There is no need to rush approval of a resolution granting President Benigno Aquino 3rd special powers to address an anticipated energy crisis next year, Sen. Sergio Osmeña 3rd said on Thursday.
The Senate can even approve it this coming February, Osmeña added.
On Wednesday, the House of Representatives passed on third and final reading Joint House Resolution 21 authorizing the President to establish additional generating capacity for Luzon in anticipation of a power shortage next summer.
Osmena said he needs to study the resolution to fully grasp its intention.
“I don’t know what they [House of Representatives] mean by additional generating capacity and I don’t know how that resolution would bring it about. But let me read it again,” the chairman of the Senate Committee on Energy, said.
But he maintained there is no need for Congress to give the President extra powers because there are other ways to boost Luzon’s energy reserves, one of them the Interruptible Load Program (ILP).
“We can pass the resolution authorizing certain powers to the President in February, they will be perfectly fine. There is no time to pass it this year. And besides, it is completely unnecessary anyway. If it were necessary, we would have passed it already,” Osmena said.
The Senate’s counterpart resolution also gives powers to the President but only for exempting the Korea Electric Power Corp. (Kepco) from the Clean Air Act.
Kepco runs the natural gas plant in Ilihan, Batangas, and has agreed to provide 500 megawatts from March to April.
It will be using diesel, and the plant needs to conduct a major clean-up that would take at least five days, hence the need for the exemption.
The Senate can also authorize the President to tap the Malampaya fund to pay for extra storage facility for the diesel that Kepco will use and to deliver fuel to the Malaya power plant to increase its output by 300 megawatts, Osmeña said.
Aquino does not need special powers for the ILP, the senator added. “We did not ask for special powers when we carry out the program in Cebu. We did not ask for money. It is automatic and it works very well.
Even taxes are not a problem in Cebu or in Davao. But they seem to think that it would be a problem here,” he said.
According to Osmena, another 300 megawatts of hydro power and an additional 300 MW from Malaya are available once the plant is fully repaired.
“So we will have sufficient power to say that our reserve of 1,600 MW will be covered,” he said.
Rep. Reynaldo Umali, Osmeña’s counterpart in the House, stressed the need for emergency powers for the President because the country’s power supply next summer needs to be increased by as much as 1,028 megawatts (MW) to make up for a five-month suspension of environmental laws.
Umali made the statement in reaction to a warning of House Deputy Minority Leader Neri Colmenares that the plants would use the emergency powers to skirt environmental laws.
Colmenares said the government will be hard-pressed to make the plants comply with environmental laws.
But Umali argued that the suspension of environmental measures would only cover four plants with a total capacity of 1,028 megawatts.
“If you are in a crisis, you don’t have the luxury to choose. They should try to understand that. After five months, they [power plants who went on grid from March to July]should comply [with environmental laws].
Otherwise, their operations will be stopped by the government,” he said in a news conference also on Thursday.
Umali said the Clean Air Act needs to be waived so that the 300-MW Malaya plant, which runs on bunker fuel, can be tapped. The Biofuels Act would also need to be suspended so that the public can use the 600-MW Ilihan plant.
The House voted 149-18 to approve Joint Resolution 21 on third reading.
With RITCHIE A. HORARIO