Abuse of power feared

Lawmakers demand Petilla’s proof of energy crisis

Congressional leaders and militant lawmakers  on Saturday expressed apprehension over the proposal put forth by  Energy Secretary Jericho Petilla  seeking to grant emergency power to President Benigno Aquino III to address an impending energy crisis.

Some of them wanted proof the situation has reached critical level while others feared that the emergency powers could be abused by the Executive and worst, extended to non-energy concerns.

Feliciano Belmonte Jr.
Speaker Feliciano Belmonte Jr. said that the House is not inclined to grant President Aquino the  emergency powers without any basis or solid justifications that the energy problem in the country has worsened to crisis proportion.

“I am more interested in what will be done on the basis of emergency powers that cannot be done now,” Belmonte told the Manila Standard in a text message.

Belmonte said the Energy department could have done enough to address the power problem had it come up with a feasible solution to the problem and not merely rely on what the emergency powers of the President could do about it.

Abakada party-list Rep. Jonathan de la Cruz, a member of the House independent bloc of Leyte Rep. Ferdinand Martin Romualdez, also frowned on Petilla’s proposal.

De la Cruz  said Petilla was incompetent and his failure to remedy the energy problem aggravated the situation.

“There they go again.  There is no need for emergency powers.  The President has the power under the Epira to avert a crisis,” de la Cruz said. 

De la Cruz was referring to Section 72 of the Electric Power Industry Reform Act (EPIRA) of 2001, which provides ‘special powers’ to the President in times of crisis of national emergency.

Under the Epira law, de la Cruz said the President can direct the opening of plants of excess capacity, direct the use of available government resources to augment the capacity, and that even the President can takeover plants.

But still, there has to be a determination of a situation that there is an impending power crisis, de la Cruz said.

Bayan Muna Rep. Carlos Zarate warned against granting emergency powers to the President, which could be  abused, and worst, extended to non-energy issues.

“We will block such move in Congress,” Zarate said, as he urged his colleagues to be vigilant .

De la Cruz also proposed the conduct of a national summit   to enable Malacañang and Congress to discuss   the problem more thoroughly and provide solution.

“The discussion on emergency powers should not be confined with the executive. The discussion should include members of Congress. Hindi yung Executive lang, sila sila lang ang nag uusap, sila sila lang nagkaka intindihan,” de la Cruz added.

If the President were to ask for the extra powers, then both chambers of Congress would need to hold a joint session and by two-thirds vote of members pass an enabling resolution,  according to  the lawmakers.

Negros Occidental Rep. Albee Benitez, an administration ally, expressed misgivings about  Petilla’s proposal.

“Secretary Petilla has to show we are indeed in an energy crisis,” Benitez said in a separate interview.

“Estimates from the power sector indicate a peak load of 9 megawatts against an 11mw capacity.  There is no shortage unless outage from big generation units,” Benitez added.

Zarate and another Bayan Muna party list Rep. Neri Colmenares said Petilla’s obsession  with the President’s emergency powers  was perhaps because the administration would want to make use of the Malampaya funds for 2016 elections.

Zarate said data coming from the Energy department itself belie the forecasted 2015 energy crisis.

“Based on DOE figures as of 2013, the installed capacity for Luzon grid (according t0 DOE figures) is: 12,790MW and dependable capacity is: 11,469MW. The peak demand for the grid is just at 8,700 plus (this happens on summer—May in particular) —and the portion of Meralco in that is at 6,121MW (based on 2014 figures),” Zarate said.

Deducting dependable capacity from peak demand, Colmenares said, there should have been allowance for reserves amounting to 2,700mw.  This is more than the 400 mw deficit that Sec. Petilla claims, Colmenares added.

“Based on the DOE figures itself, even in a tight supply condition, there should be more than enough supply,” Colmenares said.

Zarate said Petilla’s  adherence to the idea of emergency powers for the President “is nothing but a bogey.”

There is enough capacity to cover the supposed shortfall in the energy supply for summer 2015. There is more to this phantom shortfall than meets the eye, the congressman said.

“This emergency power is even probably designed so that Malacanang can dip its fingers again into the Malampaya fund, the spending of which was already restricted by the November 2013 decision of the Supreme Court,” he added.

Malacañang on Friday did not say with certainty if and when the President would exercise his extra powers under the Epira.

“One thing that we want to emphasize  is that we are going to be pro-actively handle the situation,” said Presidential Spokesman Edwin Lacierda. “That’s why we’re recognizing all the concerns of the power sector as well as the stakeholders including the citizens,” he said.

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