POSTSCRIPT / September 16, 2014 / Tuesday

By FEDERICO D. PASCUAL JR.

Opinion Columnist

Share on facebook
Share This
Share on twitter
Twitter

Emergency powers strip Noy of excuses

NO MORE EXCUSES: We are caught in a dark corner where we have no choice but to beg the Congress to give President Noynoy Aquino emergency powers to nip the budding electricity shortage threatening to hit Luzon next year.

Let’s give the Chief Executive the legal tools he said he needs. That way, he would have no more excuse for failing to address adequately the power shortage forecast at the start of his term more than four years ago.

If after being armed with emergency powers he still fails to crank up adequate electricity, plus a safe buffer in reserve at least for the medium term, then we better start praying for divine deliverance from the administration’s incompetence.

* * *

TRUCK BAN LIFTED: At City Hall, Mayor Erap Estrada has issued an executive order lifting indefinitely the truck ban that some businessmen blame for the traffic chaos that has crippled the metropolis and triggered a price increase of essential commodities.

It is interesting that other sectors saw another angle: that the Manila truck ban merely exposed the mess long festering at the ports and the lack of central planning and coordination among government agencies.

Under the ban, eight-wheeler trucks with a gross weight of more than 4,500 kilograms were not allowed in Manila streets from 6 – 10 a.m. and 5 – 10 p.m. The ban’s lifting means only the trucking schedule set by the Metro Manila Development Authority will be followed.

With Malacañang and the MMDA stripped of one of the excuses for their continued failure to ease vehicular traffic in the national capital and the supposedly consequent rising of prices, we would see in the coming days if they are up to the job.

* * *

GIVE IT TO HIM: Bedeviled by a looming power crisis that could torpedo development plans, President Aquino has been toying with the idea of assuming emergency powers to lick the problem.

Last Thursday, in a speech at the launching of the Pagbilao III power plant, he finally made public his intention to seek a joint congressional resolution to “contract” additional generating capacity of around 600 megawatts.

He said: “To be more efficient and impactful in our efforts, we will formally ask Congress for a joint resolution that will authorize the national government to contract an additional generating capacity to address the 300-megawatt projected deficit, and, on top of that, to have sufficient regulating reserves equivalent to 4 percent of peak demand, for another 300 megawatts.”

We urge the Congress, which he controls anyway, to give him pronto the emergency powers he seeks so we can see the end to the excuses and the blame game.

* * *

SAFEGUARDS NEEDED: It is too early to say what exactly the emergency powers President Aquino will ask for, and get, from his allies in the Congress.

Without well-thought out safeguards, consumers could be pushed off a dark cliff like when then President Fidel V. Ramos, using emergency powers, signed away contracts to Independent Power Producers that resulted in soaring electricity rates.

In many cases, the IPPs were paid according to their rated capacity regardless of whether or not they actually delivered the rated quantity. There was the anomaly of inefficient plants or scheming operators delivering below capacity but being paid in full.

In a power crisis, consumers are invariably forced to choose between paying more for less and just cursing the blackouts.

* * *

WOLVES WAITING: Who will police the Congress when it crafts the emergency powers resolution? There are already reports of excited lobbying by the usual slick operators and power moguls salivating to exploit the emergency that they themselves had helped engineer.

Proponents could invoke Section 71 of the Electric Power Industry Reform Act (Epira) of 2001 which states broadly that Congress could allow the “establishment of additional generating capacity under such terms and conditions as it may approve.”

The President gave assurance in his speech, however, that “government intervention will be focused solely on addressing the projected shortage. xxx We have no plans of intervening to distort the market or complicate the situation even further.”

The technical report in his State of the Nation Address last July said the energy shortage in Luzon was seen at 400 to 1,000 megawatts from March to May next year.

* * *

CONSUMER PROTECTION: Clothed with emergency powers, Malacañang may decide later to widen the buffer capacity — and that could affect retail electricity rates significantly and pad consumer expenses indirectly.

In addition to just “contracting additional generating capacity,” the President has reportedly instructed the Department of Energy to “continue to solicit participation” in the Interruptible Load Program (ILP) until 2015.

The program seeks to involve big firms with spare generators to make their units available to supply additional capacity. The government would then compensate the generator owners with the approval of the Energy Regulatory Commission.

Reimbursement by the government will mean taxpayers eventually footing the additional cost. Even in a power crisis, the generators, distributors and the government always come out on top. Nobody stands up to protect consumers.

* * *

ALPED’S ANGIOPLASTY SUCCESSFUL: We his friends and admirers were happy to read yesterday a Facebook posting of Pilipino Star Ngayon editor-in-chief Al Pedroche, 65, who is also our favorite lay preacher:

“After the severe chest pain I suffered yesterday morning, I took it upon myself to be rushed to the Manila Doctors Hospital. It was a heart attack says Dr. Morales and his staff immediately conducted a medical procedure on me called angioplasty. Thank God it was a success. Thanks for your prayers, dear friends.”

* * *

(First published in the Philippine STAR of September 16, 2014)

Share your thoughts.

Your email address will not be published.