The House Committee on Appropriations has recognized the need for more funding to fully implement the government’s rural electrification program that has energized 12.447 million Filipino households across the country to date.
This, after Davao City 1st District Rep. Karlo “Ang Probinsyano” Nograles, Committee on Appropriations chair noticed that the proposed budget for the Sitio Electrification Program (SEP) of the National Electrification Administration (NEA) has been slashed during the budget hearing on August 7.
NEA Administrator Edgardo Masongsong presented before the members of the House Committee on Appropriations the agency’s proposed budget for fiscal year 2019 based on the National Expenditure Program of the Department of Budget and Management (DBM).
Masongsong said the state-run agency has been given only P1.163 billion to bankroll the SEP, which is a decrease of P654 million from the 2018 budget.
“I am not in agreement with budget cuts that are happening in each and every department. It burdens me to see something like the NEA and DOE (Department of Energy) getting this very huge cut, especially for us coming from the provinces.”
According to Masongsong, an allocation of P1.163 billion for program will only cover 775 sitios as compared to the 1,817 sitios that are currently covered. Electrifying a sitio costs an average of P1.4 million, he added.
NEA received a budget allocation of P1.817 billion for 2018 to finance its electrification projects nationwide.
During the budget hearing, Nograles expressed concern over NEA’s slashed electrification program budget. He stressed that electricity is an enabler of social and economic development, particularly in the countryside.
With this in mind, the congressman from Davao assured NEA of the Committee’s possible assistance for the rural electrification program.
“I am not in agreement with budget cuts that are happening in each and every department. It burdens me to see something like the NEA and DOE (Department of Energy) getting this very huge cut, especially for us coming from the provinces na alam natin na importante para sa atin na palaguin ang ekonomiya ng bawat lalawigan, ng bawat probinsya, ng bawat nayon. At malaking bahagi po dyan ang kuryente, ang electricity, ang power because with power comes progress,” Nograles said.
With electricity reaching 100 percent of provinces, cities and municipalities, the focus now is on providing electricity access to sitios and households across the country.
NEA data show that 19,740 sitios remain without electricity. Of these, 8,535 sitios are located in Mindanao while 6,541 are in Luzon and 4,664 are in the Visayas. As of June 30, 2018, NEA and its partner electric cooperatives (ECs) have energized 1,801 sitios, bringing the number of sitios without electricity down to 17,939.
“Malaking bahagi po dyan ang kuryente, ang electricity, ang power because with power comes progress.”
Meanwhile, Zamboanga City 1st District Rep. Celso Lobregat, Appropriations Committee co-chair, directed the NEA chief to submit within this week “what would be a realistic and doable target for 2019.”
“The remaining balance of unenergized sitios is 17,939 and if you want to energize the sitios before the end of the term of our President, the measly 775 target for 2019 is a drop in the bucket,” Lobregat said. “The chairman and the Committee will try to do what it can to help the energization of the unenergized sitios,” he added.
Following the budget hearing, Masongsong thanked the House Appropriations Committee for its support to rural electrification.
“In view of the support of the members of the House Appropriations Committee to rural electrification, the NEA expresses its gratitude and commits to immediately comply with the required submissions,” Masongsong said in a statement following the budget hearing.
Based on the 2019 National Expenditure Program, Masongsong said NEA is given a P19.51 billion corporate operating budget. Of the amount, P3.7 billion will be financed by the NEA’s internally generated funds. He said P1.53 billion represents subsidy from the national government (NG) with P14.92 billion being non-cash subsidy.
The proposed budget will allow the agency to meet its targets for 2019, which include energization of 775 sitios, the conduct of feasibility study for the construction of hybrid generation facility in six sitios, installation of 5,000 solar home systems under renewable energy projects, connection of additional 460,000 consumers, reduction of system loss to 12 percent, collection efficiency of 100 percent, the release of P1.55 billion loans to ECs, and the realization of a net margin from the agency’s financial operation.
Aside from NEA, other attached agencies of the Department of Energy (DOE) also presented their respective proposed budget allocations for fiscal year 2019 before the members of the Committee on Appropriations on August 7 at the House of Representatives.