The House of Representatives on Wednesday granted emergency powers to President Benigno Aquino 3rd to allow him to address an expected power supply shortfall next year.
The House, through a 149-18 vote, approved Joint Resolution 21 on third reading, thus allowing the government to financially compensate private companies that will use their self-generating facilities or power generators for their own power supply during the summer months to ease the demand in the national grid under the Interruptible Load Program (ILP).
The emergency powers authorize the government to spend P450 million in subsidies for the private firms that will participate in the ILP in an effort to raise around 800 megawatts (MW) of additional power supply.
The government subsidy will include part of the ILP participants’ expenditures on fuel cost and their Value-Added Tax or VAT dues.
The House was able to pull support for the measure despite staunch protests from opposition lawmakers, considering that the Energy department had admitted that the emergency powers are meant for backing up a 647 MW power reserve, not supply.
Speaker Feliciano Belmonte Jr., however, argued that the Aquino administration cannot take its chances on slim power reserves, which can easily run dry if one power plant suddenly goes on forced outage over maintenance issues.
“We have enough power in the country. What is important is for the owners to put such power on grid. That is the reason why we want to have emergency powers, so we can compel them to do that. If power outages happen, people won’t blame Neri [Colmenares]. It’s the President who will take the blame. We are playing safe here so that nobody will be blamed for anything if in case power outages happen,” Belmonte told reporters in an interview.
He was referring to House Deputy Minority Leader Neri Colmenares of Bayan Muna party-list.
“Madaling magsalita ngayon. Pagdating ng Marso o Abril, hindi mo na makikita iyang mga nagsasalita na iyan. Isa lang ang makikita mo, si Presidente. Siya ang tatanungin mo, paano nangyari ito [It’s easy to say such things at this time. But come March or April, you won’t look for the President’s critics. You will only look at the President. It’s the President who will be asked, how did these [power outages]happen under your watch]?” Belmonte said.