Petilla to Congress: Act fast, energy crisis looms
MANILA, Philippines – Time is running out on addressing the looming power crisis, Energy Secretary Carlos Jericho Petilla stressed, as he lamented that the misgivings that some lawmakers have are prevailing over granting President Benigno Aquino III emergency powers.
In an interview with ANC on Monday, September 22, Petilla urged Congress to act fast on his proposal to give emergency powers to the President, and to give the real score to those who are not convinced by the idea.
"They're saying they want to make sure they're not giving the President blanket authority. They don't understand what's going on,” Petilla said.
He said he had been meeting with the Joint Congressional Power Commission to help assess viable options to address the imminent power crisis.
To contract additional power supply, the government is looking into renting, buying existing power plants, or purchasing power from private companies under the Interruptible Load Program (ILP).
On September 12, President Aquino asked Congress to grant him powers to contract additional power generating capacity to address the expected shortage in 2015.
"In accordance with Section 71 of Republic Act No. 9136, otherwise known as the Electric Power Industry Reform Act of 2001, I hereby seek the immediate enactment of a Joint Resolution authorizing the President to establish additional generating capacity," the President said in a letter to Speaker Feliciano Belmonte Jr.
It was also cited in the letter that the government would spend P6 billion ($134.93 million)* to contract 300 megawatts (MW) of additional capacity.
Senators Franklin Drilon and Sergio Osmeña III both said Malacañang should not expect the resolution to be ready by the end of September, like it requested, as both houses of Congress need to carefully deliberate on the matter.
The Department of Energy (DOE) previously said there would be a power supply shortfall of up to 300 MW in the summer months of 2015 in Luzon. An additional 400 MW to 500 MW are needed as buffer supply.
Petilla added that once the 2015 shortage is fixed, supply for the succeeding years should also be secured.
Tap the private sector
The private sector can still contract additional energy even if the government is seeking emergency powers for President Aquino, Petilla said.
However, letting the private sector do all the sourcing will lead to higher electricity costs for consumers, Petilla warned.
"Can they build one? The answer is yes. Will they build? They won't build it if nobody foots the bills," Petilla pointed out.
Senator Miriam Defensor Santiago said on September 17 that she is in favor of granting President Aquino emergency powers for only 6 months, citing lack of time and high costs to build more power plants.
Petilla also pointed out that the Manila Electric Company (Meralco) has, so far, been able to sign up only 115 MW of power supply augmentation in an 8-month period, despite DOE urging the utility firm to save up to 400 MW under ILP.
"I told them (Meralco), gather 400MW of ILP. Since December  up to August, with all the pressure we've been giving Meralco, they were only able to sign up 115MW," Petilla said.
Meralco proposed the ILP, a scheme where energy users with large loads, such as business establishments and factories, will be required to run their standby generator sets to ease the demand for power from the grid during peak hours.
Petilla also clarified that rate increases would still be possible – but lower – once emergency powers are granted to President Aquino. – Rappler.com