House okays motion to cut ERC budget to P1,000

MANILA -- The House of Representatives on Tuesday approved a motion slashing the budget of the Energy Regulatory Commission (ERC) to a mere PHP1,000 for next year from the initial proposal of PHP365 million.

During the plenary deliberations on the proposed 2018 budget, Zamboanga City Celso Lobregat moved to sponsor only a PHP1,000 budget for ERC next year.

"Mr. Speaker, I am here to sponsor the budget of the ERC, and we are sponsoring a budget of PHP1,000 for the ERC for the year 2018," Lobregat said.

Buhay Rep. Lito Atienza seconded Lobregat's motion, saying that "only for P1,000, the minority is very proud to be part of that motion. We support it."

In an ambush interview, Lobregat disclosed that the PHP1,000-budget proposal was upon the instructions of Speaker Pantaleon Alvarez, who wants to send a strong message that the lower chamber really wants the internal problems hounding the ERC resolved.

Actually nag-meeting kami ni Speaker. And the ERC is riddled with a lot of controversies, a lot of problems. And at this point in time, sabi ni Speaker mas mabuti siguro na bigyan natin ng 1-peso (budget for ERC). Ang problema ng 1 peso, yung budget natin is by the thousand (The ERC is riddled with a lot of controversies, a lot of problems and at this point in time the Speaker said it would better to allot P1 (budget for ERC). However, the budget requires (an allotment of) by the thousand.), Lobregat explained.

I think that would send a very strong message that the House of Representatives really wants the problems in ERC fixed, he added.

For his part, House Appropriations Committee Chair Karlo Nograles said the ERC has until the end of the budget process to resolve the controversies within the agency for Congress to reconsider the PHP1,000 budget.

"There was a general sentiment among members of the House of Representatives that the Energy Regulatory Commission really needs to fix its house so the Speaker and the House leadership saw it fit to give them a PHP1,000 budget," Nograles said.

"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 PHP1,000 budget," he added.

The Palace has suspended ERC Chairman Jose Vicente Salazar anew on August 3, this time for a period of four months, after he was found guilty of insubordination. The disciplinary action came just as Salazar completed serving a prior 90-day preventive suspension from office.

The Palace first temporarily barred Salazar from his post on May 2, to preclude him from influencing the outcome of the multiple administrative cases pending against him.

Source: Philippine News Agency