False hopes and false alarms

CTALK - Cito Beltran - The Philippine Star

Department of Energy Secretary “ikot” Petilla has been spending a lot of energy telling us we’re about to go back into the dark ages unless he convinces the President to declare a National State of Emergency. Normally I would give him the benefit of the doubt, but I can’t help feeling like the wife who has been lied to and betrayed by the adulterous husband. They may reconcile but the trust is rarely restored 100%.

If readers will recall, it was also the same Secretary of Energy who made the unbelievable promise that he would restore electricity to Typhoon Yolanda areas before Christmas. He even declared that he would resign if he failed to hit the target.  Well, he tried, we knew he would fail and was lying or exaggerating, and he eventually admitted that his promise was impossible but he had to give people something to hope for. In fairness he even made a public resignation albeit an elastic and reversible one.

No matter his “good faith” as a government official, he gave the victims false hopes, thereby making them victims all over again.

Now comes the same guy panicking everyone with blackout scenarios, rotating brownouts and a depressed economy in 2015 if the President does not declare a state of emergency on power. My initial reaction was “Fool me once shame on you. Fool me twice shame on me.” What would the declaration achieve knowing that even Petilla has said time and again that it takes 3 to 5 years to build and establish power plants. It clearly defied logic until Petilla suggested that he wasn’t pushing for new power plants but rather “emergency, quick and temporary solutions.” Talk about a recurring nightmare! I still have not quite gotten over all the negativity that came from the “power barges” solution that benefitted cronies,  were extremely expensive, inefficient and one sided deals.

Meanwhile many ordinary people are puzzled and can’t understand the lack of power and rotating brownouts after Typhoon Glenda had cut and disconnected most people from the grid. If you had the same number of power plants generating the same volume of electricity but had 20 to 30 percent of your consumers disconnected, who was sucking up the unused power? Are these rotational brownouts and power crisis real or is it all an orchestrated wicked game to make the electricity addicts of Metro Manila only willing to pay the extortionist rates for electric power?

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 I’ll leave the conspiracy theories to veteran columnists, but in the mean time, what the DOE should put some work into is putting up what I can only call “energy police.” While Petilla is panicking about supply and demand, no one has considered staging a campaign against people and institutions who carelessly use or waste electricity.

I suspect that if COA were required to gather how much electricity all national and local government offices consume, the public might hold an indignation rally. Consider the fact that while most of us ordinary citizens hardly or never use air conditioners at home except during really hot days, most barangay offices, police precinct, and of course national government offices are cooled 8 – 10 – even 24 hours. If we study many offices you realize that people don’t really adjust temperatures in their establishments, they simply dress light when it’s hot or wrap up when it gets cold. Right now many private and public offices are full of people with jackets, cardigans as if they were abroad because it’s cold in the office! Half the problem is waste by people who don’t have to pay for it.

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Below is an actual email from a logistics company contacted to arrange for container van shipping of goods out of Singapore:

Dear Sir,

Herewith below is the response of various carriers for Singapore to Manila;

Hanjin - suspended

APL - only accept 40ft container

RCL - Jul is fully booked

KMTC - suspended

Wan Hai - not accepting booking

Hyundai - no service

Yang Ming - not accepting booking

MOL - not accepting booking

PIL - earliest vessel on 8 Aug 2014

Shippers are avoiding the congestion at the port of Manila. Recently, one of the truckers associations expressed serious concern for their business and livelihood because the problem of space and abandoned container vans has also paralyzed their business having no room at the port. If that’s not bad enough, another truckers group are in a panic over the plans of the LTO and LTFRB to ban all trucks that are 15 years old and above! This would be nothing short of an economic disaster for most logistics company as well as several of the truckers association all over the Philippines. Trucks are easily double if not triple the price of cars and the number of such trucks are estimated to be over the 20,000 units all over the Philippines.

So why is the government suddenly prioritizing the phaseout of 15-year-old trucks instead of clearing the port of Manila of empty container vans? Why not prioritize the efficient use and operation of other ports? Why not concentrate on proper training of truck drivers instead? And by the way, did the DOTC study what the actual economic impact would be on the cost of shipping as well as operations of truckers? Or were they simply motivated by the charm and influence of a cabinet secretary perhaps, who has links with a major truck brand? Or did a long time lobbyist whose one of many businesses is selling trucks to the government for decades yet again influence them? Power barges and lobbyists for truck manufacturers. Nothing has really changed.

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Email: [email protected]


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