by Mario Casayuran, January 3, 2015
from Manila Bulletin
The national government can tap P 180 billion from the Malampaya fund for energy projects it may want to undertake once Congress grants President Aquino emergency powers to tackle the expected energy shortage in the middle part of the year.
Senate President Pro Tempore Ralph G. Recto said government shares from the Malampaya gas fields totalled P148.8 billion as of December, 2013. If you add the remittances for 2014, which is projected at P31.6 billion, and deduct about P757 billion in withdrawals in 2014, the balance is about P179.7 billion, Recto said.
“These are not my figures. They’re the ones stated in the Budget Expenditures and Sources of Financing,” Recto said, referring to a document known in lawmaking circles as “BESF” which accompanies a proposed national budget.
With this fund, the government could subsidize the estimated P6-billion cost of contracting 600 megawatts (MWs) of electricity this year in order to bridge supply gaps which are expected to worsen during the summer months when electricity use increases, he said.
“Kung tutuusin, puwede ngang sagutin na ng gobeyerno yan. Puwede ngang libre from the point of view of financial capacity (Government has the financial capacity to subsidize or shoulder the cost of contracting the needed power supply),’’ he added.
“P6 billion is what we spend in 30 days for the CCT (conditional cash transfer of the Department of Social Welfare and Development). That’s equivalent to the government’s payroll and pension expenses in three days. In a matter of 72 hours, government can spend the P6 billion for payroll and pension,’’ he said.
After Department of Energy (DOE) officials warned of a 400-MW to 600 MW shortfall in the Luzon power supply in the first half of 2015, the Aquino administration is asking Congress to approve emergency power for President Aquino so he can contract private power providers to supply 600 MWs.
Half the contracted power would be used to bolster baseload capacity and the other half would go to reserves.
But Sen. Sergio R. Osmeña III, chairman of the Senate Energy Committee which has heard Department of Energy (DOE) officials and those in the private energy sector state differing positions on the matter, appeared unconvinced that the President needs special power to tackle the feared energy crisis.
Osmeña said private power producers could supply the 600 MWs under the interrupted power program (ILP). Big consumers such as malls could cut off their dependence on the Luzon power grid and use their own power generating units, he added.
Under current laws, government is barred from building power plants but the President may ask Congress for authority to contract additional generating capacity if there is an electricity supply shortage.
Leaders of the House of Representatives have urged the Senate to approve the joint resolution that seeks to grant President Aquino five-month emergency power to deal with the projected power shortfall during the summer months.
“I am urging the Senate to grant PNoy’s request. I hope that the Upper Chamber, especially his allies, will prioritize its passage. We already have done our part before we adjourned last December,” House Speaker Feliciano Belmonte said.