We oppose the passage of HB 8179 granting a nationwide franchise to Solar Para sa Bayan.

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We oppose the passage of House Bill 8179 that will grant a nationwide franchise to a SINGLE private company, Solar Para sa Bayan (SPSB), owned by Solar Philippines.

THE BILL effectively grants SPSB a monopoly over all aspects of solar-powered mini-grid development in the entire country, killing all competition in the renewable energy sector.

Note the most ALARMING FEATURES of the bill:

1.  NO ELECTRIFICATION OBLIGATIONS. In contrast to SPSB’s assertions and the bill’s explanatory note that stress the electrification needs of those with little to no access to the grid, NOWHERE does the bill mention unserved or underserved communities, nor is there any measurable requirement for SPSB to actually and concretely provide electricity to any specific areas.

2. UNDUE FAVOR TO ONE PRIVATE COMPANY. Rather, the bill grants one private company – SPSB – blanket authority to establish solar mini-grids throughout the entire country, with virtually NO government oversight or consumer protections.

The only obligation of SPSB under this bill would be to simply submit an annual report on operations, with a measly P500/day fine for failure to submit.

3. EFFECTIVELY KILLS COMPETITION. With millions of Filipinos still without access to electricity, the need is so great that we should BROADEN the opportunities for all renewable energy developers in order to lower power rates and improve services, NOT add layers of regulation and bureaucracy through the requirement of a ‘franchise’ that has never even been imposed before, that is neither legally nor practically necessary, and that effectively kills competition.

Even if this proposed franchise is purportedly “non-exclusive,” it means in reality that solar energy developers establishing mini-grids anywhere in the country would be stopped and required to apply to Congress first for a franchise that has no legal basis and necessity and which, under normal and open circumstances, would entail a long and complex process.

4. NO TRANSPARENCY AND DUE PROCESS.  Contrary to normal practice, required democratic processes, and basic principles of decency and fair play, this particular bill was swiftly approved by the House Committee on Franchises after just one hearing, a hearing that included only SPSB and government agencies but NO other entities from civil society or the private sector.

If this is truly solar ‘para sa bayan,’ why the haste?

Why the lack of transparency?

Why the special treatment for one private company?

We are calling for open access, fair competition, and genuine democratization of the energy sector.

We are urging Congress to return HB 8179 to the committee for genuine public consultations so that we can focus on reforms that support and enable all renewable energy developers in the private sector and civil society to electrify underserved and unserved communities throughout the country.