House to approve joint reso on special powers this month
MANILA, Philippines – (UPDATED) The chair of the House Committee on Energy said that the House will approve this month the joint resolution seeking to grant President Benigno Aquino III special powers to address the looming power supply shortage.
“I see this being approved on the third and final reading. We will be done and over with this before October ends. Majority of us in the House will approve it,” said Oriental Mindoro Represenative Reynaldo Umali.
Congress will end its three-week break on October 20, but will go on another break on October 31.
“The week of October 22, the draft would have already been approved in the committee level. Then on the week of October 27, before going on another break, the House version should be approved already by Congress,” Umali said.
A separate version of the joint draft resolution is pending before the Senate where the Senator Sergio Osmeña III, chair of the energy committee, had expressed reluctance to grant special powers to the President.
Asked about Osmeña's position that most lawmakers believe that the government should not get involved in power generation, Umali said: “He is only one of the many senators. So, let’s wait and see. As far as the House is concerned, we will approve it within October."
The lower House received the request for the grant of special powers on September 12, and had conducted several hearings since then. Speaker Feliciano Belmonte Jr had said that granting the President special powers is possible within 2014.
A draft of the resolution submitted by the Department of Energy (DOE) seeks to grant the President authority to negotiate contracts for the acquisition of additional generation capacity – either through lease or purchase – of about 500 megawatts (MW).
While the Electric Power Industry Reform Act (EPIRA) prohibits the government from putting up power plants, Section 71 of the law states that the President, upon determination of an imminent shortage of supply of electricity, may ask Congress for authority, through a joint resolution, to establish additional generating capacity under such terms and conditions.
Asked for possible revisions of the draft joint resolution that the House is looking into, Umali said the effectivity of the special powers should only be from March to July 2015.
He added: “We have to define how many MW of additional capacity is needed. It can’t be a moving target. Our third concern here is the cost. Definitely, we are pushing for government subsidy."
For government to purchase additional capacity, it should shell out P10 billion ($223.15 million*), excluding fuel. If government opts for lease then it would still have to pay P6 billion ($133.89 million), plus fuel cost.
Funding can be sourced from the Malampaya funds, which hit P148 billion ($3.30 million) as of December last year.
“We are pushing for government subsidy but the cost would really depend on what option will be chosen. We are giving the President the flexibility,” Umali said.
The government is also considering the expansion of the Interruptible Load Program (ILP).
With the ILP, power supply from the grid that will not be consumed by participating customers will be available for use by other customers within the franchise area. – Rappler.com
($1 = P44.81)