A government missing in action


Missing in action. Yep, that about sums up how the Aquino administration deals with the most basic needs of our people.

With only about two years remaining before the next presidential elections, PNoy’s government continues to display a lack of willingness to seriously tackle so many of our nation’s most pressing issues.

Their “band-aid” (and sometimes, half-witted) solutions to our people’s problems betray a serious lack of leadership and political will to reform the status quo.

Take for instance the Aquino administration’s response to looming power crisis this summer.

To reduce the load on the country’s power grid, Department of Energy (DOE) Secretary Jericho Petilla came up with a “novel” plan—the Interruptible Load Program or ILP. Under this program, private companies in Luzon with generators will switch them on instead of getting their supply from distribution utilities (DUs) and electric cooperatives (ECs).

In other words, big-load customers such as malls and factories will serve their own power needs by using their own generator sets. The DUs and ECs will then reimburse these large power users for the fuel and oil used in running their generators. Petilla says the ILP is expected to augment Luzon’s power reserves by some 500MW.

The program isn’t limited to Luzon alone. At present, Mindanao DUs are using the ILP to boost their power supply. In Visayas, DUs have relied on ILP to mitigate the supply shortage in the region.

While it appears that the ILP may alleviate the country’s tight power supply situation in the short-term, it will be ordinary Filipinos who will bear the brunt of Petilla’s touted “out-of-the-box” scheme.

Obviously, the DUs and ECs will not shoulder the huge (and more expensive) fuel and oil costs incurred by their big-load customers in running the generators. They will definitely pass it on to their customers. So at the end of the day, it will be Filipino consumers who will end up paying for the fuel costs of these malls and large power users.

What frustrates many Filipinos is that the country has had this power shortage problem every summer despite the fact that energy officials have known for the longest time that power supply is tightest during the dry season when annual demand is at its peak.

Yet, the Aquino government hasn’t offered any real solution to address this seasonal power crisis except to pass on the burden of increasing the country’s power reserves to consumers by asking them to use power judiciously and to practice energy-saving measures. Well, that and admonishing our people to be ready to make their own sacrifices (as PNoy’s Lenten message said).

That we continue to experience (and sacrifice for) this recurring power crisis more than four years into the Aquino administration is perhaps the best evidence that PNoy’s supposed transformational leadership is anything but transformational.

Although the Electric Power Industry Reform Act (Epira) has been proven to be a complete and utter failure, the Aquino administration refuses to scrap the law or at least amend it to ensure a truly transparent and competitive energy market.

Instead, Petilla insists that what is needed are long-term solutions to solve the country’s energy problems. And for him, that means relying on power investments from the private sector to come in.

But if the private sector is indeed the key to solving our energy woes, why has the purported power investments not significantly increased the country’s power reserves for the past 23 years since the Epira law was passed? Why are we still having a power crisis after more than two decades?

Moreover, letting our energy future rest in private hands not only jeopardizes the country’s energy security but also renders the government powerless against the exploitation and abuses of a few corporate behemoths.

Remember the huge power rate increase resulting from the month-long shutdown of the Malampaya plant last year? When the huge increase in the generation charge was first announced, the Palace said that government cannot protect consumers against power rate hikes.

Press Secretary Herminio Coloma even admitted that the Aquino administration could not do anything to stop the electricity price hike since the power rate adjustments were “market-driven” and “depend on demand and supply.”

Didn’t Malacañang sing a similar tune when Light Rail Transit (LRT) and Metro Rail Transit (MRT) commuters complained about the long queues at train stations and the frequent breakdown of rail operations?

Try riding passenger buses, Coloma chided commuters. They’re less crowded and there are thousands of them travelling through EDSA daily, he added.

The sad truth is that the Aquino government appears increasingly incapable of performing the rudimentary tasks of governance. They have practically left our countrymen to their own devices, fending for themselves. Perhaps that explains why so many Filipinos are asking: Where has our government gone?


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