(File photo)

MANILA – To further cushion the adverse impact of high commodity prices, Senator Sherwin Gatchalian is proposing that the government provide an additional subsidy of PHP1 per kilowatt hour (kWh) for low-income consumers, or a total of PHP418 million, to be sourced from the general appropriations fund.

With the effectivity of the Lifeline Rate Extension Act, authored mainly by Gatchalian, a lifeliner in Metro Manila was able to save an average of PHP194.36 in February last year and as high as PHP223.34 in February this year, an increase of 14.91 percent due to high inflation rates.

Gatchalian said savings incurred by beneficiaries last month would have afforded them to buy 5.6 kilograms of rice based on the average retail price of regular-milled rice of PHP39.195 per kilogram, as per data from the Philippine Statistics Authority.

However, with the additional PHP1/kWh from the government, lifeline consumers can save an average of PHP296.67 per month that can buy a family 7.5 kilos of rice.

“Tayo’y natutuwa na maraming mga kababayan natin ang natutulungan ng isinulong nating batas na electricity lifeline rate. Pero mas matutulungan pa natin sila kung dadagdagan natin ang matatabi nilang pera para sa iba pa nilang bayarin habang patuloy na mataas ang inflation rate sa bansa (We are happy that many have benefited from our electricity lifeline rate law, but we can further help them if they can instead use their money for other expenses while the inflation rate is high),” Gatchalian said in a news release on Sunday.

The lifeline rate subsidy has provided relief for 4.181 million households identified as beneficiaries of the Pantawid Pamilyang Pilipino Program (4Ps) across the country.

To avail of the subsidy, 4Ps beneficiaries need to consume not more than 100 kilowatt hours of electricity per month.

Of the total number of beneficiaries, 209,210 households are in the National Capital Region.

The subsidy is provided under Republic Act 11552, or an Act Extending and Enhancing the Implementation of the Lifeline Rate, amending for the purpose Section 73 of RA 9136 (Electric Power Industry Reform Act).

Meanwhile, the country’s inflation rate in February eased a bit to 8.6 percent from 8.7 percent in January but is still the highest in Southeast Asia.

Energy remained one of the top contributors to inflation, accounting for 1.0 percentage point.

A year ago, the country’s inflation was just at 3 percent. (PNA)