June 19, 2024

The Insider News

Direct from the source

Public utilities welcome Econ cha-cha push

INVITED resource persons from public utility organizations expressed support for the proposed inclusion of the phrase “unless otherwise provided by law” in relevant economic provisions of the Constitution during the third meeting of the Committee of the Whole House on Wednesday. 

Manila Electric Company (Meralco) Senior Vice President Atty. Jose Ronald Valles said the move to amend Articles XII of the Constitution holds significant potential to attract substantial investments in the country’s power sector and spark greater competition leading to improved service quality and lower prices, and address supply shortages and preparedness for future energy demands.

Article XII, Section 11 of the Constitution governs the ownership of public utilities. 

Michael Ted Macapagal, chairman of the Philippine National Railways (PNR), conveyed the commendation of the PNR to both houses of Congress for pursuing legislative reforms that address the changing needs and demands of the country’s economy. 

“The phrase ‘unless otherwise provided by law’ categorically requires the Congress to pass laws that would specifically govern a particular kind of public utility. Through these future legislative enactments, matters concerning a specific public utility can undergo meaningful discussions and deliberation. In turn, this would eventually result in the adaptation of rules and regulations, policies that are responsive to the dynamics of a particular public utility and in a larger scale, to the changing needs of the economy,” Macapagal said.

Macapagal noted that the Department of Transportation has already awarded several contracts to foreign corporations for its ongoing railway projects, particularly contracts for civil works in relation to the North-South Commuter Railway Project (NSCR).  

“This is consistent with the definition on concession under Section 2C of the Public Service Act as amended. The technical expertise and financial capabilities of foreign corporations in constructing, maintaining, and operating railway transport systems will provide economic advantages to the country. The advance technological knowledge that foreign corporations possess will significantly contribute to the development of modernized railway transportation system in the Philippines,” he said.

He lauded the public-private partnership initiative of the government, stating that the move guarantees that the country is provided with technological advancements in the management, operations and maintenance of railway services. 

Lawyer Elpidio Vega, chairperson of the Metropolitan Waterworks and Sewerage System (MWSS) Board of Trustees, pointed out how the water concessionaires of the MWSS maintain an ownership structure that is below the threshold set by the 1987 Constitution. 

“We ultimately submit to the wisdom of the House and we would like to underscore the flexibility resulting in the inclusion of the phrase ‘unless otherwise provided by law’ which could result in future scenarios wherein the ownership structures of MWSS concessionaires or any other public utility could be fully foreign or provided by the subsequent laws alternatively have Filipino ownership percentage,” Vega said, adding that the percentage “be dependent upon the necessity suitable and favorable to the economy.”

Commissioner Ella Blanca Lopez of the National Telecommunications Commission (NTC) said her office shall continue to support moves to liberalize the telecommunications service industry in the country, particularly the move of the Congress to amend the economic provisions of the Constitution, confident that the move “will make our legal and regulatory framework more adaptive and responsive to the ever-changing needs of time.”