Malacañang on Friday shrugged off a growing clamor for Energy Secretary Carlos Jericho Petilla to resign for allegedly fabricating a power crisis scenario next summer.
Several groups, including the Trade Union Congress of the Philippines-led Nagkaisa, accused Petilla of painting a false picture to justify the call for emergency powers for President Benigno Aquino 3rd.
“Secretary Petilla took the country for a ride. He bluffed the President, the Cabinet, the senators and congressmen, the business sector, the labor and consumer groups with his tall tales of thin power reserves to justify emergency powers that entail possible purchase of multibillion-peso generator sets,” Nagkaisa said in a statement.
But Presidential Communications Secretary Herminio Coloma Jr. maintained that Petilla did not deceive anyone, and that even President Aquino “has affirmed need to prepare for contingency.”
At a forum of foreign correspondents last Wednesday, the President reiterated the need for Congress to provide him with the means to “prepare for the worst” if a power shortage sets in next year.
“At the end of the day, if there is no power, and the selling of power for that matter, if there is no power come our summer months, there will only be one party that will be blamed, and that will be the executive,” Aquino said.
At a House hearing on Monday, the Department of Energy predicted three to five-hour rotating brownouts for five straight days in a row in the summer of 2015, contrary to the data of the House energy committee that showed only a 31-megawatt shortfall, or a one-hour rotating brownout for one day in a week.
Aquino is asking Congress to issue a joint resolution to grant him special powers that will allow the government to buy or lease generator sets to augment the thinning power reserves.
While the House was earlier open to granting him powers, lawmakers appear less inclined to do so after comparing data, and seem more likely to recommend the Interruptible Load Program (ILP) to address the energy shortage.
The ILP is a voluntary scheme where customers with large power loads, such as factories and malls, will be asked to operate their own generator sets during peak hours. The ILP, rather than contracting power, would also be a less costly option.
Aquino acknowledged that the ILP “is a plausible substitute” but said “these standby generators for the most part have never been considered as baseload plants.”
Also on Friday, Petilla reiterated the need for emergency presidential powers, saying the best antidote to a power crisis is to contract additional generating capacity.
He downplayed suggestions to postpone the Malampaya shutdown scheduled from March to June next year, saying suspending the shutdown would only result in bigger revenue losses for the government.
“A reserve shortage is a power crisis problem, that’s what people don’t understand,” Petilla told a television interview.