Gatchalian, Velasco keep energy posts as 18th Congress opens, push more clean energy initiatives

  • Senator Sherwin T. Gatchalian (left) and Rep. Lord Allan Jay Q. Velasco sign a 17th Congress bicameral resolution for the EE&C Act in January 2019.  (Photo: PE2).
    Senator Sherwin T. Gatchalian (left) and Rep. Lord Allan Jay Q. Velasco sign a 17th Congress bicameral resolution for the EE&C Act in January 2019. (Photo: PE2).

PASAY CITY and QUEZON CITY, 1 August 2019 – The two energy committee chairmen from both chambers of the 17th Congress, who jointly sponsored the Energy Efficiency and Conservation (EE&C) Act then, were re-appointed to lead the Committee on Energy as the 18th Congress opens its First Regular Session. Senator Sherwin T. Gatchalian was appointed Chairman of the Senate Committee on Energy, while Representative Lord Allan Jay Q. Velasco continues to chair the House of Representatives Committee on Energy, positions they have ably held during the 17th Congress.

In a post-SONA statement issued on 23 July 2019, Velasco proudly exclaimed, “As an advocate of renewable energy and energy efficiency, I am one with the President in urging the Department of Energy to fast track projects involving renewable energy sources.”

From the Senate, Gatchalian has committed to champion the creation of a regulatory framework for waste-to-energy (WTE) technologies in the 18th Congress, in line with the Duterte administration's thrust to advance renewable energy in the country. As chair of the Senate Committee on Energy, he has shown particular interest with the economics of WTE, believing that this would redound to the benefit of the nation through a more secure energy system, and the environment through a more sustainable power generation sector and waste management system.

A Senate press release on 31 July 2019 reported that Gatchalian lamented that the WTE facilities are almost negligible in the energy mix with only 13.83 megawatts (MW) of installed capacity and a mere 26.48MW of committed or indicative capacity since the enactment of the RE Act more than a decade ago. To address these problems, Gatchalian has vowed to prioritize during the 18th Congress the passage of Senate Bill No. 363 or Waste-to-Energy Act (WTE Act), which he filed, to support the growth of WTE in the country. The bill, in a nutshell, seeks to provide a framework for the entire value chain of WTE facilities, and, in turn, ensure the uninterrupted supply of waste as feedstock.

On 1 August 2019, Gatchalian called for the scrutiny of the level of the Philippines' greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions and an update on the Nationally Determined Contribution (NDC), the plan to ensure that the country meets its intended commitment to reduce at least 70 percent of greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions by 2030 conditioned on external support pursuant to the Paris Agreement. The senator recently filed a resolution directing the appropriate Senate committee to conduct an inquiry, in aid of legislation, on the status of the country's GHG emissions and NDC. Gatchalian's call for a probe into the country's GHG emissions came a week after President Rodrigo Duterte ordered the Department of Energy to transition into cleaner energy alternatives, including solar and wind, and reduce the country's dependence on coal.

A week before the 18th Congress opened, Gatchalian announced that the Joint Congressional Power Commission (JCPC), which serves as the country's primary watchdog in the power sector, has been renamed to reflect the expansion of its oversight powers to the entire energy sector with the recent passage of Republic Act (RA) No. 11285 or the Energy Efficiency and Conservation Act. He said the JCPC, which was created under Section 62 of the Electric Power Industry Reform Act (EPIRA), will start to be called the Joint Congressional Energy Commission (JCEC) once the 18th Congress opens.

He explained that the scope of the JCPC's oversight function was expanded and its name was changed to the JCEC considering that energy efficiency does not only concern the power sector but the entire energy demand of the country.

"The energy sector is a vibrant industry that keeps on growing and evolving and, as the primary watchdog in the energy sector, we also need to adapt to these changes, especially when it comes to our oversight functions," Gatchalian said.

According to the lawmaker, the name change was formalized after President Rodrigo Duterte signed into law the Energy Efficiency and Conservation Act last April.

Currently, the JCEC's jurisdiction has been expanded to oversight in the implementation of the Energy Efficiency and Conservation Act; Electric Cooperatives Emergency and Resiliency Fund (ECERF) Act; and the Energy Virtual One-Stop Shop (EVOSS) Act. In comparison, the main thrust of the oversight function of the JCPC was on power-related issues, as mandated by the EPIRA and Renewable Energy Act.

Gatchalian also noted that JCEC has been given oversight powers in the bills that he has recently filed, including the Microgrid Systems Act, Energy Advocate Act, Electric Vehicles and Charging Stations Act, and the Philippine Energy Research and Policy Institute Act.

Moreover, the senator said plans to further expand the JCEC's oversight power to oil- and gas-related bills, including the (Liquefied Natural Gas) LNG bill.

Velasco also released statements on the EE&C Act a few weeks before the SONA. He said, “This would ensure the judicious use of the country’s energy resources and promote the development of the utilization of both new and alternative sources of energy efficient technologies and systems.”

“After three decades of pendency with Congress, we are finally seeing the legislation coming to light. We thank President Duterte for signing this milestone law and making it a reality,” he said.

“The signing of the law also comes at a very crucial time as the country is facing constant threats of unreliable and insufficient power supply that is hurting the people and businesses,” Velasco said.

(Sources: Senate press releases, Office of Rep. Lord Allan Jay Q. Velasco, Manila Times)

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