POSTSCRIPT / October 7, 2014 / Tuesday

By FEDERICO D. PASCUAL JR.

Opinion Columnist

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Don’t listen to voices, just forego reelection

HEARING VOICES: There is nothing basically wrong with President Noynoy Aquino listening to the voice of the people. In fact, he should be doing that more often, although he must make sure he is not just hearing voices in the dark or the whispers of a cabal holding him hostage.

Also, after he hears the people’s voice with compelling clarity, he should heed it.

When the latest survey showed that six in every 10 adult Filipinos are not in favor of President Aquino running again for the presidency in 2016 even if the Constitution is amended to allow his reelection, he should move on from hearing to heeding the call.

Asked if they favor President Aquino’s running again in 2016 if the Constitution were amended to allow it, 62 percent of the respondents said No, while 38 percent said Yes.

That should have been clear enough, but the President keeps muttering about wanting to listen some more to the voices.

* * *

ELECTIONS, NOT SURVEYS: The fact is that asking the Yes-or-No question in a survey is a non-binding concession to a president clutching at straws that he may yet hear even the faintest hint of a clamor for his reelection.

Even if they show that an overwhelming majority of respondents favor reelection, surveys cannot subvert a clear constitutional ban against a follow-up term for a sitting president.

The reason is simple. Surveys, like the raising of hands in the assemblies of the bad old days of Marcosian martial rule, cannot take the place of honest elections in determining the democratic vote of the sovereign people.

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2010 COVENANT: How can a survey be authoritative where only 1,200 respondents in a stratified population of 100 million are asked? To the skeptics, the sample looks too small and restricted to be representative of the total population.

With just 1,200 respondents, no representative voices were heard from many of the 1,490 towns and 144 cities scattered over more than 7,000 islands. Pollsters say modern scientific methods have overcome this limitation, but such assurance is not enough.

The Constitution and implementing laws have laid down the procedure whereby the true voice of the people is heard. The process calls for elections and referenda, with safeguards, to enable people to have their voice heard and their votes counted.

President Aquino should just respect the constitutional ban on any reelection and stick to the one-term covenant he voluntarily entered into in 2010.

If the Constitution is amended to allow a reelection, that new rule should apply prospectively to the next president elected in 2016, not to him.

* * *

INCOMPETENCE: The way the power picture is darkening, and with the usual slick operators salivating for the blackouts, it looks like it will be every man for himself next year unless consumers allow President Aquino to wield emergency powers in dealing with the looming crisis.

But before the lights go out and the rates shoot up, some people high up in government should be held responsible for the power rationing and the sharp rise in the cost of electricity generated from an improvised remedial system.

As far back as five years ago, everybody saw the power crisis coming – except the on-the-job trainees in Malacañang. Now the consuming public will pay very dearly for this incompetence.

* * *

CLARK MEASURES: Even such an enclave as the Clark Freeport in Pampanga is frantically preparing to generate or consolidate its own power supply.

Clark Freeport needs 95 megawatts of power to service its own requirements and that of its locators. Its extra supply is so thin that it may snap if any tripping occurs. A bigger buffer is needed to attract quality investors.

President and CEO Arthur P. Tugade of the Clark Development Corp. has been pushing several measures, including the putting up of additional generating capacities.

Clark is considering making itself a retail electricity supplier by entering into contracts and consolidating extra supply from nearby entities with generating units like the TIPCO paper mill, SM Clark and GNPower.

Tugade also seeks the reclassification of Clark’s 230-kilovolt substation from its status as connection line into a transmission asset so it could be taken over by NGCP, which is a more competent power manager than the CDC or the Bases Conversion Development Authority.

* * *

MORE POWER: Additionally, CDC has signed a 25-year lease with Enfinity, a Belgian renewable energy developer, for a solar power project to generate at least 10 megawatts to be passed on to the national grid.

Enfinity Philippines Renewable Resources Inc. plans to lay out some 220,000 solar panels to beef up Clark Freeport supply when the Malampaya plant shuts down for maintenance in 2015. Listed as the 5th solar developer in the world, Enfinity pledges to invest P814 million and start operations in June 2015.

Tugade said CDC is about to conclude also a deal with an American firm for waste-to-energy (WTE) power generation. It aims to provide “in plant” facility to its clients, planning to use trash as fuel without polluting the environment.

Its initial quote is at P6.20 per kwh plus P1 per kwh distribution rate. It said the net power cost of P7.20 per kwh will be the fixed rate for the entire lease period.

Partnering with BCDA and private firms like possibly Hanjin or Kepco, CDC is also considering putting up a coal-fired plant in Mariveles, Bataan, to generate up to 300 mw.

(First published in the Philippine STAR of October 7, 2014)

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