Palace: Special powers to serve national interest
The Philippine Star
February 22, 2010 12:00 AM
MANILA, Philippines – President Arroyo would have the national interest in mind if she decides to exercise emergency powers in case of a power and water crisis, Malacañang said yesterday.
Deputy presidential spokesman Gary Olivar said Mrs. Arroyo is waiting for the recommendation of Energy Secretary Angelo Reyes, whom she ordered to inspect power facilities nationwide and dialogue with stakeholders.
“This is something the President will consider together with any other suggestion from concerned citizens about how to resolve our problems brought by El Niño on both our water and power requirements,” he said.
Speaking over the government-run radio station dzRB, Olivar said Mrs. Arroyo would do what’s best for the country if she has to exercise emergency powers.
“We don’t know, but we can be sure the President will act on the best interests of the people in mind,” he said.
Olivar said the opposition must raise the matter with Cagayan de Oro City Rep. Rufus Rodriquez if they object to his proposal for Mrs. Arroyo to exercise emergency powers.
“This (issue) should not be an excuse to criticize her as part of their campaign,” he said.
“All of us should pull together under her leadership in order to address this problem together as one nation. This is something that should rise versus campaigning or partisanship,” he added.
Olivar refused to comment on the allegations of Liberal Party standard-bearer Benigno “Noynoy” Aquino III that the administration was using the apprehensions about the power crisis in connection with the automated elections on May 10.
On the other hand, pro-administration Senators Joker Arroyo and Edgardo Angara said Mrs. Arroyo may exercise emergency powers in issues involving national interest, including the need to address the energy crisis.
Angara, chairman of the Senate finance committee and head of the bicameral panel that approved the over P1-trillion 2010 budget, said Mrs. Arroyo even has in her disposal P12 billion in supplemental budget which Congress authorized in November last year.
Mrs. Arroyo can use the P12-billion fund because the present energy crisis, worsened by El Nino, is a “weather-related” concern, he added.
The supplemental budget was approved to address the devastation wreaked by tropical depression “Ondoy” and typhoon “Pepeng” last year.
Speaking over radio station dzBB, Angara said that if Mrs. Arroyo uses her emergency powers, this includes the power allowing her to “deploy the calamity fund.”
“Remember, she has a standby authority to spend P12 billion,” he said.
“That’s a standby power. She can use it because this is weather-related. As long as it is a weather-related calamity,” he said.
Sen. Arroyo said that under the Constitution, Mrs. Arroyo can exercise emergency powers in times of emergency.
“It is not necessary to grant her emergency powers,” he said. “She can exercise those powers without being given by Congress. It’s in the Constitution. The President can in times of emergency exercise emergency powers.
He said the government can intervene especially now that the elections are just around the corner.
The government cannot afford to have a failure of elections or even low turnout because power outages will hamper poll automation, he added.
The senator said franchises granted to public utilities like power distributors, power generation firms and TV and radio networks contain a proviso on “temporary takeover” when national interest requires.
“In an emergency the government can come in and intervene,” he said. “The government rarely exercises that. I don’t think the government will ever exercise that.”
However, Sen. Arroyo said the government can “direct” the operations of public utilities if the need arises.
“It’s very difficult to take over,” he said. “It does not have the expertise to run those power plants. We have no experience on that because the government has not used that power yet.” – Paolo Romero, Christina Mendez