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Public hearings on emergency powers urged

Jess Diaz - The Philippine Star

MANILA, Philippines - Congressmen opposed to President Aquino’s request for emergency powers to deal with a projected electricity shortage yesterday urged the House energy committee to subject the proposal to public hearings.

Bayan Muna Representatives Neri Colmenares and Carlos Zarate said the energy committee chaired by Mindoro Oriental Rep. Reynaldo Umali has not yet convened to tackle the presidential request.      

They said what they know is that a technical working group (TWG) has been meeting to gather data and to prepare a report to be submitted to the panel.

But the committee proper has not met to tackle the proposed special congressional authority for the President to spend up to P12 billion to buy or lease generators from foreign suppliers, they said.

They lamented that Umali has been making statements tending to give the public the impression that the grant of such special authority “is already a done deal.”

“When was this decided? The energy committee has not even convened yet to tackle the emergency powers issue, but it seems that there is already a decision,” Colmenares and Zarate said.

They said the House has directed the committee to conduct hearings precisely to inquire into the basis of Aquino’s request for special authority to buy or lease foreign generators to deal with a projected power shortage in Luzon for the March to June period next year.

They said they have been waiting for Umali, who belongs to the ruling Liberal Party, to call hearings so they could question Energy Secretary Jericho Petilla and other officials on the real power supply situation.

“As far as we are concerned, Secretary Petilla is still hard put to explain the real energy situation in the country and the request for emergency powers is premature,” the lawmakers said.

“We oppose emergency powers for President Aquino precisely because not only has Secretary Petilla failed to prove the claimed lack of supply, but also because this short-sighted band aid solution will increase the cost of electricity and will not assure stable energy supply. We need long term solutions, not short term magic tricks,” they added.

Colmenares said as of now, “there is no hard evidence that there would be a power crisis next year.”

“All we have are the projections and ranting of Secretary Petilla,” he said.

He pointed out that on the contrary, reports submitted to the Umali committee show that there would be sufficient electricity supply for the summer months of 2015, the period when Petilla claimed there would be a shortage.

For his part, Zarate said, “This supposed shortage is nothing but a bogey to justify the grant of emergency powers to President Aquino. There is enough capacity to cover the supposed shortfall in energy supply for next year. There is more to this phantom shortfall than meets the eye.”

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

Isabela Rep. Rodolfo Albano III said that based on a report submitted to the Umali committee by the National Grid Corp. of the Philippines, there would be sufficient power supply, in fact even a “system gross reserve,” for the whole of 2015.

He said the report shows that available power for Luzon for next year would range from 8,839 megawatts in January to 10,946 MW in December.

BAYAN MUNA REPRESENTATIVES NERI COLMENARES AND CARLOS ZARATE

COLMENARES AND ZARATE

COMMITTEE

ENERGY

ENERGY SECRETARY JERICHO PETILLA

ISABELA REP

LIBERAL PARTY

PRESIDENT AQUINO

SECRETARY PETILLA

UMALI

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