EVEN without a request coming from the President Benigno Aquino 3rd, asking congress to grant him special powers, Senator Antonio Trillanes 4th, went ahead and filed a measure granting the chief executive special authority for him to prevent the looming power crisis in the country.
Trillanes, in filing senate bill 2051, insisted that the president needs emergency powers in light of the threat of rotating blackouts in areas being serviced by the Manila Electric Company (Meralco) which is expected to take place during second quarter of the year.
Under his proposal President Aquino will be granted the power to enter into negotiated contracts for the construction, repair, rehabilitation, improvement and/or maintenance of power plants, projects and facilities whenever necessary for the national welfare and in the public interest.
The proposed emergency authority introduced by Trillanes is almost similar to the powers given by congress to then President Fidel Ramos, during the power crisis in the 1993.
However, Trillanes’ proposal prohibits the government from granting sovereign guarantees for the payment of obligations incurred by the Independent Power Producers (IPPs).
The proposed bill also disallows the inclusion of onerous ‘take or pay’ contracts or similar provisions which, according to Trillanes, have been abused in the past.
Suggestion to grant Aquino emergency powers was first aired by Eastern Samar Rep. Ben Evardone, in order to speed up the construction of needed power plants to address the power crisis.
But members of the congress and even the president himself have expressed disinterest on the proposal.
Senator Sonny Angara said that instead of emergency powers the government should find ways on how to fast tract the application process for new power plants which would help in providing additional power to meet the demands of the country.
Senators Francis Escudero, Joseph Victor Ejercito, Ralph Recto and Serge Osmena were also hesitant to the idea and insisted that there are other available options for the government to consider.
But Trillanes insisted that granting the president emergency authority could help the country have enough supply of electricity and avert future shortages.
Trillane’s bill likewise authorizes the President to compel IPPs to sell power to distribution utilities like MERALCO as well as power distribution cooperatives and to fix the rate of return of the IPPs on their rate base to a reasonable rate not to exceed twelve percent per annum.
SB 2051 also empowers the president to use all available funds, including the Malampaya Fund, to finance the maintenance, rehabilitation, and replacement of energy infrastructure in preparation for and/or in response to natural and man-made calamities, and to finance subsidy for energy consumption by end users in case of market failure.
The senator expressed belief that if approved, the President would be in a better position to protect consumers, who are already reeling not only from the recent calamities but also from seemingly endless increases in the cost of gasoline and diesel, liquefied petroleum gas (LPG), water, transport fare as well as in the premium contributions imposed by the Social Security System (SSS), PhilHealth, PAG-IBIG fund. JEFFERSON ANTIPORDA