Keynote Speech at the Philippine Solar Summit 2012
SMX Convention Center, Pasay City
I’d like to greet you a very good and sunny day.
I want to thank Philippine Solar Power Alliance for inviting me to this event and for continuously enlightening us on the necessity and potential of utilizing solar power for the country’s energy needs.
At the time of the drafting of House Bill no. 5405 (October 11, 2011) or An Act Providing for Incentives and Credit Facilities for Consumers of Small Solar Power Systems in the Philippines, oil and electricity prices were at an all-time high. The country had just been bestowed a new record for having the most expensive electricity rate in Asia, beating Japan with an average retail rate of electricity at 18.1 US cents per kilowatt-hour. The study, made by the consulting firm International Energy Consultants and presented by Meralco to the Philippine Chamber of Commerce and Industry (PCCI), revealed that with the exception of Japan and Singapore, consumer elsewhere in Asia pay electricity rates equivalent only to the generation charges Filipino consumers pay. The group attributed the high cost of electricity to the passing on of costs and taxes to consumers.
Unlike other countries in the region, the Philippines has not only privatized its strategic electric power sector but it also does not give state subsidy to cushion the high cost of energy. (Source: Philippines has most expensive electricity in Asia, Manila Bulletin, February 23, 2011 http://www.mb.com.ph/node/305841/philippine)
Such high prices doubly burden poor Filipinos, a big majority of whom are earning way below the living wage. In fact, energy, together with water, is the fourth biggest expenditure of Filipino families according to the latest Family Income and Expenditures Survey. For extremely poor families, it is third to food and house rental, eating up funds that could have been used for education or health care.
Not only does high power rates burden the poor, it also directly affects businesses in the country. High electricity rates either force small companies who cannot cover such expenses to close shop or larger ones to transfer to other countries that offer a better and cheaper working environment.
As a representative of the marginalized sectors and chairperson of the Congressional Committee on Small Business and Entrepreneurship Development, I have long urged the government to act on these problems by assessing current policies and putting forward long-term solutions.
Besides filing measures to address the problem of high energy prices, like our proposal to remove or cut the value added tax on oil and power, we have also been pushing for alternatives energy sources and actively took part in the crafting of the Philippine renewable energy law.
One beaty of solar power is that it is modular and ideal for households and small business enterprises. So we had this idea of using solar power to liberate households and small businesses from the stranglehold of the big, greedy, dirty power companies. I wanted a law that would literally give power to the people.
To ordinary consumers, however, solar rooftops are beyond reach due to the relatively high cost of the equipment. But because of its benefits which everyone acknowledges, it should be government’s duty to make solar technology attractive by instituting various systems such as the feed-in-tariff, as well as subsidies and loans which are already in place in countries where solar energy has made a headway.
It is in this light that I filed the One Million Solar Roofs Act. The bill aims to harness the abundance of solar energy, taking into consideration the Philippines as being second in Southeast Asia in terms of irradiation and insolation, and the modular nature of solar energy systems to immediately and sustainably address the energy problem of the country, particularly the needs of the small consumer. It complements the current renewable energy law.
This bill provides for incentives and financing facilities to encourage the use of solar energy by ordinary electricity consumers like residences, offices and small to medium business establishments. Loans will also be made available through the Pag-IBIG Fund, the Government Service Insurance System (GSIS) and the Social Security System (SSS), among other credit and financing agencies. We want solar rooftops to be qualified for loan packages covering household construction, repair and renovation.
Under House Bill 5405, the Department of Energy, National Renewable Energy Board and the Housing and Urban Development Coordinating Council will encourage installation of small solar energy systems in homes and business establishments all over the country, targeting a million rooftops in the next ten years.
Qualified participants may avail of the same incentives provided for renewable energy developers as provided for in Republic Act no. 9513 or the Renewable Energy Act. These include income tax holiday for commercial operations, duty-free importation of solar machinery, equipment and materials, among others. At the same time, the bill reiterates that participants may enter into net-metering agreements with distribution utilities.
It is hoped that through this bill, the demand for clean solar energy, as well as the opportunities for local manufacturing and related solar energy products and services, will increase. This will hopefully in turn pave the way for cheaper solar energy systems.
These are just some of the provisions of HB 5405. In any case, it will undergo public hearings and further fine-tuning. And when it hopefully gets approved, there is also the drafting of the implementing rules and regulations for more specific details. Rest assured, we will invite the sector to the committee hearings, so you may impart additional information and recommendations. As early as now, you may also send position papers to help hasten the passage of the bill.
But even while we are waiting for the legislative process, our group has already initiated a program that will bring solar energy to far-flung areas where it is most needed. In light of the lack of electricity access in rural areas, our party-list launched Bayang Maliwanag: A Village Electrification Program. It aims to provide sustainable electrification for communities, promote partnerships between local government units and local organization and harness local capacity to sustain continual use of solar energy.
Bayang Maliwanag was formally launched last march with the connection and fitting of eleven solar energized street posts in Sitio Harangan in Brgy. San Isidro, Rodriguez, Rizal. The sitio, home to 750 families, has had a long-standing request for MERALCO to provide electricity. However, this request has not been acted upon.
In the same period, another project was launched in a resettlement area in Brgy. Dayap, Calauan, Laguna. Another set of street posts were erected with lamps and batteries.
This is just the start. I am hoping that our efforts will bear fruit in the following months. I will always be an advocate of renewable energy. More importantly, I am an advocate of its democratized access. I see brighter days ahead, where renewable energy is a norm and not just an alternative and where each and every Filipino has access to it. Let us help each other in making this dream a reality.#