Congress to grant PNoy special powers to avert energy crisis

by Charissa Luci, 09 March 2015
from Manila Bulletin

Convening as a bicameral body, the Senate and the House of Representatives are set to approve today the joint resolution seeking to granting special powers to President Aquino to deal with the impending power shortage during summer months.

Oriental Mindoro Rep. Reynaldo Umali expressed confidence that the bicameral panel will be able to reconcile the two versions and pass the final joint resolution today.

POWERING UP – Manila Electric Company (Meralco) linesmen do routine work on power lines along a main road in Manila yesterday. Meralco is preparing for an increase in demand for electricity with the onset of the hot summer months. (KJ Rosales)

“I am hoping for its approval with no pass on (provision). I am a hopeless optimist,” he said.

He maintained that Congress should tap the Malampaya funds to pay for the additional cost of the electricity, saying that no additional burden should be passed on to power consumers.

“We don’t know what will happen, whether or not the passage of the resolution will be smooth sailing. Basta, the House position remains firm that there will be no pass on,” Umali said.

“The intention is not to burden the public with additional cost of electricity,” the co-chairman of the Joint Congressional Power Commission (JCPC) stressed.

Both House Joint Resolution 21 and Senate Joint Resolution No. 12 call for the implementation of the Interruptible Load Program (ILP) in which private firms will be asked to run their own generation sets during peak hours.

The Department of Energy (DOE) estimates that the government would have to spend some P450 million to subsidize the fuel expenses as well as the maintenance and operating costs of all entities using their generator sets.

The House resolution, which was approved in December last year, seeks to tap the Malampaya funds to pay for the ILP subsidy.

While, Senate Joint Resolution No. 12, which makes ILP participation voluntary, provides for a pass-on cost to consumers.

The Senate panel, led by Senator Serge Osmeña, maintained that apart from Malampaya share, Luzon consumers still have to shoulder the cost, estimated at P7 to P8 per kilowatt-hour cost.

The bicameral panel were at loggerheads on two sticky provisions– the pass on and time frame provisions of the joint resolution.

“The Senate wants to pass the additional cost to consumers but the House wants the government to subsidize it,” Umali said in an earlier interview.

“Second, the time frame of the emergency powers, the Senate wants it to be extended until 2016 but the House, we only want the special powers for the President until July as per Department of Energy this crisis will be over in (July),” he added.

The House leader said he does not see the need to extend the time frame since the DOE projected that 782-megawatt (MW) power shortfall will happen from March to July.

He disclosed that 955 MW have been committed under the ILP.

Speaker Feliciano Belmonte Jr. had pushed for the approval of the House version of the joint resolution, rejecting the Senate’s proposal extending emergency power until 2016.

“I think our [House version of the resolution] is still the better… We acted on the information that we had been given by (the DOE) that this is not going to be a long problem,” he said.

The House resolution grants President Aquino the authority to establish additional generating capacity to deal with a maximum 1,004-megawatt (MW) shortage in the Luzon grid from March to July this year on or before March 1, 2015. It also authorizes all national government agencies and local government units (LGUs) to suspend the operability of certain laws, rules and regulations, including, but not limited to, Republic Act No. 9367 or Biofuels Act, Republic Act No. 8749 or Clean Air Act, Philippine Grid Code, and such other laws that may affect the operation of the contracted generation capacities.

In September last year, President Aquino formally asked Congress to immediately enact the joint resolution that would allow his government to contract additional generating capacity under Electric Power Industry Reform Act (EPIRA) of 2001 to address the “imminent” power crisis.

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