President decides not to call special session
By Christine Avendaño
Philippine Daily Inquirer
MANILA, Philippines—President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo has decided not to call a special session of Congress to tackle the power crisis in Mindanao.
But the President did not say how the government would resolve the power crisis.
“Energy Secretary Angelo Reyes will take care of the details,” was all she told reporters who interviewed her after she attended a CAT (Citizenship Advancement Training) graduation ceremony at San Sebastian College in Manila.
Ms Arroyo’s remark drew alarm from Sen. Francis Escudero who issued a statement on Ms Arroyo’s “possible bypassing Congress” on the matter.
“If she does so then that will make the contracts she entered into voidable,” Escudero said in a text message.
“I warn possible suppliers of the inherent illegality of such contracts,” the senator added.
The President said last week that she had adopted the recommendations of Reyes to declare a power crisis in Mindanao, which has been suffering from rotating blackouts due to low water levels at hydroelectric plants as a result of the dry spell.
Reyes had said that the Department of Energy was not asking for emergency powers for Ms Arroyo but would want Congress to convene and lift a prohibition in the Electric Power Industry Reform Act so government could get back into the business of generating and selling electricity.
The energy department particularly wanted the state-owned National Power Corp. (Napocor) to lease modular generation sets to help provide 160 megawatts of electricity to Mindanao. Brownouts lasting up to several hours have been plaguing major cities on the island.
But congressional leaders said it would be impossible for them to convene a special session because lawmakers were busy campaigning for the May elections.
Deputy presidential spokesperson Gary Olivar Monday said the President was no longer calling a special session because Congress would not be able to muster a quorum.
Palace officials were tight-lipped on how the government would be able to tackle the power crisis in Mindanao without Congress’ help. Olivar said Reyes would be in “the best position” to answer queries on how to address the energy shortfall.
Even without special authority from Congress, the Department of Energy has begun exploring other stop-gap measures.
In a phone interview over the weekend, Reyes said these measures could be implemented without the need for Napocor to again generate and sell electricity.
Reyes said his department was preparing to implement a supply-augmentation program in which big industrial firms or commercial enterprises that generate their own electricity would sell their excess capacity.
During peak hours, the industrial and commercial firms may also be asked to use their own generating sets instead of using electricity from the Mindanao grid, for which they will be compensated.
Reyes earlier said the energy department had begun asking those setting up new power plants whether the projects could be fast-tracked.
“Also, we are continuing our information education campaign on energy conservation and energy efficiency,” Reyes added.
The energy chief, however, could not say whether these measures would be enough to ensure adequate power supply before, during and after the May 10 elections. With a report from Amy R. Remo