MANILA, Philippines – Don’t call it emergency power, lawmakers have been telling the media, because they are not inclined to give President Benigno Aquino III full powers provided under the Electric Power Industry Reform Act (EPIRA). They will only give him limited and well-defined powers to address the looming power supply problem.
Section 71 of EPIRA reads: “Upon the determination by the President of the Philippines of an imminent shortage of the supply of electricity, Congress may authorize, through a joint resolution, the establishment of additional generating capacity under such terms and conditions as it may approve.”
The lawmakers are also not giving in to the appeal of Energy Secretary Jericho Petilla to pass the resolution before the end of September. They will need time to study the options, they said. (READ: Petilla to Congress: Act fact, energy crisis looms)
“Hindi naman talaga (it’s not really) emergency power ang technical term. Strictly speaking, it should not be called emergency power. Under Section 71 of the EPIRA Law, you will not see there the word ’emergency,'” House majority leader Mandaluyong Representative Neptali “Boyet” Gonzales told reporters on Tuesday, September 23.
Senate committee on energy chairman Senator Sergio Osmeña III made the same call last week. “These are not emergency powers. This is just a temporary power given to government to contract capacity,” Osmeña said.
“Huwag naman ibigay as general as it is provided for in Section 71. Ang nagiging challenge sa amin kaya hindi kaagad mai-file ‘yung resolution is: Ano ba talaga ang ipa-file namin? (Let’s not give him general powers provided for in Section 71. The challenge to us – the reason we cannot file the resolution immediately is: What are we really going to file?),” said Gonzales.
“Is it emergency power? Bahala na ang executive? As much as possible iyon ang ayaw naming gawin (The Executive will have its way? As much as possible, we dont’ want to do that),” said Gonzales
There are several options to contract capacity. Gonzales said they are studying 3 – Interruptible Load Program (ILP), purchase or lease. They are not sure yet what powers they are going to give the President.
Discussions for ILP are underway. Osmeña said they are looking at the generator sets of big corporations. He said Makati Business Club through Ramon Del Rosario pledged to make available at least 400 megawatts.
The Manila Electric Company (Meralco) proposed the ILP, a scheme where energy users with large loads, such as business establishments and factories, will be required to run their standby generator sets to ease the demand for power from the grid during peak hours. Malls and business groups have, to date, committed over 410 MW of power supply under ILP.
But Gonzales is concerned that private companies may not be able to offer power 24 hours a day.
Senate President Franklin Drilon also mulled the possibility of not giving the President additional powers at all. “What I believe should happen is that we recognize the need for additional authority to acquire additional capacity, but we should do this as the last resort. We must first examine other options which will address the problem, if it can be done, without the need for additional capacity being acquired,” Drilon said.
Drilon said they will look at making sure the Ilijan power plant operates at full capacity to allow the rehabilitation of the Malaya power plant, which supposedly would only cost P90 million ($2.02 million).
Reviving the Bataan Nuclear Power Plant is not an option, said Drilon.
Drilon also said that he already informed Malacañang that they will not be able to pass the resolution this month. “Given the fact that this will cover appropriation of about P6 billion ($134.88 million), we cannot rush it. We will look at this when we return in October. I think Senator Osmeña has set some hearings,” Drilon said. – Rappler.com
($1 = P44.48)