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It takes 2 to Tango, House tells Aquino

Senate inaction threatens extra power bid

THE Senate’s misgiving to pass an appropriate resolution will effectively prevent Congress from granting emergency powers to the Aquino administration for the uploading of additional power generating capacity next year.

Feliciano Belmonte, Jr.
Speaker Feliciano Belmonte, Jr. stressed that since the measure was a joint resolution, the bill granting emergency powers has to be approved by both the House of Representatives and the Senate.

“It needs both Houses,” Belmonte said, noting however that the Senate appears not to be inclined to pass the resolution because of the Aquino administration’s dallying on the matter and the Department of Energy’s own admission that there really won’t be a power crisis next year.

Opposition Rep. Silvestre Bello III echoed the Speaker’s position and said the Palace should no longer insist on the emergency powers to lease or purchase modular generator sets for a supposed “power crisis” next year.

“The granting of emergency powers to the President to address the looming power crisis must be approved by both Houses of Congress,” Bello said.

Congressmen and senators agreed there was no need for emergency powers because Department of Energy officials admitted in congressional hearings that there actually will not be a supply deficiency by March next year, but only a shortage of reserves.

Energy Sec. Jericho Petilla had claimed there will be a supply shortfall of about 300 to 500 megawatts by March next year and the government needed emergency powers to address the matter.

Petilla said this shortage could go up to between 600 to 800 megawatts due to the thinning hydro-power capacity and the expected high power demand in summer of next year. If the El Niño phenomenon materializes, it could even go up to 800 MW to 1,200 MW.

But the House energy committee, chaired by Aquino ally Rep. Reynaldo Umali, learned at a congressional hearing that the projected shortage of 300 megawatts to 1,200 MW that Petilla warned about was merely a thinning of the reserves for two weeks in summer.

Energy officials during the hearing presented data showing that the country would only experience a 31MW shortage in 2015.

The National Grid Corporation of the Philippines also made a similar observation because the 31 megawatt power shortage in 2015 would only translate to one-hour rotating brownouts on peak hours or from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. and only once a week.

Consequently, the House energy committee said it would no longer pass an emergency powers resolution, but only a special authority resolution that will help the government implement its Interruptible Load Program. The House vowed to pass the measure by Dec. 1.

Even if there was actually a supply shortage, Sen. Sergio Osmeña III, chairman of the Senate energy committee, said the delay in the Palace’s request for emergency powers substantially cut the six-month lead time needed to load any additional capacity onto the electricity grid.

“[Emergency powers] is already out of the question because they need a six-month lead time and we only have four months left,” Osmeña said. “That is already academic.”

Instead, Osmeña said the President would only need a special authority to use the Malampaya funds to subsidize the Interruptible Load Program, the scheme espoused by the House.

Minority Rep. Jonathan de la Cruz said Osmeña’s remark showed serious misgivings about the joint resolution.

“If the Senate will not come out with anything, then that’s it. P-Noy [President Aquino III] will not have anything,” de la Cruz said.

De la Cruz also urged Petilla and other Palace officials to stop insisting on expensive solutions to the power shortage that will cost taxpayers P6 billion to P10 billion.

Meanwhile, the House energy committee already drafted a joint resolution authorizing the executive to establish additional capacity for the Luzon grid next year by tapping privately-owned generator sets.

The three-page draft resolution provides that the additional capacity to be generated shall preferably be sourced from the Interruptible Load Program, fast-tracking plants and committed projects for interconnection, and adoption of energy efficiency and conservation measures.

The program involves asking malls, factories and other businesses to use their own generator sets when the NGCP expects the supply of electricity to fall short of demand.

The resolution notes that a power shortfall of 700 megawatts (MW) is expected to occur in certain weeks from March to July 2015.

Umali said the private sector has committed 847 MW under the ILP, with a usable capacity of 593 MW.

Under the ILP, customers with large power loads such as commercial establishments will be asked to operate their own generator when the power grid cannot meet power demand and the generator owner will be reimbursed later.

Some of the companies that have expressed willingness to participate in the program are the Sy-owned SM group which can unburden the power grid of some 56MW in demand and Robinsons Land with its 22MW, Ayala Land 8MW, Shangri-La 7MW, Waltermart 6MW, and Ortigas and Megaworld, 4MW each.

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