Rep. Ben Evardone of Eastern Samar province won’t ditch his call for emergency powers for President Benigno Aquino 3rd despite opposition from administration and opposition lawmakers, saying that such a bold move was needed at this time.
Evardone stood his ground that he will move to grant emergency powers to President although a number of his colleagues including Speaker Feliciano Belmonte, Jr., House Deputy Minority Leader Neri Colmenares of Bayan Muna party-list and Sen. Francis Escudero thumbed down his proposal either because the President did not ask for it, it could drive away investors and it would breed corruption because of a shortened procurement process.
Evardone explained that it takes three to seven years to build a single power plant, a timeframe which can’t certainly keep up with the growing demand for power as a result of a spurring economy and an increasing population. The emergency powers, he argued, would enable the President to fast-track the construction of power plants.
“The demand for power is increasing but our power generation capacity is slow. My call is just for simplifying the Procurement Law and the Swiss Challenge mode because these are complicated and lengthy processes,” Evardone, the vice chairman of the House appropriations panel, told a press conference.
A Swiss challenge is a form of public procurement which requires a government agency that received an unsolicited bid for a public project or services to be provided to government to publish the bid and invite third parties to match or exceed it.
“In the government, buying office supplies alone would take 92 days. How much more for power plants? The process takes so long. We need to have a drastic, comprehensive and bold move at this time. We need to do something,” the solon added.
Power distribution firm Manila Electric Company is looking to impose an unprecedented P4.15 per kilowatt hour power rate increase in light of the month-long Malampaya natural gas plant shutdown last year which coincided with the unplanned outages of other power suppliers.
Evardone further argued that the government cannot continue to depend on procuring diesel-powered power barges and coal-powered power plants because of the fragile nature of these sources due to volatile diesel prices and coal not being environment friendly.
“It has been said that we could have problems come summer. What do we do? We cannot have these palliative solutions. We have little reserves that are fragile. Unless we secure a comfortable reserve, we will be at the mercy of the power producers,” he pointed out.
In opposing Evardone’s pitch, Escudero recalled that Congress’ granting of emergency powers to Fidel Ramos to address the power crisis in the 1990s backfired because it led to higher power costs.
This came about because Ramos issued licenses to independent power producers (IPPs) to construct power plants within 24 months, with his administration approving supply contracts that guaranteed state purchase of the IPPs.
“That [higher power costs]happened because at that time, we had nowhere else to go. We don’t have to let the power distributors and generators come up with contracts. Because of that, these IPPs are not producing anymore and yet we continue to pay them. We can’t wait for that to happen,” Evardone added.
The lawmaker is also calling for an Presidential emergency powers to address the mass transport problem in the country.
He cited the study conducted by the Japan International Cooperation Agency and the University of the Philippines that found that the country foregoes P140 billion in revenues owing to traffic logjams.
“Imagine P140 billion worth foregone revenues. Also, what happened to the extension from Marcos Highway to Masinag which is such a short distance? The MRT 7 from North Avenue to San Jose del Monte? These have taken too long,” Evardone concluded. Llanesca T. Panti