Arroyo supports proposal on Mindanao power crisis

Arroyo supports proposal on Mindanao power crisis
GMA News

President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo will heed the recommendation of Energy Secretary Angelo Reyes to declare an energy crisis in Mindanao so the government can take further steps to generate more electricity for the region, which has been experiencing rotating brownouts for several weeks now.

Mrs. Arroyo told reporters after the Metrobank Foundation’s Search for The Outstanding Philippine Soldiers (TOPS) awarding ceremony in Malacañang on Thursday that she would follow Reyes’s proposal to invoke Section 71 of the Electric Power Industry Restructuring Act (Epira).

“I’m adopting the recommendations,” she said.

Section 71 of the Epira reads: “Upon the determination by the President of the Philippines of an imminent shortage of the supply of electricity, Congress may authorize, through a joint resolution, the establishment of additional generating capacity under such terms and conditions as it may approve.”

Declaring a power crisis is the first step needed to secure an exemption from the privatization of the power generation business, which is mandated by the Epira.

Once she has made the declaration, Congress can go on a special session during the electoral campaign period and approve a resolution that will enable the government to take additional measures to address the power shortage, such as leasing or purchasing generator sets and barges or negotiating for short-term electric supply contracts for the region.

Power shortage in Mindanao

Press Secretary Crispulo Icban Jr. had earlier said the President is determined to solve the power shortage in Mindanao, which is feared to last until June, thus possibly affecting the conduct of the automated elections in May.

Last week, Reyes submitted a recommendation to the President asking her to declare a power crisis in Mindanao.

Among the DOE’s recommendations for solving the Mindanao power crisis are the rental of 160-megawatt (MW) generator sets and the operation and maintenance of the Alsons Corp.’s 30-megawatt Iligan Diesel Power Plant 1.

The energy chief also recommended that the government enter into an operation and maintenance agreement with Alsons Corp. for the 70-megawatt Iligan Diesel Power Plant 2, and enter into a contract with Southern Philippines Power Corp. for another five megawatts of electricity.

The National Power Corp. (Napocor) has pegged the estimated cost of these measures at P8 billion to P10 billion. The rental will depend on the length of the prolonged dry season brought about by El Niño, which is expected to last until June.

More than 50 percent of Mindanao’s electric supply comes from hydroelectric power plants, which have been producing less electricity in the past few weeks due to the dry spell. As a result, Mindanao residents are experiencing rotating brownouts lasting up to 24 hours in some areas.

Sufficient numbers?

The situation has alarmed not just the DOE, but also several legislators from Mindanao and candidates running in the May elections. A few days after Reyes made his recommendation, the House committee on energy–which is chaired by President Arroyo’s son, Pampanga Rep. Mikey Macapagal Arroyo–resolved to ask the President to declare a power crisis in the region.

But whether Congress would be able to have sufficient numbers to muster a quorum is another issue, as many incumbent legislators are running for reelection. In the Senate, four senators are running for president, while two are running for vice president.

House Speaker Prospero Nograles earlier expressed opposition to the proposal to declare a power crisis in Mindanao. Aside from the difficulty of mustering a quorum, Nograles said there is already a P500-million appropriation in the 2010 national budget that is meant to address the energy shortage. – with Johanna Camille Sisante/RSJ, GMANews.TV

Karen Ang

A plebeian who is trying to make small changes in this world.