‘House tack on Noy emergency powers saved gov’t P12 B’

Paolo Romero - The Philippine Star

MANILA, Philippines - The country has saved P12 billion in taxpayers’ money with the decision of the House committee on energy to scrap proposals to grant President Aquino emergency powers to contract expensive generators to address the possible power shortfall in summer, leaders of the chamber said yesterday.

Speaker Feliciano Belmonte Jr. said Congress remains willing to grant Aquino the necessary authority he needs to address the thinning power reserves, but it must also make sure that the cost would not be burdensome to Filipinos and the powers not prone to abuse and corruption.

“My comfort level, the committee’s comfort level, and even that of the entire House, is high that we will be able to meet the projected shortfall, and the probability of power outages this summer is low,” energy committee chairman and Oriental Mindoro Rep. Reynaldo Umali told The STAR.

“The timeline (to allow the government to lease diesel power barges) is now effectively foreclosed and we will exercise the ILP (Interruptible Load Program) option,” he added.

Under the ILP, large commercial and industrial establishments will use their own generators during peak hours to prevent short energy supply. In return, the government will compensate the establishments. Umali said the ILP would only cost the government P200 million at most.

The House energy panel held on Monday its first public hearing on the proposed joint resolution to grant Aquino emergency powers to contract generating capacity, particularly leasing power barges, for this summer.

During the hearing, officials of the Department of Energy (DOE) admitted to lawmakers there would be no actual power shortage but only thin reserves, confirming observations made at the technical working group meetings of the Joint Congressional Power Commission in the last few weeks.

Energy Secretary Carlos Jericho Petilla earlier warned that there would be blackouts of up to eight hours per day due to a power shortage of 800 to 1,200 megawatts.

Umali explained that despite its members’ misgivings, the House energy panel was ready to recommend the approval of the joint resolution, including the option of leasing generators, last week but the DOE’s admission firmed up its original decision.

Umali also said the House is confident that the ILP and other backup measures the chamber would write in the amended resolution next month are more than enough cover the shortfall and fill up power reserves.

Businessmen urged to help

Meanwhile, Aquino called on businessmen yesterday to contribute to finding a solution to the power supply problem as it is one of their very own concerns.

During the closing ceremony of the 40th Philippine Business Conference (PBC) and Expo held at the Manila Hotel, Aquino said the country needs “merchant power producers” who could respond to the country’s future needs in the energy sector.

“The work will be infinitely faster and more efficient with the cooperation of the business sector,” Aquino said.

“There are around three major entities in power today who are putting their money where their mouth is… and are investing in the sector even without long-term power purchase agreements or power supply contracts. These kinds of plants are what our Department of Energy calls ‘merchant power producers’ and we hope that more investors will follow suit and will seek ways and means to encourage more in following their track,” he added.

In their resolution, the PBC urged the government to formulate an integrated and sustainable energy and power development roadmap.

The roadmap should have a definite target level of power supply capacity and rate; doable and time-bound strategies to achieve the desired goals; a well-defined process that shall be directed, facilitated and regularly reviewed by an authoritative body; and premised on the goal to revitalize manufacturing, attract more quality foreign investments and achieve sustainable and inclusive growth.

The business groups also supported the implementation of the DOE’s Demand Aggregation and Auctioning (DASAP), which would induce transparent and efficient supply contracting, attract more direct investments in power generation, create greater competition and generation adequacy. – With Aurea Calica               

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