BATANGAS CITY: President Benigno Aquino 3rd on Tuesdy shot down the proposals to grant him emergency powers to address the rising cost of electricity.
Speaking to reporters, President Aquino said that the current situation does not call for any emergency powers which is being pushed by Eastern Samar Rep. Ben Evardone.
Evardone earlier proposed that the President be given an emergency power for a year to address the “catastrophic problems” of energy and mass transportation in the country.
However, Aquino emphasized that the 1987 Constitution already allows the Executive branch to use such powers in times of crisis.
“We have emergency powers already in the Constitution that authorizes us to take over certain industries. So I don’t think we are in the situation na we have to employ Section 17 of Article XII,” Aquino said.
He was referring to Section 17 of Article XII which states that “In times of national emergency, when the public interest so requires, the State may, during the emergency and under reasonable terms prescribed by it, temporarily take over or direct the operation of any privately-owned public utility or business affected with public interest.”
“I just want to emphasize I never asked for it. It was proposed by certain members, I understand, of Congress. I never asked for the emergency powers,” he added
Meralco earlier announced a P4.15 kwh rate increase, which was to be imposed in three tranches, as a result of the scheduled shutdown of the Malampaya gas plant. The shutdown resulted in Meralco buying more expensive electricity from the Wholesale Electricity Spot Market (WESM) to cover for the deficit needed in its jurisdiction.
‘WRONG BUSINESS DECISION’
President Aquino said that there are certain allegations of “wrong business decision” that led to the buying from WESM. But, he noted that the effects of any bad business decision should not be passed on to consumers.
The Department of Energy (DOE), he said, is already investigating the possible collusion among power industry players.
“Our impression is there are people who really made a very significant profit from this situation. So I have tasked the DOE again as the lead agency to investigate,” Aquino said
“My position personally is, if it was a commercial decision that was wrong, government never promised that they will be shielded from their wrong decisions,” he added
According to Aquino, the Energy Regulatory Commission (ERC) can order power companies to return any unjustifiable profits on the part of the power firms.
“If there are unjustifiable profits, the ERC can order the disgorgement of these profits,” the President said.
“I think it is incumbent upon us that this situation that greatly affects the welfare of so many of our countrymen, we should know what actually transpired, and what correct actions should be undertaken to address that situation,” he added
Asked if he is in favor of amending the EPIRA Law, Aquino said he is not yet ready to comment, saying that there are specific amendments that is being studied.
President Aquino was here in Batangas City to lead the groundbreaking of First Gen Corp.’s San Gabriel Power Plant Project.
In his speech, Aquino said that the project will ensure sufficient supply of power in the country as well as attract more investors.
The $600-million project has three phases and the first unit to be built by First Gen will be producing 414 mega-watts to supply the Luzon grid.
“This plant also bodes well for our country’s continued growth. Our economy hinges on having adequate power. After all, it is growing at a rapid pace—and we want to sustain this. Businesses are continually seeing the Philippines as an ideal investment destination,” he said.
“And we must continue doing our utmost to be able to tell investors: If you decide to set up shop in the Philippines, an adequate energy supply for your factories and facilities will be as low as possible on your list of things to worry about,” he added
By 2016, the President said that the government expects the Luzon grid to experience more energy demand rising to 11,000 megawatts from today’s 10,294 megawatts.
The new energy project will ensure enough supply of power in the country and thus attract business, he said.
In turn this will result to more jobs to be created that eventually strengthens the people’s purchasing power, he added.
First Gen has 15 power plants that are contracted for sale under long-term power purchase agreements or other energy sales agreements.
First Gen already has the 1,000 megawatt Sta Rita gas-fired power plant and the 500-MW San Lorenzo plant in Batangas. In addition to the first unit launched on Tuesday, First Gen will be building two more power generation units to be completed few years from now. CATHERINE S. VALENTE