Palace reiterates need for emergency powers
Palace reiterates need for emergency powers
The government is working on other options to mitigate the power shortage especially as summer nears, as it awaits lawmakers' action on its emergency powers request

MANILA, Philippines – While working on “4 options,” Malacañang reiterated  the need for emergency powers for President Benigno Aquino III to avert an imminent power shortage this summer, which has yet to be granted by the Senate.

Palace Communications Secretary Herminio Coloma Jr admitted that the pending Senate approval is affecting government preparations, especially since Aquino mentioned that it would be most expensive for everyone to have no power.

The delay,  however,  does not deter the government from paying attention to the 4 other options to ensure sufficient energy supply, Coloma said.

“Of course, we are waiting for Congress’ passage of the joint resolution that the President asked for,” Coloma said.

The 4 options are the Interruptible Load Program (ILP) to be implemented with the cooperation of the private sector, the energy saving measures to decrease the possible supply shortfall,  expediting ongoing power projects, and trying to lessen forced outages.

In November, Aquino said the government was exerting efforts to fast track the rehabilitation of the Malaya power plant to help avert power crisis by 2015.

Malacañang also praised the House of Representatives for approving Joint Resolution No. 21 and expressed hope that the Senate would decide favorably on the issue as well.

Senate energy committee chairman Sergio Osmeña III has said there is no need for emergency powers as there was enough supply of energy for the country this new year.

Viable options

In September, Aquino asked Congress for emergency powers that would authorize him to enter into contracts to raise the generating capacity, particularly by leasing privately-owned generator sets.

But since this is no longer viable due to time constraints, the special powers for Aquino will pave the way for ILP, under which committed industrial and commercial establishments would disconnect from the grid and use their own generators during peak hours to free up power for use by households.

Implementation of the ILP and other measures is from March to July 2015 unless terminated earlier by Congress. The resolution also requires Aquino to submit a monthly report to Congress.

The President had noted the commitments to the ILP were also becoming more promising even when they kicked off slow.

The government will reimburse ILP participating firms for fuel use and other operating costs, and their expenses will be exempted from value-added tax as an incentive.

The funds from Malampaya gas project, meanwhile, may also be tapped as the estimated cost of the ILP should not exceed P200 million ($4.46 million*), which was far cheaper than leasing power barges – for as much as P12 billion ($267.83 million) – which the Palace originally proposed.

The Department of Energy (DOE) was closely coordinating with power-generating facilities while the government was also readying the 650-megawatt (MW) Malaya Thermal Power Plant Unit 1 in Rizal province, Coloma said.

In August 2014, the Power Sector Assets and Liabilities Management Corporation (PSALM) board green-lighted the rehabilitation of the Malaya power plant.

Aquino previously said modular generator sets were no longer part of the options but the “newly-reconstituted” Malaya power plant might be online by March instead of June or July.

However, this was not the most efficient power-generating facility, but could help avoid forced outages in the coming summer, Coloma said.

Coloma added that the government was also focusing on shifting or lessening the demand especially during peak hours.

Aquino added everyone seemed to be trying their best to contribute ways to avert the possible power crisis.

The President also said government offices were implementing energy-saving measures to help address the power situation like the use of higher efficiency bulbs and 25-degree thermostat for air-conditioning units.

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