Business groups ask Duterte to review franchise of solar power firm owned by Legarda’s son

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Metro Manila (CNN Philippines, June 26) — The country’s major business groups are asking President Rodrigo Duterte to review the legislative franchise of Solar Para sa Bayan Corp. (SPSBC), saying that it grants the solar power generation firm of outgoing Senator Loren Legarda’s son “undue competitive edge.”

In a statement on Wednesday, five business groups said the franchise of SPSBC, owned by Legarda’s son Leandro Leviste, will “put at a disadvantage other renewable energy companies” in the country.

“The grant of the franchise may defeat [Duterte’s] objective of levelling the playing field in the renewable energy sector, and could prejudice power consumers,” they said.

The groups also said that SPSBC’s franchise may have been “approved without sufficient deliberation to thresh out fundamental constitutional, legal and economic issues.”

They said Duterte should let the Cabinet’s economic cluster review SPSBC’s franchise before he acts on it.

The statement was issued by the American Chamber of Commerce of the Philippines, the Financial Executives Institute of the Philippines, the Makati Business Club, the Management Association of the Philippines, the Semiconductor and Electronics Industries in the Philippines, Inc., and the Women’s Business Council Philippines.

Manila Electric Co. had also opposed the grant of a franchise to SPSBC.

The bill granting SPSBC a 25-year franchise cleared the Senate last month, while it hurdled the House in December 2018.

Under the law, Congress has the power to grant franchises to companies providing public services such as utilities and media.

Solar Para Sa Bayan promotes itself as a social enterprise looking to provide cheap electricity to Filipino households, particularly in areas which remain without access to power, through renewable energy sources.

Unlike existing utility firms with separate power generation and distribution companies, the Leviste-led electricity provider will take on the construction, installation, establishment of connections, as well as the operation and maintenance of "distributable" energy resources via a microgrid system. This is also different from the current practice that puts power firms on the wholesale electricity spot market, where the rates are set through daily trading.

CNN Philippines Correspondent Rex Remitio contributed to this report.