Petilla defends proposed emergency powers for PNoy

Posted at 07/22/14 7:01 PM

MANILA, Philippines - Energy Secretary Jericho Petilla lashed back at critics of his recommendation for President Aquino to declare an emergency in the power sector to avert a shortage of electricity in summer of 2015.

Petilla has met with power generators, the Philippine Independent Power Producers Association to ask if they can do something to plug the 400-500 MW deficit, and got no commitment at all from them.

"Basta decision niyo ito ha? As secretary, yan ang nakikita ko. If people are willing to have brownouts in summer, then we can opt not to have this... People are opposing, maybe they're willing (to have brownouts)," he said.

The DOE chief said if the President declares an emergency and Congress grants him the emergency powers, he would like to set conditions on the use of electricity from rented gensets or bunker-run facilities. First, the contract for rent should only be for two years if the supplier allows or at the most 5 years. Second, the power from these generators can only be utilized during yellow alert at the spot market.

According to Petilla, he sees no spike in power rates since prices during summer months usually are high anyway due to limited supply.

Meanwhile, Petilla has again called for patience and understanding from residents who still have no electricity, six days after "Glenda" struck southern luzon.

Based on Meralco's data, more than 300 households in Metro Manila still do not have power, while for the whole franchise area, the number of households that do not have power is at more than 200,000.

Petilla has appealed to the media to help educate people that everything is being done to restore electricity supply.

Higher rates?

Militant groups warned of higher electricity rates if the President is granted emergency powers to solve the expected shortage of electricity by summer next year.

Bayan Muna Rep. Neri Colmenares asked why the DOE has suddenly announced the deficiency in power supply for the summer of 2015, when it should have projected the demand years aheda.

Colmenares said people remember the bad experience during the Aquino and Ramos years in the 1990s when the government had no choice but to enter sweetheart deals that pushed electricity prices up.

"Maghunos dili po ang Malacanang dito dahil tiyak tataas ang presyo ng kuryente," he said.

POWER convenor and former congressman Teddy Casino, on the other hand, called for the amendment of EPIRA law in order to allow government to put up more plants or perhaps venture into renewable sources of energy to plug the deficit.

Casino suspects the same higher priced electricity during the time of Ramos will again happen if the government enters into contracts with power barges and generators.

The Employers Confederation of the Philippines said people in general are wary of the word "emergency", due to its Martial Law connection.

ECOP president Ed Lacson said the option reminds him of the "take or pay" provisions when Ramos then entered into contracts for electricity supply.

"Ang mga bagay na minamadali laging nagkakamali," he said.

But ECOP is open to give its support to the proposal if the DOE can explain why the power situation has worsened and how it will implement the emergency powers, as well as its impact on industries and consumers.