THE HOUSE of Representatives passed a resolution Tuesday granting President Benigno Aquino III special powers to deal with a projected power shortage next year, but the Senate put the measure on hold to make way for budget deliberations.
Senator Sergio Osmena III, chairman of the committee on energy, said Senate President Franklin Drilon had ordered that priority be given to passing the national budget for 2015.
“The committee will have to finish its work first. Right now, all 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 will be no hearings until the national budget is passed,” he said.
He said it was doubtful that the Senate would still be able to tackle the proposal to grant special powers to the President before the year ends.
Osmeña also admitted that he was not keen to hasten the process to approve the joint resolution, saying the issue was complicated.
He said there was a need to scrutinize the powers carefully before granting them to the President.
“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 (Electric Power Industry Reform Act) but an exemption to the [law coverin the] Malampaya fund,” he said.
In the House, the committee on energy chaired by Oriental Mindoro Rep. Reynaldo Umali, passed House Joint Resolution 21 with 18 lawmakers voting for its approval.
Only Bayan Muna party-list Rep. Neri Colmenares voted against the resolution.
Umali assured the public that the emergency powers would not result in higher electricity rates for consumers.
But his assurance of a no pass-on provision was not spelled out in the final resolution.
“The intent is there will be no pass-on to consumers, the intention is not to burden the public with additional cost [of electricity] through the joint resolution,” Umali said during the hearing Tuesday.
“President Aquino is not opposed to the idea of tapping the Malampaya fund as subsidy,” Umali said.
House leaders are expected to have the resolution passed in plenary by the end of November.
The resolution specified that the “additional generating capacity shall be sourced from the [ILP or Interruptible Load Program]” in addition to the power plants that are already being constructed and also expected to come on line next year.
During the hearing, Colmenares accused the Palace allies in Congress of railroading the approval of the joint resolution, stressing that the Energy Department has yet to fully established if there is indeed a power crisis next year as it has claimed.
Colmenares pointed out that there was no actual shortage of supply, but only a shortage of reserves.
“In the course of congressional hearings conducted, it was revealed ... that a maximum projected shortfall of 1,004 megawatts—of which 600 MW are needed to meet the required reserve, and 404 MW are needed to meet the required contingency reserve,” Colmenares said.
Colmenares also slammed Energy officials led by Secretary Jericho Petilla for giving conflicting data on the power supply situation next year.
“Malacanang has failed to show imminence of threat of shortage. The biggest reason for the shortage are the shutdown of power plants [for maintenance],” he said.
Petilla has denied any discrepancy in the data, saying the National Grid Corporation of the Philippines does not list forced outages in its outlook because these cannot be predicted.
The joint resolution rules out buying or leasing generator sets as originally proposed by the Department of Energy because a technical working group determined that the ILP would suffice.
“Additional generating capacity shall be sourced from the Interruptible Load Program (ILP), fast tracking of committed projects, and plants for interconnection and rehabilitation,” the resolution read.
The ILP program involves asking malls, factories and other establishments to use their own generator sets when the National Grid Corportation of the Philippines expects the supply of electricity to fall short of demand.
Under the ILP, customers with large power loads such as commercial establishments will be asked to operate their own generators when the power grid could not meet power demand and the generator owner would be reimbursed later.
The special authority given to the President will last only until July 2015 unless earlier withdrawn by the President and upon the recommendation of the Joint Congressional Power Commission.
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