PUBLIC UTILITY

The House of Representatives on Friday approved on 3rd and Final reading House Bill 5828, seeking to redefine public utilities.

House Bill 5828 defined public utlitiy to a person that operates, manages and controls for public use any of the following:  distribution of electricity as defined by sec 4 n. of Republic Act 9136 otherwise known as the EPIRA; transmission of electricity also as defined by RA 9136 and water pipleine distributuon system or sewerage pipeline system as defined by RA 6234.

The proposed law also mandates that no other person, business or service shall be deemed a public utilitiy under sec 13D unless otherwise subsequently provided by law. The NEDA Secretariat in consultation with the Philippine Competition Commission shall recommend to Congress the classification of a person, business or service as a public utilitiy on the basis of the following criteria: The persons performs a public service; the business or service regularly supplies and directly transmits and distributes to the public through a network a commodity or service of public consequence; the business or service is necessary to the public and if a natural monopoly, needs to be regulated when the common good so requires; the business or service is necessary for the maintenance of life and occupation of residents and the business or service is obligated to provide adequate service to the public on demand.

The same bill would mandate that no public service shall operate in the Philippines without possessing a valid and subsisting franchise, certificate or any other appropriate form of authorization for the operation of a public service.

The bill was introduced by Representatives Gloria Macapagal Arroyo, Joey Salceda, Arthur Yap, Feliciano Belmonte and Jose Christopher Belmonte and Manuel Monsour del Rosaruo.

The bill seeks to clarify the definition of public utilities in order to open up certain industries to more competition and to provide a mechanism for rate fixing that allows a reasonable rate of return to attract invetsments into public utilities.

The Makabayan bloc voted against the bill.

ACT teachers party list Rep. Antonio Tinio’s said, “Bumoto po ako ng no sa house bill 5828. Malinaw na layunin nito na ikutan ang pagbabawal sa pagmamayari ng buo ng mga dayuhan sa public utilities. Mula po noong una at lubusang namayagpag ang imperyalistang globalisasyon at ang ideyolohiya nito ng free market sa mga sunod-sunod na administrasyon mula noong dekada 70 ay tinangka na baguhin ang konstitusyon at tanggalin ang mga tinatawag na nationalist economic provisions at ang pagbabawal sa mga dayuhan sa pagmamayari ng mga negosyo, mga piling stratehikong negosyo at lupa dito sa bansa. Ngunit dahil ang maraming mga tangkang ito ay palaging nabibigo, ang house bill na ito ay malinaw na paraan para ikutan ang problemang iyon at piniling target ay ang pagbago ng definition ng public utilities. Kaya ngayon, nilimita na lamang sa distribution ng kurtyente at distribution ng tubig at distribution lamang ng sewerage ang sinasaklaw ng terminong public utilities. Lahat ng iba pa, kasama ng transportasyon, telekomunikasyon at maraming iba pa ay hindi na public utilities. Ibig sabihin noon, bukas na ang lahat ng ito sa isang daang porsyentong pag-aari ng dayuhan. So malinaw na intension nito ay kontrahin ang intesyon ng konstitusyon na pangalagaan ang interes ng publiko sa pamamagitan ng pagtiyak ng mga pribadong kumpanya na maglilingkod o magbibigay ng mahahalagang serbisyo sa mga Pilipino ay mananatili sa pagaari ng mga Pilipino. Malinaw din ang intensyong ito na kapag hindi tinawag na public utility ang maraming mahalagang serbisyo, ay hindi na kailangan ang mahigpit na regulasyon ng gobyerno. So isang hakbang din ito tungo sa higit na deregulation ng maraming tinuturing na public utilities. Kaya po bumoto tayo ng no bilang pagtutol sa malinaw na di konstitusyonal na batas na itinutulak ngayon. Maraming Salamat po. “

Gabriela Party List Rep. emmy de Jesus said, “Malinaw sa representasyong ito na ang nais ng HB 5828 ay ang baguhin ang konstitusyon sa aspeto ng foreign ownership. Dahil mahihirapan sila sa CHACHA sinusulong nila ang agenda sa pamamaraan ng panukalang batas na ito. Ang pagsulong ng panukalang batas na ito ay pagsulong sa pribatisasyon at nangangahulugang kawalan ng regulasyon sa mga industriya. Ang kinatawang ito sa simula pa lang ay tutol na sa pagpapalawak at pagpapalaki ng foreign ownership sa bansa dahil naniniwala kami na magpapalawak lamang ito at magbubukas sa mas marami pa na pang-aabuso. Kasaysayan ang paulit ulit na nagsasabi sa atin na ang trabahong nabibigay ng pagbukas sa foreign ownership na ito ay mapang abuso at nilalagay lamang sa kapahamakan ang ating mga manggagawa. Ihalimbawa natin ang nabiktima ng sunog sa HTI na dahil sa kawalan ng kontrol at saklaw ng gobyerno ay di pa din nabibigyan ng hustisya. Dala dala ng foreign investment ang trabahong may abusive environment, mababang swledo, walang katiyakan sa pananatili, at walang siguridad sa kaligtasan. Kasabay din nito ang walang habas na paglustay sa likas yaman. Sinasabi na ang pagbukas ng mga industriya sa foreign investment ay magbibigay ng kaginhawaan sa bansa sa pamamagitan ng mga produkto at trabaho. Ito ay malaki at masamang biro para sa ating mga manggagawa at sa bawat pamilya. Ang proteksyonismo sa saligang batas ay nagbibigay na ng pahiwatig sa sagot na kung ano makakapagsalba sa ekonomiya ng bansa. Ang proteksyonismo ng 1987 Constitution ay dapat na magbigay daan sa National Industrialization na sagot sa problema sa matino at nakakabuhay na trabaho at matatag na ekonomiya.”

Gabriela Party List rep. Arlene Brosas said, “Ang panukalang batas na ito ay nagkukubli sa idea ng open market competition na nagsasabing sa pagdami ng players sa market ay magmumura ang presyo para sa konsumo ng mga kababayan natin. Ito ang pinaniniwalaan ng mga ekonomista na mariin namang tinutuligsa ng mga kababayan natin dahil sa aktwal, pribatisasyon at pagtaas ng presyo ang laging hatid ng polisiyang na ito. Maliban sa pagtaas ng presyo ng bilihin, ang HB 5828 ay papatay sa proteksyong binibigay ng Saligang Batas sa maraming industriya sa bansa. Ang pagbubukas nito ng Public Utilities sa pag abuso ng mga banyaga ay lubos na tinututulan ng representasyong ito.

1987 man o ngayon 2017, ang proteksyon na ibinibigay ng konstitusyon ay di dapat baliwalain dahil patuloy ang paggawa ng iilan ng paraan para mabuksan ang bansa sa patuloy na panggagahasa ng mga foreign entities, to whose expense?  Babalik at babalik po tayo sa pinaghugutan ng protectionism clause ng 1987 constitution. Matapos gahasain ng Espanyol, Hapon, at mapagsahanggang ngayon ang mga Kano, ang ating likas na yaman at lakas paggawa, ang protectionism clause ng 1987 constitution ang pinakabasic na proteksyon na maibibigay ng mga nauna sa atin sa bulwagang ito. Papayag po ba tayo ulit na pasukin ang bahay natin ng isang estranghero, kakainin ang pagkain natin, makikitulog sa kama natin, aagawin ang bahay natin. Itong mga estrangherong ito na napatunayan na natin dati pa na wala na ginawa kung hind ay abusuhin ang bahay natin at tayo mismong nakatira dito? Kaya Mr. Speaker, malinaw ang pagtutol ng Gabriela Women’s Party (GWP) sa panukalang amyendahan ang Public Services Act at ibuyangyang ang pampublikong yutilidad sa pribadong sektor at dayuhang pamumuhan. Banggang bangga ito sa diwa ng 1987 Constitusyon at sa interes ng kababaihan at mamamayan. “

Bayan Muna Rep. Carlos Zarate said, “ Removal from the enumerated definition of Public Utilities of vital industries such as telecommunications, water, transportation would further remove the government’s control over these industries to the detriment of the consumers. In the present scheme, even if these vital industries are considered as public utilities, still the government fails to protect and give redress to the consumers during rate/fare hikes, poor and lousy service. Thus total abandonment of the government’s duty towards the consumers will ensue upon the removal of these industries in the definition of public utilities.  I maintain that these removed industries should be included in the definition of public utilities, and remain as public utilities, since these industries fall under the very description of a public utilities as written in the proposed bill itself — that these are forms of public service; that these supply a commodity or service of public consequence; that these are necessary to the public; that they need to be regulated; that these are necessary for the maintenance of life and occupation of residents.  It should be our public policy to strengthen our control to these vital industries considering that they are in fact already monopolies in their respective industries. According to the 1987 Constitution, it is our duty to regulate these monopolies when public interest so requires. Verily, the public interest requires our continued, and strengthened, regulation over these entities. They reap billions of pesos, but give so little to the public. Their services continue to be poor despite increases in rates/fares. This is totally unfair to the government, as well as the consuming public. The situation does not help in nation-building, but rather stunts and slows it down. Rather than give up, we should instead develop our capacity to regulate these entities. “

Albay rep. Edcel Lagman said, “ Without waiting for an amendment to the economic provisions of the Constitution either by a Constituent Assembly or Constitutional Convention, the House of Representatives has approved on third reading House Bill No. 5828 which ostensibly provides for a statutory definition of a public utility but which is actually a subterfuge to allow foreigners to own public utility enterprises without complying with the citizenship requirement imposed by the Constitution. The Constitution requires that public utilities must be owned by Filipino citizens or by corporations, partnerships or associations where not less than 60% of the capital stock is owned by Filipino citizens.No less than Hon. Arthur Yap, the Chairman of the sponsoring committee, the House Committee on Economic Affairs, has admitted repeatedly during the deliberations that once House Bill No. 5828 is enacted into law foreigners will be allowed to own public utilities.In fact, House Bill No. 5828 has deleted the requisite Filipino ownership requirement of public utilities under the Public Service Act, which is identical with Section 11 of Article XII of the Constitution.Moreover, in its definition of a public utility, House Bill No. 5828 has deliberately deleted the concept of ownership and limited the definition to the operation, management and control of public utilities even as there can be no operation, management or control without a qualified owner.The bill also deletes from the enumeration of public utilities traditional public utilities like common carriers and telecommunications companies which are presently operating with controlling Filipino ownership.The amendments of this Representation to assure compliance with the citizenship requirement of the Constitution, cleanse the bill of unconstitutional infirmities, and include traditional public utilities in the enumeration of public utilities, were all voted down.