Aquino: Serge’s fault if crisis hits

Miriam also blasts House for grant of extra powers

BUSAN—President Benigno Aquino III on Friday challenged Senator Sergio Osmeña III to take the blame and be the first to explain to the public if the country suffers from power outages during the summer months next year after the lawmaker opposed the granting of emergency powers that will allow the government to contract additional energy sources.

“Senator Serge, with all due respect, is saying all these things and he has convinced some of his colleagues and until now we don’t have emergency powers. Maybe he looks at it half-full and we look at it half-empty,” Aquino said.

“If we suffer from power shortage, I hope he volunteers to answer to the public why we do not have enough energy supply. The government was not lacking in efforts to avert this problem. Maybe they will give it to us on March 1, and then the public will blame us. For our part, perhaps he (Osmeña) can volunteer to explain. Mauna siya,” the President added.

The senator earlier said Aquino does not really understand the power sector and is relying on equally uninformed people who misled the President into asking for special powers that are not needed in the first place.

Osmeña, who chairs the Senate energy committee, said the Interruptible Load Program is already enough to expand the country’s reserve power.

“[The President] does not really know power... so he relies on people who don’t know power either,” said Osmena.

Osmena found an ally in Senator Miriam Defensor-Santiago, who on Friday tagged as “dangerous” the “calendar accommodations” in rushing the grant of emergency powers to the president.

“Since this emergency power will begin March till July, why do we have to approve it now?” asked Santiago.

In a press briefing following her speech on Renewable Energy in the Philippine Electricity Market Corporation-sponsored  conference at the Grand Ballroom of Intercontinental Hotel in Makati City, Santiago noted that many people haven’t read yet what this  emergency powers is all about.

She also questioned the need for everything to be rushed when Congress is set to adjourn for the Christmas break by December 19.

She also asked why the country, an archipelago, is not generating energy from the ocean.

She noted that the Renewable Energy Act has not been implemented because six years after the law has been in operation, action remains too slow and the country’s renewable energy supply is too small.

But Senate President Franklin Drilon said that Osmena’s energy committee, might still report out to the plenary on the Emergency Powers Act (EPA) by January next year.

Drilon said Osmena will not actually junk the EPA, but will first study its implications.

“From  what I know the emergency powers will just ensure that the power generators in the private sector can be used by the public, the so-called Interruptible Load Program (ILP),” said Drilon.

He said this would mean that big malls can be required to allow the use of their generator sets to help cope with the scarcity in power supply during the months of March and April in 2015.

Drilon added that If Osmena will not submit a committee report on the emergency powers, there will be nothing for the senators to vote.

“But I don’t think that will happen,” said Drilon.

But the president said the delay in granting him emergency powers will also delay its implementation.

“Even if they agree to give us (emergency powers) by Monday, we might not be able to use it anymore because the problem might start by March. And it will take us six months to physically transfer and put up the plants that we will rent for two years,” the President said.

“They are saying that if the problem does not arrive, then we would have wasted money in renting the power plants. But what will we do when the problem arrives? If it doesn’t happen - then thank you. What we would have spent will be like an insurance for us...Our policy has always been prepare for the worst but hope for the best,” he said.

“I am hoping that they are right, that they have the perfect solution from the get-go and we don’t need it. Having said that, I am worried that if we do get there, will we have the wherewithal to address the problems,” the President added.

Aquino also warned that the expected power shortage could turn off investors.

“Businessmen have a saying - the most expensive power is power that is not there,” he said.    

Energy Department Jericho Petilla and Palace spokesman Edwin Lacierda also warned of the consequences of not granting Aquino emergency powers to address the anticipated power shortage.

Petilla said that without the emergecy powers, consumers will have to bear the cost for the interruptible load program.

Petilla said that joint resolution filed by Congress will ensure that consumers will not have to pay for the additional compensation to participants of the ILP.

He added that the ILP works by calling on business customers with loads of at least one megawatt to run their own generator sets, if needed, instead of drawing power from the grid.

ILP is a demand side management program that is regarded as one of the counter measures to help mitigate the projected power supply strain in summer.

“ILP will be implemented on March 1, but if its passed this time, because the  assurance of this is the people will not have to pay for the additional compensation for ILP,” Petilla said.

He added that the resolution would also ensure that LLPs will be  compensated, so they will be encouraged to participate in the program.

“The earlier that we release it, probably the more participants we will get. Because probably right now, we have 600 MWs of participants, we’d like to raise it to over 1,000,” the energy chief said.

Petilla said that while the House of Representatives has endorsed the joint resolution he said “we cannot blame the Senate, if they want to scrutinize the details of the authority.”

The department earlier urged companies to express commitment to the ILP on or before December 31, 2014.

Petilla, however, cautioned that slightly more than half of the committed capacity of ILP participants is expected to run based on historical and technical simulations and constraints.

This means that out the 600 MW total committed capacity to date, around half 370 MW is expected to be available.

Lacierda, on the other hand, also hit critics of the administration and dared those who opposed the granting of emergency to the president to come up with a solution to address the possible power shortage in 2015.

Lacierda added that the Senate and the House of Representatives should “marry” their respective proposals to address the looming power shortage.

“The most expensive power is no power. If there is no power, it affects the economy; it affects the convenience of the consumers. What we are trying to do is come up with the solution with the safeguards in mind,” Lacierda said.

“We are certainly hopeful na magkakaroon ng solution provided by both Senate and House, mag-marry sila (ng solution),” he added.

“[The President] does not really know power... so he relies on people who don’t know power either,” Osmena said.

Lacierda said that he understand that Osemna is very “blunt about his opinion” and assured the lawmaker that all of the concerns will be taken into consideration.

“Senator Serge Osmena, I am very certain, is looking at the best solution also that would best address the situation,” he said.

“Senator Serge Osmena, while he may differ with Secretary (Jericho) Patilla, has also the best interest of the Filipino in mind. Knowing that there is a potential power outage in May of 2015, he’s looking also at the situation as how to mitigate or how to address the potential issue come 2015,” Lacierda said.

He added that the Palace will leave it with the House and Senate to come up with a concrete proposal to address the power situation.

“Both the House and the Senate as well as the executive branch, are working towards a solution to address that particular issue,” he said.

“Hopefully everything and everyone will be able to be on board, will be in sync to address the power situation,” he added.

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