The Philippines House of Representatives has ratified the bicameral committee report on the controversial power reform bill despite several strong protests by some sectors of society according to a news report from Asia Pulse.

After the final ratification on Friday, House speaker Feliciano Belmonte and Negros Occidental representative Julio Ledesma, chairman of the House Energy Committee, thanked their colleagues for favourably acting on the so called landmark bill that would soon change dramatically bring down electricity rates in the country.

Ledesma told reporters that the passage of such important measure would surely improve the country’s energy sector and replace the already ageing several power plants of the National Power Corporation nationwide. “This bill is very fair. Anyone who opposes it will be an obstructionist because it will strengthen the nation’s economy,” Ledesma said. He added that the passage of such measure will give a positive signal to the foreign investors that the Macapagal-Arroyo administration is indeed serious on its policy of privatization and that foreign investors are welcome to come in and invest in the country.

He said that there were only minimal changes made in the bill. What was new in the bicam report’s new version was the addition of a provision that would grant the poor or marginalized sector “a special subsidized rate” for an unlimited time, he said.

“The bill is just going to say that a socialized pricing mechanism called a “lifeline rate” for the marginalized end-users shall be subsidized by the Energy Regulatory Commission,” the Negros Occidental representative, who won in his re-election bid, said.

The bill defines “life line rate” as the subsidized rate given to low income captive market end-users who cannot afford to pay the full cost. The ERC which replaces the energy regulatory board in the new law will be the one to set the lifeline rate.

It will also determine who will constitute the so-called marginalized end-users. Earlier, the House of Representatives approved on third and final reading with minimal amendments the proposed 10.9 billion pesos supplemental budgets for salary increases of the country’s 1.4 million government workers. President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo has called Congress for a four-day special session (May 28-31) aimed at passing the proposed 10.9 billion pesos supplemental budget and the controversial power reform bill.

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