By Mae Singuay
The House Committee on Legislative Franchises unanimously approved the franchise for the Negros Electric and Power Corporation (NEPC) on Wednesday, December 13.
Abang Lingkod party-list representative Stephen Paduano, one of the proponents of House Bill (HB) 9310, confirmed the franchise approval to the members of the media in Bacolod City yesterday.
HB 9310, which outlines the transfer of the franchise from the beleaguered Central Negros Electric Cooperative (Ceneco) to NEPC, was sponsored by Negros Occidental representatives Juliet Marie Ferrer (4th District), Francisco Benitez (3rd District) and Greg Gasataya (Bacolod Lone District).
Paduano said there was no debate on the bill despite a minor amendment to the Certificate of Public Convenience and Necessity prior to the final approval.
He added that the approval was only at the committee level.
Paduano said the amendment will be included in the rules meeting on January 23, 2024, following the Congress’ adjournment last Wednesday.
HB 9310 will be discussed at the plenary for the second reading on January 24.
“Because of the three-day rule in the Congress, except certified urgent by the President, the third and final reading will be held on the following week, once it is approved on January 23,” Paduano said.
He stressed that the bill will have its counterpart in the Senate.
The party-list representative also hopes that by April of next year, it will be finally approved and submitted to President Ferdinand “Bongbong” Marcos, Jr. to be signed into law.
The bill’s approval signifies a critical juncture in reshaping the energy landscape in central Negros, with NEPC poised to play a transformative role in electric distribution services.
Ceneco’s franchise areas cover Negros Occidental cities of Bago, Silay and Talisay, as well as the municipalities of Murcia and Don Salvador Benedicto, and capital Bacolod.
In June, Ceneco and NEPC signed a joint venture agreement (JVA) to improve power distribution services in the cooperative’s franchise areas.
Earlier, the National Electrification Administration (NEA) conditionally granted its consent to the JVA, but subject to the fulfillment conditions.
NEA advised Ceneco that the JVA was in essence a sale of assets of the cooperative, and it should comply with Section 36 (b) of the National Electrification Administration Decree./MS, WDJ