Principally authored by Rep. Eric Olivarez (1st District, Parañaque City), HB 9082 or the “Financial Relief in Times of Calamities Act”, intends to grant persons a grace period of 60 days from cessation of the disaster in areas declared under the state of calamity, to pay the utility bills which have fallen due during the time the area has been declared under state of calamity.
It grants individuals a six month-moratorium on the principal payments, accrual and collection of interests, obligations of any kind from public or private financial institutions in areas declared under state of calamity.
Under the bill, grace period refers to the period during which payment is allowed to be received for a certain period of time after actual due date. During this period, no late fees are charged and the late payment shall not result in default or cancellation of the loan.
Any violation of the Act shall subject the erring utility service provider, distribution utility, financial institution or private lender to a fine equivalent to five times the interests, penalties and surcharges collected in violation of the provisions of the Act, for the first offense; 10 times the amount in interests, penalties and surcharges collected for the second offense; and suspension of the license to operate for the third and subsequent offense.
Upon conviction by the appropriate court, the fines under the Act shall automatically apply to the principal loan balance of the borrower.
The bill mandates the Department of Energy (DOE), Energy Regulatory Commission (ERC),
National Telecommunications Commission (NTC), National Risk Reduction Management Council (NCRDC) and Department of Interior and Local Government (DILG), in coordination with the leagues of local government units (LGUs), to issue the implementing rules and regulations of the Act.
Olivarez said during a state of calamity, every Filipino family becomes vulnerable to countless problems brought about by a strong typhoon and other natural disasters. Each person needs to start from scratch to get back a little of what they used to have, he said.
Olivarez said it is understandable for those affected people to prioritize obligations and responsibilities one by one.
“The need to eat and find shelter after a typhoon or an earthquake which wiped out everything a person or a family has, is of course always the main concern. Then the other responsibilities follow after that,” said Olivarez.
He stressed that it is the obligation of the State to help everyone affected by such calamities and lessen their burden as much as possible.