Palace: We’ve been honest about energy crisis

Natashya Gutierrez
Malacañang defends itself a day after the House committee on energy said the Department of Energy's projections of an impending power crisis were untruthful

MANILA, Philippines – Is the impending energy crisis as severe as the Department of Energy (DOE) has painted it to be?

Malacañang insisted that the administration has been nothing but honest with its estimates.

The statement came a day after the House committee on energy leaned toward watering down its proposal to grant special powers to President Benigno Aquino III, seeing the crisis does not seem as bad as projected.

On Tuesday, October 21, Communications Secretary Herminio Coloma Jr defended the DOE, which the House questioned for its truthfulness regarding the crisis.

“I spoke to [Energy] Secretary [Jericho] Petilla earlier and I’d like to say that, in every chance, the President and the Cabinet have been truthful in presenting the situation and the numbers,” Coloma told reporters.

At a House hearing on Monday, the DOE’s projection of 3-5-hour rotating brownouts for 5 days in a row next summer contradicted with the data of the House committee. The committee data showed only a 31-megawatt shortfall, which would amount to one-hour rotating brownout for one day in a week.

Coloma said it the government is concerned about the amount of reserves, adding it would rather be well-prepared.

“Let’s look at it like this: [energy is] not like canned goods that you can obtain off the shelf, that when there’s demand, there’s supply. First of all, we’re talking about summer. Depending on the severity of the heat that will be experienced, that will determine the actual demand or usage of electricity,” he said.

“That’s why in the projections of the DOE, there is a need that this early on, we can prepare to have sufficient reserves this early on because we don’t want to wait until there are brownouts already.”

In September, Aquino, upon the recommendation of the DOE, asked Congress to sign a joint resolution to grant him emergency powers. This would allow the government to contract additional power supply to address the projected 2015 power deficit.

While the House was earlier open to granting him powers, lawmakers are less inclined to do so after comparing data. It is more likely to recommend the Interruptible Load Program (ILP) to address the energy shortage.

The ILP is a voluntary mechanism where customers with large power loads, such as factories and malls, will be asked to operate their own generator sets during peak hours. The ILP, rather than contracting power, would also be a less costly option.

‘Still urgent’

Regardless of the House’s differing opinion from the administration, Coloma said the goal is still the provision of “stable and reliable supply at rates that are reasonable and not excessive or abusive.”

Asked whether the administration would still insist on emergency powers to address the crisis rather than the ILP or other options, Coloma only said the government “will continue working with Congress in providing an appropriate response and a satisfactory solution.”

He emphasized, however, that while there is a possible there may not be an actual shortage, “unexpected breakdowns or unscheduled maintenance of electric power plants, the thin reserves may be depleted thereby causing rotational brownouts.”

Coloma also insisted that the issue still requires an “urgent response” to give the government enough time to prepare.

Lawmakers earlier said the situation does not appear as urgent as the Palace made it seem, especially if ILP will be agreed upon as the ultimate solution. –

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