MANILA, Philippines – President Rodrigo Duterte has signed four bills into law: two dealing with electricity rates and power supply, another about the distribution of service charges, and one creating the Philippine Space Agency.

The first law, signed on Aug. 8, is Republic Act 11371 or the Murang Kuryente Act. The law provides for the allotment of a portion of the national government’s share from the Malampaya Natural Gas Project for the payment of stranded debts and contract costs, both billed under universal charges.

Simply, the law provides for cheaper electricity rates and uninterrupted power supply for Filipinos. It further recognizes the state’s policy and responsibility to protect public interest by ensuring the reliable, secure, and affordable supply of power to consumers.

The law mandates the government to implement policies and programs that will ensure transparent and reasonable prices of electricity by minimizing the universal charge.

With the signing of the law, families that consume 200 kilowatt-hours per month can expect their power bills to be lower by at most Php172.

Furthermore, Duterte also signed RA 11361, which ensures continuous and uninterrupted power transmission and distribution, as well as the protection of the integrity and reliability of power lines.

The Anti-Obstruction of Power Lines Act recognizes that the allocation of electricity is important to national security and essential to sustaining the country’s economic development.

The law also acknowledges the role of property owners which must ensure that the power lines will not be affected by dangerous and hazardous activities.

‘All Service Charges’

The Service Charge Law mandates that all service charges being collected by hotels, restaurants, and similar establishments should be distributed completely and equally among the covered workers except the managers.

This new law amends Article 96 of the Labor Code, which provides that only 85 percent of the collected service charges should be distributed to workers, while 15 percent should be retained by management.

In the event that the minimum wage however, is increased by law, the service charges paid to the covered employees shall no longer be considered—as this determines the employer’s compliance with the wage order.

The law also provides for the establishment of a grievance mechanism to facilitate the resolution of any dispute between the management and employees on the distribution of the service charge.

If no grievance mechanism is established or if such mechanism is found inadequate, the issue should be referred to the labor department’s regional office.

Existing benefits under present laws, company policies and collective bargaining agreements are not diminished by the amended provision.

Sen. Joel Villanueva described the Service Charge Law as a fulfillment of a four-decade struggle to distribute the fee collected from consumers in the hospitality industry.
Villanueva thanked the government for putting an end to the struggle of workers in the service industry.

He said for over 40 years, workers have been pushing for the full distribution among them of the service charge collected in restaurants, hotels and similar establishments.

“The law allows our frontline service workers to enjoy the fruits of their labor, the reward for providing good, quality service,” Villanueva said.

Country’s Own Space Agency

To keep up with the scientific advancements in other countries, especially in astronomical explorations Duterte signed a law which creates the Philippine Space Development and Utilization Policy and creating the Philippine Space Agency (PhilSA).

The law aims to launch a space program—timely for the global celebration of the 50th anniversary of the Apollo 11 moon landing on July 20, 1969.

Under the law, the Philippine Space Policy will focus on six key development areas covering national security and development; hazard management; climate studies; space research and development; space industry capacity building; and space education and awareness.

The PhilSA will be the main agency to handle issues and activities related to space science and technology applications.

The Philippine Space Policy will be the country’s primary strategic roadmap for space development and embody the country’s central goal of becoming a space-capable and space-faring nation within the next decade.

Photo courtesy: BusinessWorld

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