Palace set to declare state of calamity in Mindanao

Palace set to declare state of calamity in Mindanao
The Philippine Star

MANILA, Philippines – President Arroyo is set to sign a proclamation declaring a state of calamity in Mindanao where a long dry spell brought about by the El Niño phenomenon has already severely damaged agriculture and triggered power outages.

Mindanao Development Authority chairman Jesus Dureza said a draft proclamation is already on Mrs. Arroyo’s desk.

The Palace has decided to issue a proclamation to address the power crisis after the two chambers of Congress failed to muster a quorum for an emergency session.

Dureza said he was expecting the proclamation to be signed yesterday afternoon,

but some officials said the President was still considering the ramifications of such a declaration.

“Let’s wait for the President’s action on this,” presidential spokesman Ricardo Saludo told a news briefing.

Executive Secretary Leandro Mendoza and Defense Secretary Norberto Gonzales, who chairs the National Disaster Coordinating Council (NDCC), presided over a meeting at the NDCC at Camp Aguinaldo, to fine-tune the draft proclamation.

“The Department of Energy is hereby directed and authorized to take necessary measures to address and resolve the crisis expeditiously. All departments and government agencies concerned are directed to implement and execute appropriate programs in accordance with the existing operational plans, directives and orders issued in connection with the occurrence of this calamity,” the draft proclamation read.

Gonzales said such a declaration would allow concerned local governments to immediately tap five percent of their respective budgets, which is allocated as calamity funds, to address the crisis.

“After listening to the DOE (Department of Energy) and our Pagasa (Philippine Atmospheric Geophysical and Astronomical Services Administration), I think it’s really necessary that we declare a state of calamity in Mindanao,” Gonzales said.

“The entire Mindanao (will be covered). Our problem in Mindanao is it is more dependent on hydropower and the supply of water has really been dangerously low. So we hope that there will be rain or typhoons by July then we can normalize the water supply,” the NDCC chairman said.

“As per Pagasa prediction, we may not have rains until June. We’re hoping that by the beginning of July we will have rains already,” he said.

Saludo cited precedents in the case of the onslaught of storms “Ondoy” and “Pepeng” in Luzon that forced Mrs. Arroyo to make such a declaration for the region to control prices of basic commodities.

“The other thing that may be important, we are entering the period of election ban soon, some projects or actions are prohibited to the national and local governments. Now, if there will be a declaration of a state of calamity then it may allow certain activities that are urgently needed to be exempted from the ban,” Saludo said.

The meeting at the NDCC office was the second in as many days that tackled the Mindanao power crisis.

Energy Secretary Angelo Reyes presented to the Cabinet four options and solutions that would allow the government to address the power crisis in the region.

The measures include shifting operating hours of factories during nighttime when power demand is relatively low; a load-sharing program where firms with excess power would share with companies in need; a government and private sector partnership to lease generator sets; and the transfer of a power barge to Davao to generate additional 200 megawatts.

Dureza said the power situation in the region is worsening with generation deficiency reaching 700 megawatts and with the water in the Agus and Pulangi hydroelectric plants reaching critical level.

Deficiency worsens

The generation deficiency in Mindanao has widened further to 748 megawatts (MW) as hydropower facilities owned by the National Power Corp. (Napocor) continue to produce less and less power.

In a report by the National Grid Corp. of the Philippines (NGCP), capacity was at 749 MW as against peak demand of 1,497MW.

The Visayas grid, on the other hand, registered a power deficiency of 30 MW while the Luzon posted reserves of 223 MW.

Industry sources, meanwhile, said the plan of the government to deploy power barges as stopgap measure may not be advisable.

They said it would take at least three months to construct a mooring facility for these barges and it would already be rainy season by the time the power barges were ready to dock.

They said the government may not have a choice but to allow the use of generators which could cost P15 per kWh. – Paolo Romero, Alexis Romero, Donnabelle Gatdula

Karen Ang

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