House budget debates: ERC only gets P1,000 for 2018

MANILA, Philippines – One thousand pesos.

That’s all the Energy Regulatory Commission (ERC) will be getting next year, at least based on the budget approved by the House of Representatives during plenary deliberations on the proposed 2018 national budget on Tuesday, September 5.

Zamboanga City 1st District Representative Celso Lobregat, who sponsored the ERC budget, made the motion during the House’s 2nd day of discussion on the budget before plenary session.

“I am here to sponsor the budget of the ERC and we are sponsoring a budget of P1,000 for the ERC for the year 2018,” said Lobregat on the floor.

A bemused Buhay Representative Lito Atienza, representing the minority, asked: “Is the gentleman moving for the scrapping of the whole budget of the Energy Regulatory Commission?”

“No, Mr. Speaker. I’m moving for a 1,000 peso budget,” answered Lobregat.

“The minority is very proud to be part of the motion,” said Atienza.

The ERC budget was approved in less than 2 minutes.

Speaking to media on the sidelines of the budget deliberations, Lobregat said House Speaker Pantaleon Alvarez gave the orders to significantly reduce the ERC budget.

The commission was set to recieve over P350 million for 2018, at the time the budget reached the plenary for deliberations.  

That doesn’t mean, of course, that the ERC will only be getting P1,000 come 2018. Once the House approves the proposed 2018 national budget, it will be transmitted to the Senate. The two versions of the bill will then be reconciled through a bicameral conference committee.

"There was a general sentiment among members of the House of Representatives that the Energy Regulatory Commission (ERC) really needs to fix its house so the Speaker and the House leadership saw it fit to give them a P1,000 budget," explained appropriations committee chair and Davao City 1st District Representative Karlo Nograles in a statement after session was adjourned.

He added: "They have up to the end of the budget process to resolve the issues and controversies hounding the ERC so that Congress might reconsider restoring the budget. But until then they will have a P1,000 budget." 

The ERC – or at least its officials – has been in hot water recently over allegations of corruption and abuse of their posts.

Malacañang recently asked 4 of its commissioners to explain their “extravagant trips” at the expense of private entities they regulate. Early August 2017, the Palace suspended ERC Chairman Jose Vicente Salazar for “insubordination.”

in 2016, Duterte threatened to abolish the ERC over the stubbornness of its officials. – Rappler.com