Senate puts on hold hearings on emergency powers
The national budget is the priority now, Senator Sergio Osmeña III says

MANILA, Philippines – The Senate hearings on whether to grant President Benigno Aquino III emergency powers to help avert the anticipated power supply shortage by summer 2015 are on hold for now.

The senators’ priority is to pass the 2015 national budget, Senator Sergio Osmeña III said on Monday, November 17.

“For now, the senators are busy to pass the most important law every year, which is the national budget. There are instructions already from the Senate President’s office that there’d be no hearing until we pass the national budget,” Osmeña said.

Asked if the Senate is still considering to grant Aquino the emergency powers, Osmeña said that the term “emergency” was created by the media and that what they will be considering is to grant the President special powers.

Osmeña also expressed hesitation if the special powers could be granted within the year.

“I think they will mostly have to do with appropriations and the use of the Malampaya fund. So it might not be an amendment or exemption to the EPIRA but an exemption to the Malampaya fund,” he said.

The President, if granted special powers, can invoke Section 71 of the Electric Power Industry Reform Act (EPIRA). Section 71 of EPIRA states that the President, upon determination of an imminent shortage of supply of electricity, may ask for Congress for authority, through a joint resolution, to establish additional generating capacity under such terms and conditions.

The Malampaya fund, meanwhile, is now being eyed to refund those companies that will be participating in the Interruptible Load Program (ILP), Osmeña added.

A resolution filed by the House Committee on Energy Friday, November 14, proposes government to reimburse companies enrolled in the ILP, a private-sector initiative meant to safeguard against possible outages in the hottest season in 2015.

“What is important is that those who participate in the ILP are guaranteed that they will be paid because it is more expensive to use diesel plants,” the senator stressed.

The proposed value added exemption (VAT) to ILP participants has yet to be carefully considered also, Osmeña added.

President Aquino also signed Executive Order (EO) that reduces real property taxes and penalties for independent power producers (IPP). “The President has the power to abate taxes. But that is not a permanent solution, we have to find a permanent solution,” Osmeña said.

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