Renewable energy provider SN Aboitiz Power-Benguet (SNAP-Benguet) remitted PhP4.7 million of Electrification Fund (EF) to its Benguet host communities as a response to COVID-19. The funds benefitted barangays Ambuklao, Tikey, and Tinongdan; the municipalities of Bokod and Itogon; and the provincial government of Benguet.
The EF is part of the ER 1-94 program under the Department of Energy (DOE) providing host communities with a one-centavo share for every kilowatt-hour (PhP0.01/kWh) of the total electricity sales of a generating company. Other than EF, the Development and Livelihood fund (DLF) and the Reforestation, Watershed Management, Health and Environment Enhancement Fund (RWMHEEF) make up the total ER 1-94 fund.
In 2018, DOE amended ER 1-94 so that power generation companies can directly download the fund to their host communities. It also expanded the categories of beneficiaries to include host regions and indigenous peoples groups, as well as designated distribution utilities in charge of the EF component for host beneficiaries. Last year, SNAP-Benguet signed memorandums of agreement with its host communities to implement the amended ER 1-94.
With the public health emergency caused by COVID-19, DOE issued Department Circular (DC) No. 2020-04-00080 on April 6, 2020 to allow the use of ER1-94 for COVID-19 response projects and the downloading of the EF to host communities as back-up for DLF and RWMHEEF. Projects include the facilitation of mass testing by providing and constructing facilities, procurement of medical testing kits, emergency subsidy (non-food) or augmentation to existing subsidy programs, access to essential goods such as food and medicine through mobile markets or feeding programs, and protective personal equipment (PPEs) for frontliners.
SNAP-Benguet remitted around PhP5.9 million worth of DLF and RWMHEEF in late 2019 and earlier this year. These accumulated from December 26, 2017 to December 25, 2019 while amendments to the ER 1-94 guidelines were being developed. The Cordillera Administrative Region is also awaiting endorsement from the DOE for the remittance of close to PhP1 million from the operation of SNAP’s Ambuklao and Binga hydros in Benguet and Magat hydro in Ifugao. In April, SNAP-Benguet also provided food and PPE aid to its Benguet host communities worth around PhP3.4 million from the company’s voluntary Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) fund.
Through a letter to the DOE on the ER 1-94, Benguet governor Melchor Diclas thanked the DOE and SNAP-Benguet “for being of great help especially to those beneficiaries, the folks in the rural areas.” In a separate statement, he also thanked SNAP-Benguet for helping them secure PPEs, which they found difficult to procure due to the demand.
“We thank the DOE for exploring ways to support the nation’s fight against COVID-19. The newly signed DC backs our commitment to help our host communities in their battle against COVID-19,” SNAP President and CEO Joseph S. Yu said.
“SNAP Group is committed to powering positive change in our host communities. Social responsibility has always been at the core of our operations, and COVID-19 has in no way dented that commitment— it only strengthened it,” he added.
SNAP-Benguet is a joint venture between SN Power of Norway and AboitizPower. It operates the 105-MW Ambuklao hydro and the 140-MW Binga hydro both in Benguet Province.