President rejects Energy chief’s offer to resign
President Benigno Aquino 3rd refused to accept the resignation of Energy Secretary Jericho Petilla, who announced he was stepping down after failing to fully restore power in areas ravaged by Super Typhoon Yolanda by Christmas eve.
Petilla went to Malacañang on Thursday to hand his resignation to the President. But Palace spokesman Edwin Lacierda and Presidential Communications Secretary Herminio Coloma Jr. said Aquino turned down Petilla’s offer to resign.
In a statement, Lacierda said the President considered the fact that bringing back power in affected areas would take three to six months. As of Christmas Day, power had been restored to 99 percent of typhoon-devastated towns and cities in Eastern Visayas.
“The President did not accept the resignation, cognizant of the fact that according to original estimates, it would take three to six months to restore power in town centers, considering the extent of the damage caused by Super Typhoon Yolanda: the Luzon-Visayas connection was down, the major geothermal plant in Leyte was also down; and generation, transmission and distribution lines were down,” Lacierda said.
“In the face of these challenges, the accomplishments of Secretary Petilla speak for itself: First, from his original target of six months he was able to restore power in roughly 40 days. Second, within that period, Secretary Petilla was able to energize 317 out of 320 affected towns, leaving 0.93 percent still to accomplish,” he added.
Lacierda described Petilla’s performance as “excellent,” noting that even foreign observers who have witnessed disasters in other countries admitted that the repair and rehabilitation of energy infrastructure in the Visayas was faster.
Coloma said the President did not take the failure to meet the power restoration deadline against Petilla and the two even travelled together on Sunday.
“Secretary Petilla, if we will recall, made that pronouncement at the onset of the assessment of the effects of the calamity. We will recall that about 250 transmission towers of the National Grid Corp. were toppled. So that is, in any assessment, a very massive extent of damage,” he noted.
“And I also recall that at that time, there are some people who said that he made a very daring declaration that it was his target to restore electricity by December 24.
And I believe that is also understandable, considering that before he joined the Cabinet he was the governor of Leyte province, which is one of the hardest hit.”
Coloma said Petilla’s offer to resign does not indicate that he is quitting public service but that he was merely sticking to his word. He described Petilla’s declaration as “admirable.”
Lawmakers also wanted Petilla to stay on, saying that resigning over a broken promise is “needless.”
Reps. Romero Quimbo of Marikina and Antonio Tinio of Alliance of Concerned Teachers said Petilla should finish his job.
“He should not resign, considering that he has been able to substantially accomplish what he has sought to do. To resign is to abandon the President and his reform program,” Quimbo said in a text message.
“He has to set aside his personal concerns and subordinate them to the President’s programs,” he added.
“Instead of resigning, Secretary Petilla should renew his pledge and set a new target date for re-energizing the typhoon-devastated areas, this time down to the sitio level.”
Tinio said the Energy chief should see to it that the investigation into the possible collusion of power producers continues.
“He must pursue, to the end, the Energy department’s investigation into the price manipulation among private power producers and collusion with Meralco that led to the unprecedented power rate hike. There should be no whitewashing or backtracking there,” the lawmaker added. “He should also push through publicly announced plan to implement major revisions in the Wholesale Electricity Spot Market rules in order to curb the predatory behavior of the private power providers.”
Coloma said that despite the “hanging” appointments of four department secretaries, the Cabinet remains “relatively stable” and that no changes are in sight at least for the coming year.
He said that over the past three and a half years, there were only slight changes in the President’s team, and most of its members still enjoy his trust and confidence.
“The President is the final arbiter of who works with him in the Cabinet and, of course, every member of that Cabinet serves at his pleasure and subject to his full trust and confidence,” Coloma said.
One of Aquino’s spokesmen, Ricky Carandang, had decided to join the private sector and would remain in office only until the end of the year.
Talks about a possible Cabinet reshuffle came about after four Cabinet secretaries, including Petilla, were bypassed by the Commission on Appointments.
Also bypassed were Environment Secretary Ramon Paje, Social Welfare Secretary Corazon Soliman and Justice Secretary Leila de Lima.
President Aquino must issue new ad interim appointments so that they can stay on.
Petilla was appointed to the Department of Energy in October 2012, while Paje, Soliman and de Lima assumed office in 2010.