CONGRESS is not likely to pass a joint resolution giving President Benigno Aquino 3rd special powers anytime soon because senators want to thoroughly study the matter first.
Sen. Sergio Osmena 3rd, who heads the Senate Committee on Energy, on Tuesday said the Senate will not grant extra powers to the President just because he said so or because the Department of Energy (DoE) recommended it.
“We all know what happened in 1992, so we have to be very careful about what type of powers we will extend to them,” Osmena noted, referring to the granting of special powers to then-President Fidel Ramos that led to high cost of electricity.
It was Energy Secretary Jericho Petilla, during a budget hearing of the Senate committee on finance, who informed the senators that Congress needs to pass a joint resolution giving Aquino emergency powers by the end of the month.
The President sent letters to the Senate and the House of Representatives on Monday requesting immediate enactment of the joint resolution authorizing him to establish additional generating capacity in accordance with Section 71 of the Electric Power Industry Reform Act of 2001 or the Epira law.
Section 71 of the Epira allows the President, upon determination of imminent shortage of supply of electricity and with joint approval of Congress, to search for additional generating capacity under approved terms and conditions.
Osmena said the executive should not rush Congress into enacting the resolution.
He recalled that he has been telling the Department of Energy (DOE) since 2011 about a looming power crisis but nobody listened to him.
He added that Petilla even said in May that the country will have no brownouts next year.
“Then they send a letter to us and they want it acted upon by the end of this month? No sir!” Osmena said.
The senator added that he wants the DOE to provide more details because based on his estimates, the establishment of additional generating capacity would hike power rates to P15 per kilowatt hour or even as high as P20 per kwh.
Senate President Franklin Drilon agreed that it is impossible to have the resolution approved by the end of September because the Senate has not been given the draft.
“We don’t know the parameters of the authority being requested. We know the urgency, but we can’t rush into this,” Drilon pointed out.
The Senate chief, however, gave assurances that the chamber will work as fast as it can but they cannot rush the enactment because the issue is complicated.
The Senate only has four sessions left before it goes on a three-week recess starting on September 27.
The Trade Union Congress of the Philippines-Nagkaisa (TUCP-Nagkaisa) also on Tuesday said it will support the grant of extra powers to the President as long as proposed solutiosn will not drive up electricity rates.
The group also called for a revamp at the Power Sector Assets and Liabilities Management Corp. (PSALM) and the Energy Regulatory Commission (ERC).
“TUCP-Nagkaisa will support the President but the solutions proposed should not punish workers and their families with an increase in power rates. We insist that the DOE now present their tariff simulations and cost-impact scenarios to the public so we will know what to do,” TUCP Executive Director Luis Corral said.
TUCP spokesman Alan Tanjusay said some of the solutions to the impending power shortage involve purchase of gas turbines and diesel-powered generation sets.
According to Tanjusay, the purchase of the turbines and sets will drive power rates up.
He accused PSALM of criminal negligence for not including in its budget the case of illegally terminated workers of the National Power Corp.
With JING VILLAMENTE