mawawalan ng trabaho (If the ERC is abolished, the 400 employees who have nothing to do with corruption, will be jobless,” he noted.
He said he has talked to Marinduque Rep. Lord Allan Jay Velasco, his counterpart in the Lower House, who has “understood” the problem in slashing the ERC’s budget next year. Velasco, he said, will talk to House leaders to reconsider their decision.
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