So I sit here, barely two hours before my birthday, typing away at my laptop, which was exactly the way I feared I would spend my birthday. A couple of weeks ago I was toying with the idea of celebrating it by stuffing my backpack and going off somewhere by myself, but obviously, nothing came out of that idea. I wanted to do something major, see, to distract myself, because my birthdays have always been either appallingly uneventful or else heralded by bouts of merciless self-assessment, self-esteem plunge, panic attack, and severe depression, in that order.
This time, though, the past weeks have been so crazy that I didn’t really have time to sit down and have that merciless self-assessment and the whole ball of wax that goes with it. Instead, I have been busy juggling several commitments and tasks, and, well, ahem, helping to pass a landmark legislation on environmental sustainability and energy security.
The House passed its version of the Renewable Energy Bill last June, the Senate passed its version early last week, and, sooner than expected, both chambers immediately convened the bicameral conference session needed to reconcile the two versions of the bill and prepare it for final approval. Yesterday, the bicam panel finished its job in a three-hour meeting and today, the eve of my birthday, the House of Representatives and the Senate gave me the best birthday gift and finally approved the Renewable Energy Bill. It just needs to be zipped over to Malacañang, wait for the President’s signature or just dilly-dally at her desk for thirty days, whichever comes first, and then, finally, the country will have its Renewable Energy Law, or, officially, “An Act Promoting the Development, Utilization and Commercialization of Renewable Energy Resources and for Other Purposes.”
Tidbit: the earliest form of the RE Bill, then called the Non-Conventional Energy Bill, was filed way back 1989. It later on got called the New and Renewable Energy Bill, before subsequently settling into plain Renewable Energy Bill.
Today’s approval at the House and Senate were just formalities, though. The real high point was the day before at the Hotel Sofitel, when the bicameral meeting adjourned and we knew that all the hard work had finally paid off. Towards the last half of the meeting, as the legislators quickly went through the last of the provisions that did not need lengthy discussions, we in the Renewable Energy Coalition were looking at each other in excitement going, wow, they’re really going to end this today! It could have gone worse, see; some bicams need several meetings or go on until the wee hours. Evidently, in this case, there really was no need for much debate, the legislators just agreed that yes, we need to encourage renewable energy development, and hammered out a pretty generous package of incentives and market mechanisms.
After the actual bicam meeting, we joined the House and Senate staff and trooped back to the Senate to finalize the text of the bill according to the decisions made in the bicam, draft the necessary explanatory notes, and finally format the whole thing according to legislative conventions. It was serious, tedious, and funny at the same time. We went through the whole thing provision by provision, one team focusing on the bill text and another on the explanatory notes and then joining forces later, with Sen. Angara’s legislative staff freaking out and trying to hurry things up because the senator (the principal author at the Senate) wanted to see it right away. The next day was the last day of session before a month-long Congress recess so the bill had to be finished and signed by all the bicam panelists if it was going to make it to the session for final approval.
Twenty years in the making and it boiled down to that: a group of harassed but merry people huddled over a laptop, comparing each other’s notes, arguing over who heard the bicam discussion right, and correcting punctuations and stuff, as we approached the last stretch of the journey of the Renewable Energy Bill.
Indeed, who would have time to be depressed?
behind the scenes: pictures here