Reyes pushes Arroyo emergency powers, cites crisis of power in South

Reyes pushes Arroyo emergency powers, cites crisis of power in South
By Amy R. Remo, Christine Avendaño
Philippine Daily Inquirer

MANILA, Philippines—Energy Secretary Angelo T. Reyes has asked President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo to declare a power crisis in Mindanao so the government can use “emergency powers” to address the island’s worsening supply shortage, which has led to brownouts of up to 24 hours.

Reyes said declaring a power crisis would allow the government to invoke Section 71 of the Electric Power Industry Reform Act (EPIRA) and enable state-run National Power Corp. (Napocor) to buy or lease modular generation sets to augment the power supply in Mindanao.

The generator sets can be made available in one month, but these will be “very expensive sources of power,” Reyes said.

Ms Arroyo’s deputy spokesperson, Gary Olivar, said the President would give “utmost consideration” to the recommendation of Reyes.

“Mindanao is the region with the biggest power deficit, rotating brownouts … and the most dependent on hydroelectric power sources now hit by El Niño,” Olivar said in a statement.

A prolonged dry spell has reduced the generating capacity of the island’s hydroelectric power plants by 80 percent from 982 megawatts (MW) to just 215 MW, according to National Grid Corp. of the Philippines (NGCP).

Hydroelectric plants (whose turbines are powered by running water) used to supply 53 percent of Mindanao’s power needs.

Seven-hour outage

NGCP president Walter W. Brown said the supply shortfall on Saturday resulted in outages of about one hour in Davao City, two hours in Iligan City, four to five hours in Cagayan de Oro and General Santos cities, and seven hours in Zamboanga City.

Parts of Davao Oriental had no power for 24 hours during the weekend.

Reyes said the generating capacity of the Agus and Pulangui hydropower plants had been reduced by 80 percent and 90 percent, respectively, due to very little water inflow into the reservoir.

The 35-MW Iligan diesel power plant remained unavailable, he added.

Water crisis

Olivar said Ms Arroyo would also likely look at the proposal of Senate Majority Leader Miguel Zubiri for the signing of a Senate and House measure seeking to expand and develop water districts.

“That’s a suggestion that is worth considering and the President will look at it, together with other suggestions that have reached her to address the power and water crises,” Olivar said in another interview with dzRB radio.

Senate Minority Leader Aquilino Pimentel Jr. said he was “uneasy” with the idea of Ms Arroyo resorting to emergency powers.

“I am not comfortable with the thought of using emergency powers if it will not be exercised—let us say by Napocor—without strict guidelines from Congress,” Pimentel said in a phone interview.

Anyway, he said it would be too late for Congress to take this up because “everyone is deep in campaigning.”

Pimentel instead proposed that the government mobilize power barges to resolve the power crisis in Mindanao.

Pampanga Rep. Juan Miguel “Mikey” Arroyo, chair of the House energy committee and son of the President, called for a hearing on Monday to discuss the power situation in Mindanao.

He earlier scoffed at suggestions that his mother be given emergency powers to address the energy crisis on the island.

Automated elections

Fearing that the severe power shortage would endanger the conduct of automated elections there, Cagayan de Oro Rep. Rufus Rodriguez proposed two weeks ago that Ms Arroyo be given emergency powers.

Brown reported that the system demand in the Mindanao grid was expected to reach 1,221 MW within the week, while the gross power reserve would continue to post deficits.

“In Luzon, power supply will continue to be normal and will further improve after the expected completion of the preventive maintenance of the Malampaya natural gas facilities on March 5,” Reyes said in a statement.

He said the Visayas grid would not encounter supply problems starting March “barring force majeure occurrences and other unforeseen developments such as fuel supply constraints and, the effects of the El Niño phenomenon.”

Reyes said at a previous briefing that the government had begun implementing measures to ensure that Mindanao gets adequate power reserves in time for the general elections on May 10.

The ProPinoy Project