GRANTING emergency powers to President Benigno Aquino 3rd may not be the best solution to the country’s power problems because it will either lead to higher electricity rates or favor only power producers and people close to them, a lawmaker and an analyst said on Wednesday.
Sen. Sergio Osmena 3rd, chairman of the Senate committee on energy, said Energy Secretary Carlos Jericho Petilla should make it clear what “type” of emergency powers he wants the President to obtain from Congress and what solutions he has in mind in case the President obtains that power.
The senator said it is likely that Petilla wants Congress to grant Aquino emergency powers in order for the government to bring in power generators and power barges because construction of power plants would take four years.
Purchase of power generators and barges could give additional supply to the grid but power consumers would have to pay a steeper price for electricity.
“If that is the plan [to bring in power barges], they will have a hard time getting an approval. I will question them,” Osmena told reporters in an interview.
Only Congress has the authority to grant emergency powers to the President,
But political analyst Ramon Casiple said those who are pushing for emergency powers, including Petilla, only want to create a scenario similar to what happened in 1992 that gave private power producers huge profits.
“The last time we gave a President emergency powers, the National Power Corp. [NPC] suffered more than P100-billon debt,” Casiple told The Manila Times, referring to the 1990s when then-President Fidel Ramos was granted emergency powers to solve the power shortage.
Casiple said the most effective way to resolve the power problem is for the President to sack Petilla and replace him with someone more capable who does not have ties with private power producers.
“I oppose it [emergency power]because there is no need. The ones with close connections with private power producers will be the one who will benefit from it, that is why they are pushing for it,” he noted.
Petilla had met with the Philippine Independent Power Producers Association (PIPPA) but failed to get a commitment from them to supply the 400 megawatt to 500 megawatt power deficit.
He had warned that if the government will not take drastic measures, the power shortage being felt now would last until next year.
But Osmeña said the problem will progressively get worse every summer.
He noted that aside from bringing in temporary source of electricity, there is another type of power that Congress can give the President to speed up the construction of power plants and shield the government from delays brought by petitions for writs of kalikasan and the tedious process of getting permits from local officials and national government agencies.
The senator was referring to a proposal made by former Energy Secretary Jose Rene Almendras that did not even reach the House of Representatives.
According to Osmeña, the proposal involves the setting up of special zones for power plants that will be free from any legal obstacles.
He said legal obstacles like the petition for writ of kalikasan and the complicated process of getting local and national permits often cause delays but if special zones would be put up, the construction of power plants could start within three months.
But the senator conceded this will also not be enough to address the expected power shortage for the next four years.
“Even if the President orders the building of a power plant tomorrow, it will still take at least four years to finish that plant. This means it will not address the country’s power shortage in 2015, 2016, 2017 and 2018,” Osmeña noted.
“They [DOE] were proposing a law for future power plants be constructed in areas which will be declared as special economic zones, and exempt from real-estate taxes and lessening the type of permits required. But until now, I am only hearing about it,” he said, adding that Congress may seriously consider such a proposal and approve it if it is meritorious.