emergency powers

Estrada calls Reyes 'incompetent'

Estrada calls Reyes ‘incompetent’
By Roel Pareño
The Philippine Star

ZAMBOANGA CITY , Philippines  – Former President Joseph Estrada branded yesterday former Energy secretary Angelo Reyes as “incompetent” for his failure to resolve the power crisis in Mindanao.

“This administration is so blind,” he said.

“They have been there for nine years and they did not anticipate a power crisis will come. They have appointed people in the Department of Energy that are incompetent to address the problem.”

During his campaign sortie, Estrada experienced power outage in Zamboanga City.

Ilocos Norte Rep. Ferdinand “Bongbong” Marcos Jr., whose province is powered by windmills, agreed that there is no quick fix solution to the power crisis hitting Mindanao and the rest of the country.

Speaking to reporters in Dipolog City, Marcos, a Nacionalista Party senatorial candidate, said the power crisis is a problem caused by the national government since it was already forecast seven years ago.

“I cannot see how suddenly we can find solution even using emergency powers,” he said.

“The only immediate solution is for it to rain and of course nobody can make it rain.”

Major cities nationwide have been experiencing rotating blackouts of up to 12 hours a day and businesses have been complaining of losing millions from the power crisis.

Marcos said more power stations, which he estimated to take three to five years to build, should be put up to resolve the power crisis in Mindanao.

“We cannot say the problem will be fixed tomorrow,” he said.

Marcos said recent government decisions were not based on technical or scientific data but on politics, like the recommendation of the Department of Energy for President Arroyo to use her emergency powers to address the power crisis.

“When technical and scientific questions are answered by politics, it is always wrong,” he said.

The Electric Power Industry Reform Act (EPIRA) has many loopholes that need to be overhauled to suit the country’s needs, Marcos said.

Not out of the woods yet

Not out of the woods yet
By Conrado de Quiros
Philippine Daily Inquirer

There are five reasons to worry about the elections.

One is president Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo assuming emergency powers to deal with emergencies of her making. The first time she did that was when the Ampatuans showed signs of restiveness after one of their own was hauled in for the massacre of their enemies. Zaldy Ampatuan’s lawyer articulated their thinking by expostulating against the way Arroyo repaid the Ampatuans “after all they’ve done for her.” Now she has assumed emergency powers to deal with the power crisis in Mindanao. That is not something she can lay at the door of her predecessors. She’s had nine years to deal with it, but after borrowing more money than the last two (real) presidents, she has just brought back the power blackouts.

How exactly Mindanao’s need for electrical power can be met by giving someone additional political power only Arroyo can say. Maybe she figures pare-pareho lang ’yan, it’s all about power. But the people who are fretting about it have every reason to fret. Once is an accident, twice is a pattern. What now if under the exceedingly hot sun of summer (exceptionally so this year) the rest of the country dries up, and what now if under the exceedingly slimy hands of those with political power the rest of the country loses electrical power? Won’t it be easy for Arroyo to declare a state of emergency to solve the emergency of threatened automation? Same logic: The disease is the cure.

Two are Norberto Gonzales and Delfin Bangit, the defense secretary and new AFP chief of staff. Gonzales dismisses the talk of a plot by him and other Arroyo loyalists to rig the elections in this wise: “I have been receiving this message and you know it has been a long campaign in our society today to malign the [Armed Forces] that it will and did participate in some cheating in the elections.”

Read our lips, Mr. Defense Secretary, we are not maligning the AFP, we are maligning you. Why someone who tried to sell this country’s sovereignty down the drain—as Joker Arroyo showed when he was still not a joker, specifically after you were caught paying a fortune to an American lobby group to lobby the US Congress to lobby the Philippines into changing its Charter—ever became national security chief, not to speak of defense secretary, only Arroyo can say. Same logic: The disease is the cure.

Bangit says he has not gotten an illegal order from Arroyo nor will he obey an illegal order from Arroyo. That does not assure us about his resolve to resist an illegal order, that worries us about his capacity to recognize an illegal order. The AFP has been slaughtering hundreds of political activists over the last few years, and he and Jovito Palparan and Gonzales see nothing illegal about it. He has been serving someone who plotted with Garci to win by one million votes over her nearest rival, and who imprisoned Brig. Gen. Francisco Gudani and Col. Alexander Balutan for trying to expose the AFP’s part in the cheating that Gonzales says did not happen, and he finds nothing illegal about it. Arroyo orders martial law to keep the elections free and clean and he will see only the inflexible logic that the disease has every right to be the cure.

Three, two months before the first automated elections in the country, an undertaking of such magnitude it ought to have been prepared for for years, many of the tested machines have been malfunctioning; the problem of distributing the right forms to the right precincts remains daunting; there has been little voter education in the use of the machines; the watchers will have nothing to watch as everything will happen inside the machines whose yields will be taken on faith; the automation will coexist with manual counting; and now they have to contend with blackouts too.

The Comelec will be in charge of everything. The same Comelec that harbored Virgilio Garcillano and Benjamin Abalos, the same Comelec that has ousted Ed Panlilio and Grace Padaca and has been trying to oust Jesse Robredo after they were voted into office (all three of whom quite incidentally are Ramon Magsaysay Awardees for governance), the same Comelec that in Arroyo’s time as in Marcos’ has yet to show 1 plus 1 does not equal 11. The logic is the same: The disease is the cure.

Four is People Power being nowhere to be found. Early this year, the SWS reported that if there is cheating in the elections, the people are bound to vehemently protest it. That is all very well except for two things. First is: How will people know cheating has happened? Noynoy Aquino’s gap over Manny Villar has narrowed down, that gap no longer defined by the rate Aquino goes up but by the rate Villar comes down. That gap doesn’t widen, we might very well have another 2004 scenario. Until the “Hello, Garci” tape surfaced, Arroyo almost had the country believing she won the elections.

Second, and more worrisome, Edsa has not become the theme of the Aquino campaign, the voluntaristic spirit that arose with it has not been unleashed, and no demonstrations of People Power accompanied the Edsa celebration (or lack of it) in January and February. Cheating happens, what will be there to oppose it? Where will the throng that will gather in the streets to protest it come from? As far as I know, People Power is not a genie you summon by rubbing the magic lamp, it is something you keep in readiness only by the repeated exercise of it. As far as I know, People Power is not a power that materializes like divine intervention in times of need, it is a power that is gained like earthly confidence by the constant strengthening of it. You do not harness that power now, you will not harness it later on.

Five, we have the surest sign of all we won’t see a smooth transition to a new government:

GMA swears by everything she holds sacred that we will.

President decides not to call special session

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.

Stop-gap measures

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

Palace still wishing for Arroyo powers

Palace still wishing for Arroyo powers
By Christian V. Esguerra
Philippine Daily Inquirer

MANILA, Philippines—Malacañang is not giving up hope the Senate and House of Representatives can still convene a special session and grant special powers to President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo to address the power crisis in Mindanao.

Gary Olivar, the President’s deputy spokesperson, Sunday said Ms Arroyo might ask her allies in both chambers of Congress, especially those running in the May 10 elections, to take a break from their campaign and attend such a session.

At the weekly Palace media forum aired at Radyo ng Bayan, Olivar said Ms Arroyo would resort to this course of action if the government could determine that she could not address the power crisis without congressional help.

Mindanao has been hit by crippling rotating brownouts because hydroelectric plants, its main source of electricity, are running way below capacity because of low water levels at their reservoirs due to the dry spell.

Luzon and the Visayas are also suffering from outages.

Busy campaigning

Speaker Prospero Nograles on Saturday said that there could be no special session of Congress because not enough lawmakers could commit their attendance to the gathering.

Nograles and Senate President Juan Ponce Enrile on Friday said they were willing to call a special session but doubted that a quorum could be mustered because many lawmakers seeking reelection or another elective office in the May elections were busy campaigning.

Olivar conceded that many lawmakers were busy on the campaign trail and might not be available to attend a special session to decide on granting Ms Arroyo the special power to invoke Section 71 of the Electric Power Industry Reform Act (EPIRA).

The EPIRA provision will allow state-owned National Power Corp. to contract additional generating capacity.

“If we will have problems with the special session then there’s really only much we can do,” Olivar said.

Sure to attend

Cagayan de Oro Rep. Rufus Rodriguez contested Nograles’ contention that there could be no special session because not enough lawmakers would attend it.

Rodriguez said lawmakers, especially the 61 from Mindanao, would attend the session since they were feeling the blow of the power crisis.

With this number, only 74 more lawmakers are needed to constitute a quorum, and he thinks that those from the Visayas and Luzon will join the session because they, too, are reeling from outages.

Rodriguez said he did not know why Nograles was opposing a special session when all of Mindanao’s residents and businesses were suffering from 5- to 12-hour brownouts.

Rodriguez, a member of former President Joseph Estrada’s Pwersa ng Masang Pilipino, said lawmakers were willing to cross party lines.

No need for EPIRA

Olivar said the Palace was also considering the idea that the government would not need the EPIRA provision and thus the special session to address the Mindanao power crisis.

He said the government would look into whether it would actually “buy or construct new capacity” or simply “lease” the generation additional power.

He said the latter might be “construed as something that no longer needs the section of the EPIRA.”

Power outlook

The administration should not forget the plight of daily wage earners as the power crisis in the country worsens, Nacionalista Party senatorial candidate Susan Ople said Sunday.

“The government should look at all aspects of the energy crisis, not just power supply but also dwindling sales and threatened incomes,” said Ople, a former labor undersecretary.

“What began as a power crisis can easily blow up into a full-scale economic and social crises as different sectors express dismay over the absence of any holistic plan to address rotating brownouts,” she said.

Power supply reserves in Luzon and the Visayas are expected to remain “thin” within the week as several more power facilities conduct their maintenance repairs, according to National Grid Corp. of the Philippines (NGCP).

“Barring any unplanned shutdown of two power plants at the same time, Luzon customers will be assured of uninterrupted power supply (within the March 6-11 period),” NGCP said.

Peak demand in Luzon during the period is expected to reach an average of 6,890 MW.

NGCP said Modules 30 and 10 of the Sta. Rita plant in Batangas (owned by the Lopez-led First Gas Power Corp.) were scheduled to resume operations on March 7. These units have a combined generating capacity of 500 MW.

The scheduled maintenance repairs of the 600-MW Block at the Ilijan natural gas power plant were expected to be completed Sunday, while the 600-MW Ilijan Block A will resume operations by March 11. The Ilijan facility is owned by Kepco Ilijan Corp. (Keilco)

The Malampaya deep water gas-to-power project, operated by Shell Philippines Exploration BV, is scheduled to resume supplying natural gas by March 12, according to NGCP.

This will help stabilize the power supply in Luzon since the Malampaya supplies gas to the 1,200-MW Ilijan plant, the 1,000-MW Sta. Rita and the 500-MW San Lorenzo plants of First Gen. Corp. All these facilities are located in Batangas.

The 300-MW Unit 1 of the Calaca coal-fired power plant in Batangas is still faced with technical problems. The facility, owned by DMCI Holdings Inc., is expected to go on stream by March 12.

To augment the power supply in Luzon, NGCP said the 650-MW Malaya power plant in Rizal would operate at full capacity within the week. With reports from Leila B. Salaverria, Gil C. Cabacungan Jr., Philip C. Tubeza and Amy R. Remo

GMA consulting with Congress on power crisis session

GMA consulting with Congress on power crisis session
The Philippine Star

MANILA, Philippines – President Arroyo is trying to convince both chambers of Congress to muster a quorum and pass a joint resolution authorizing government power utilities to increase their generating capacities to address the power crisis in Mindanao.

Deputy presidential spokesman Ricardo Saludo said Mrs. Arroyo has to use her power of persuasion because it would be an embarrassment if her call for a special session is ignored.

“These things (special session) are being consulted with the President and especially with leaders of Congress, who can say whether we can have a quorum, if a special session would be called,” Saludo told a radio interview.

“If a special session would be called and only a few (lawmakers) attend, we would just be embarrassed,” he said.

The long dry spell brought about by the El Niño phenomenon has crippled Mindanao’s hydroelectric plants.

Mrs. Arroyo earlier said she was adopting the recommendations of Energy Secretary Angelo Reyes that the Mindanao power crisis be dealt with by emergency powers.

Reyes said this would justify the President’s invoking Section 71 or the Electric Power Crisis Provision of the Electric Power Industry Reform Act (EPIRA) of 2001, which provides that “upon the determination by the President of an imminent shortage of the supply of electricity, Congress may authorize, through joint resolution, the establishment of additional generating capacity under such terms and conditions as it may approve.”

The energy chief stressed that he was not asking for emergency powers as provided for under the Constitution but only the one stipulated in the EPIRA.

Saludo pointed out that it is Congress’ responsibility under the law to set the terms and conditions for allowing additional generation capacities.

Pampanga Rep. Juan Miguel “Mikey” Arroyo, who heads the House energy committee, claimed he is not keen on bestowing emergency powers on his mother.

“I have always maintained that the crisis powers be only used as a last resort in dealing with the Mindanao energy situation,” he said.

“It is the Mindanaoans themselves, through their duly elected representatives in Congress, who are demanding invoking Section 17 of the EPIRA Law enabling the President to utilize crisis powers to contract additional generating capacity for the island,” Rep. Arroyo stressed.

“As the chair of the House energy committee, I can only accede to their demands. After all, they are the ones who are directly affected by the energy situation in Mindanao,” he said. “I believe their sentiments are truly reflective of that of the entire island.”

Visayas power ‘stable’

President Arroyo, meanwhile, said power has stabilized in the Visayas with the inauguration of an 82-megawatt coal-fired power plant in Toledo City in Cebu.

Mrs. Arroyo led the ceremonial switch-on of the P3-billion facility yesterday.

“This additional power signals the end of rotating brownouts in the Visayas, and also marks the end of importing power from Luzon, which is also burdened,” the President said.

She said she is looking forward to other power plants coming on stream in May and December.

The facility is the first of three units of the 246-MW coal-fired power plant of the Cebu Energy Development Corp.

The facility is a joint venture among Global Business Power Corp. (GBPC), the power arm of the Metrobank group, Formosa Heavy Industries Corp., Aboitiz Power Corp., and Vivant Power Corp.

‘Close to impossible’

In light of the bicameral setup of Congress, it would almost be impossible for President Arroyo to be granted emergency powers to address Mindanao’s worsening power problem, Speaker Prospero Nograles said.

“Just read the statements of the senators and you will already know that granting the President emergency powers is close to impossible. There must be some other way to address this problem,” he said.

Furthermore, he said, most of the lawmakers were already out campaigning for the May elections.

“Many of our senators are either running for re-election or are seeking other elective posts. This is the same case with our congressmen, so it would not be easy to hold a special session now even if the leadership of both houses are ready and willing to oblige,” Nograles said.

Minority Leader Aquilino Pimentel Jr. said the declaration of a power crisis in Mindanao should not justify the President’s skirting bidding and procurement laws.

“But that (special session) is not impossible. Of course, we will have to see first if that will push through. We have to make sure they cannot use the money for monkey business,” Pimentel said.

“That is the problem here because if they will use special powers, then there is no more public bidding. They might buy more than what is needed and at high prices,” he added.

Transparency

In Davao City, Nacionalista Party standard-bearer Sen. Manuel Villar Jr. urged President Arroyo to be transparent in forging power contracts.

“I want to know if this would also mean new power contracts. She should make public any power contracts because of the special power granted to her through EPIRA,” he said.

“We know that there is an energy problem that needs to be addressed. But we need to dig deeper why there is a power crisis and how this came about,” the NP standard-bearer added.

He also said authorities must explain why several power stations have conked out.

“I am just wondering, and I want to get an explanation why these problems came one after the other. The maintenance of these power plants should have been taken care of as part of preventive maintenance,” he said.

Administration presidential candidate Gilbert Teodoro Jr., for his part, proposed that government explore other energy sources, including nuclear.

He said the Philippines should take pointers from the United Arab Emirates, one of the world’s largest oil exporters, which recently inked a $25-billion contract with a Korean electric power company for the setting up of nuclear power plants.

“I don’t see the reason why we should not (explore nuclear power). Filipinos used to run the plants in Korea and Japan, I think. We can certainly do it here,” Teodoro said.

Less hydropower

Muntinlupa City Rep. Ruffy Biazon said the country should “reduce dependence on hydroelectric power and consider alternative sources of energy.”

“Since hydroelectric power is dependent on the water supply, each time El Niño occurs, we are plunged into a power crisis,” Biazon, an LP senatorial candidate, said.

“El Niño is a recurring phenomenon due to climate change and our geographic location. It means that the conditions that bring us to an energy crisis due to low water levels will be a recurring problem too,” Biazon noted.

“The percentage of power produced by hydroelectric plants is such that if their operation is affected, we go into a power crisis. Therefore, we should reduce the dependence on hydro or develop more hydro plants. Or we should look for other sources,” he added.

Businessman Joey de Venecia, for his part, said the Arroyo administration might enter into “sweetheart deals” with “favored suppliers” if given emergency powers.

“These Palace favorites are already salivating about how they will divide the estimated P10-billion worth of contracts being planned to fund the emergency leases of power barges which Filipino taxpayers will end up paying for,” the Pwersa ng Masa senatorial candidate said.

Malampaya reopening

Meanwhile, Shell Petroleum Exploration B.V. said it would resume operations of Malampaya natural gas facility on March 12 as scheduled and not on March 6.

“There seems to be a misunderstanding by some agencies that we are starting up earlier. Kindly note it is still as planned and committed which is March 12,” SPEX’s Karen Agabin said in a text message.

As this developed, the National Grid Corp. of the Philippines said Luzon and Mindanao will continue to have power deficiencies. This means rotating blackouts are likely to continue today.

Luzon will have generation deficiency of up to 641 MW. In Mindanao, the available capacity is only 751MW as against peak demand of 1,451MW. Paolo Romero, Delon Porcalla, Donnabelle Gatdula, Aurea Calica, Jaime Laude, Christina Mendez, Roel Pareño, Edith Regalado, Jose Rodel Clapano

Power situation in Luzon, Mindanao worsens

Power situation in Luzon, Mindanao worsens
By Amy R. Remo
Philippine Daily Inquirer

TOLEDO CITY, CEBU, Philippines—Despite government efforts to solve the problem, the power situation in Luzon and Mindanao have worsened as energy supply deficits soared to their highest levels, with Metro Manila hit by rotating brownouts on Friday.

Luzon and Mindanao, which have suffered power outages in recent weeks because of breakdowns at ageing power plants and low capacity in hydroelectric dams caused by a dry spell, were again placed on alert Friday.

According to the National Grid Corp. (NGCP), the private operator of the country’s transmission network, the energy supply deficit in Luzon has reached 641 megawatts (MW) while that of Mindanao has reached 700 MW.

Friday marked the fourth day running that the capital has been hit, with officials also blaming scheduled plant repairs for the shortage.

The Manila Electric Co., the electric distribution utility, said Metro Manila and surrounding areas would have their power cut for 90 minutes at a time throughout the day.

Maintenance repair work

Jesusito Sulit, the NGCP spokesperson, said engineers believed the problem in the capital would soon be fixed.

“We should have a total of 1,700 MW back on line by the end of next week” provided all power plants are repaired on schedule, he said.

According to a high-ranking NGCP official, relief for the greater Luzon area will come only after the Malampaya gas field resumes production of natural gas on March 12, after the completion of maintenance repair work.

Until then, power supply in Luzon will remain “unstable” and “critical” over the next few days and possibly into the following week, according to the NGCP official.

However, in Mindanao, home to around 21 million people, the shortage showed no sign of letting up, with some areas facing blackouts lasting up to 12 hours a day—a problem that began a month ago.

The island relies heavily on hydroelectric dams but a prolonged dry spell has left many dams unable to provide electricity.

Energy Secretary Angelo Reyes said if President Macapagal-Arroyo goes ahead with plans to declare a power crisis in Mindanao, which would empower her to speedily bring new generators into the region, an additional 130 MW to 140 MW would be made available.

However, this will need the approval of Congress, Reyes told reporters on the sidelines of the switch-on ceremony for the 246-MW clean coal-fired power plant of the Cebu Energy Development Corp. (CEDC) here Friday.

Sulit warned that it would be at least 30 days before the situation improves in Mindanao.

“We can’t expect anything significant until then,” he said. With a report from Agence France-Presse

NP bets: No to emergency powers for Arroyo

NP bets: No to emergency powers for Arroyo
By Michael Lim Ubac, TJ Burgonio
Philippine Daily Inquirer

DAVAO CITY, Philippines—Nacionalista Party candidates on Saturday warned that giving President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo emergency powers to deal with the power crisis in Mindanao would be a repeat of the energy policy of the Ramos administration that entered into allegedly onerous contracts with independent power producer (IPPs) to end power outages.

While campaigning here, NP presidential candidate Sen. Manuel Villar and running mate Sen. Loren Legarda, categorically opposed any declaration of an emergency in the south.

The President said on Thursday that she had adopted Energy Secretary Angelo Reyes’ recommendation to declare a power crisis in Mindanao, but has yet to issue a proclamation.

This declaration would allow the government to invoke Section 71 of the Electric Power Industry Reform Act (Epira) to enable the state power generator, the National Power Corp. (Napocor) to buy or lease modular generator sets to augment Mindanao’s power supply.

Buy, lease power barges

Villar said Ms Arroyo has enough powers under the Epira to deal with the crisis without invoking emergency powers.

“I don’t want emergency powers. What I want is (to buy or lease) power barges,” he said.

He also questioned why power plants had to be shut down for their annual maintenance at the same time.

Legarda claimed it was not the El Niño weather phenomenon that was causing the power shortage in Mindanao, “but the result of the inability of this administration to encourage more participation by the private sector in power generation in Mindanao and to address the environmental issues raised against proposed power plants.”

Legarda said the Arroyo administration had not built a single power plant in Mindanao.

Golden parachute

NP senatorial candidates Gilbert Remulla and Satur Ocampo and Senate Minority Leader Aquilino Pimentel, whose daughter Gwen is running for the Senate under the NP, said they suspected the Arroyo Cabinet was seeking a “golden parachute”—meaning retirement funds—for its exit from power in June.

“Definitely this is another scheme to negotiate onerous power purchase agreements with IPPs,” said Remulla.

To solve the crippling power shortages in the early 1990s, the Napocor during the Ramos administration entered into contracts with mostly foreign-owned power producers. Most of the capacity put in place by these IPPs were not fully utilized but the government still had to pay for them. The resulting debt was passed on to the public through higher electricity rates.

Ocampo said the emergency power scheme was being chosen to “make up for negligence and lack of foresight in preparing for the recurrence of El Niño and its dire consequences, but the cost to government and the people may become an added drag to the weak economy.”

Unused power barges

Pimentel asked why Napocor was not using four available power barges to supply power to Mindanao, which he said were bought a long time ago and were not being used.

He said the purchase of generators may be meant to “line the pockets of some people.”

Pimentel said the government could also order the full utilization of a power plant in Iligan which was running only 30 percent of its capacity.

The general manager of the Agusan del Norte Electric Cooperative, Horacio Santos, has claimed that the 35 MW diesel plant in Iligan was shut down by Napocor on Feb. 1 for unclear reasons.

The disposition of the mothballed Iligan plant was mentioned by the Department of Energy in its report to Ms Arroyo about a power supply crisis in Mindanao because of El Niño.

Special session

Malacañang on Saturday said it would have to consult the leaders of Congress on whether they could muster a quorum if the President decides to call a special session to address the power crisis in Mindanao.

“Only they can tell if they can muster quorum if a special session is called. Because if we call such a session, and only a few turn up, we’d only be embarrassed,” Deputy Presidential Spokesperson Ricardo Saludo told dzMM radio.

Once the power crisis is declared, Congress has to draft the rules and regulations for contracting additional generation capacity, said Saludo.

Senate President Juan Ponce Enrile said he was willing to convene a special session, but admitted that his main concern was whether the chamber could muster a quorum in the middle of an election campaign.

Several senators, whether candidates for higher office or seeking reelection, have been barnstorming for weeks now. Congressmen are poised to hit the campaign trail on March 26.

“Besides, we have to know what kind of emergency powers we are going to grant President Arroyo. We have to specify that,” Enrile said.

House hearing March 11

The House of Representatives is ready to hold a special session to discuss Ms Arroyo’s plan to declare a power crisis in Mindanao but doubted that senators would be willing to attend a special session.

The House committee on energy chaired by Ms Arroyo’s son, Pampanga Rep. Juan Miguel “Mikey” Arroyo, will hold a public hearing in Mindanao on March 11 to give lawmakers a first-hand view of what the residents and businessmen in the region are going through.

Mikey Arroyo earlier said the President’s use of crisis powers under Epira should be done only as a last resort.

“But since it is the Mindanaoans themselves, through their representatives in Congress, who are pushing for it, I can only accede to their demand. After all, they are the ones who are directly affected,” said Arroyo.

House Speaker Prospero Nograles also doubted a quorum could be mustered. With reports from Christine Avendaño and Gil C. Cabacungan Jr.

Arroyo eyes crisis powers

Arroyo eyes crisis powers
Brownouts in Mindanao worsening

By TJ Burgonio
Philippine Daily Inquirer

MANILA, Philippines — President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo plans to declare a power crisis in Mindanao in the next few days to give the government more leeway in dealing with the worsening supply shortage on the island, Malacañang announced Thursday.

The announcement came as the power supply in the Luzon and Mindanao grids further worsened on Thursday. Since Monday, Metro Manila and other parts of Luzon have been suffering from rotating brownouts.

Ms Arroyo said she concurred with Energy Secretary Angelo T. Reyes on his proposal to declare a crisis and allow the government to contract for generation sets for Mindanao.

“Yeah, yeah, I’m adopting his recommendation,” Ms Arroyo curtly told reporters after emerging from the awarding ceremonies for the outstanding Philippine soldiers in Malacañang.

Reyes had said the declaration would allow the government to invoke Section 71 of the Electric Power Industry Reform Act and enable state-run National Power Corp. to buy or lease modular generation sets to augment the island’s power supply.

“It will be just a matter of days before she makes the declaration,” Secretary Ricardo Saludo, deputy presidential spokesperson, later told reporters in a regular briefing.

A prolonged dry spell has reduced the generating capacity of the island’s hydroelectric power plants by 80 to 90 percent, resulting in rotating brownouts.

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

Breakdown, maintenance

Luzon and the Visayas are also experiencing a power supply shortfall because of the breakdown or maintenance of power plants and the reduced generating capacity of hydroelectric plants.

National Grid Corp. of the Philippines (NGCP) said the deficit in Luzon jumped to 446 megawatts (MW) while that in Mindanao surged to 650 MW as of Thursday morning. The shortfall in the Visayas was placed at 40 MW.

Power distributor Manila Electric Co. announced one-hour rotating brownouts Thursday between 10 a.m. and 5 p.m. in several areas in Metro Manila and nearby provinces.

Power supply in Luzon fell after Aboitiz Power Corp.’s Magat hydroelectric plant was unable to operate beginning Thursday due to the low water levels at the reservoir. It was running and contributing 30 MW to the Luzon grid as of Wednesday.

Once Ms Arroyo declares the power crisis in Mindanao, Congress has to draft the rules and regulations for contracting additional generating capacity, according to Saludo.

Special session

“In the event that a power crisis is declared by the President, then a new generating capacity may be contracted by the government pursuant to procedures outlined or laid down by Congress,” he said.

But it was up to Congress whether to call a special session, Saludo said.

In a report to Ms Arroyo, the Department of Energy said there “exists a power supply crisis” in Mindanao amid the El Niño phenomenon.

The department recommended the adoption of urgent measures such as the lease or rental of modular generating sets that could add 160 MW; operation of the Iligan diesel-power plant that could add 50 to 65 MW; and increased contracted capacity from Southern Philippines Power Corp. for 5 MW, according to Saludo.

Higher rates

On top of these measures, Saludo cited the need for the Energy Regulatory Commission (ERC) to act on generating companies’ petitions for cost recovery.

The petitions would allow the companies to cover higher fuel expenditures and “thus ensure uninterrupted fuel deliveries,” he said.

“The situation in Mindanao has become more grave. Addressing the power situation would demand action by the ERC,” he said.

Saludo noted that some firms could not order oil or diesel because they were apprehensive that the increase in the cost of fuel would not be covered by their charges.

“These petitions would need to be addressed to give security to power companies,” he said.

He assured the public that the power supply in Luzon and the Visayas “will reach sufficiency this month.”

Brownout in Baguio

An unannounced two-hour brownout struck Baguio City due to outages traced to four power plants in Central Luzon and Southern Tagalog, according to an NGCP official.

On March 1, a two-hour brownout struck the summer capital during the Philippine Military Academy graduation rites attended by President Arroyo.

The Kalayaan 2 generating unit in Laguna has been unable to provide power “due to low water levels,” said Albert de la Cruz, the NGCP engineer overseeing the La Trinidad, Benguet, substation.

NGCP reported that outages occurred at the 315-MW Masinloc 1 facility in Zambales, and the 180-MW coal-fired Calaca 2 and the 1,200-MW Ilijan natural gas plant, both in Batangas.

First Gas Power said its 1,000-MW natural gas plant in Sta. Rita, Batangas, did not suffer a major breakdown on March 2. The company said its Module 30 was on reconditioning stage after a scheduled preventive maintenance.

Outage in Pangasinan

In Pangasinan, the Central Pangasinan Electric Cooperative announced a power interruption scheduled for March 9 in several towns to give way to the annual maintenance of its lines and meters.

The 11-hour brownout from 7 a.m. to 6 p.m. would affect the towns of Bugallon, Aguilar, Mangatarem, Urbiztondo, Lingayen, Binmaley and parts of Basista and Malasiqui and San Carlos City.

Areas covered by the Dagupan Electric Corp. (Decorp) suffered an unscheduled hour-long blackout on Wednesday.

The Decorp operations manager, August Sarmiento, said NGCP did not inform the company that it was cutting power from the electric company.

“The NGCP just dropped us because of the deficiency in the system, [but they did it] without informing us,” Sarmiento said.

Baffling to Villar

The nearly simultaneous breakdowns and repairs of power plants that have led to outages throughout the country have baffled Nacionalista Party standard-bearer Sen. Manuel Villar.

Speaking in Nabunturan, Compostela Valley, Villar said the situation might be part of forthcoming sinister events that could affect the elections.

At the Bulawan (Gold) Festival, jewelry seller Annie Adajar said the blackouts that hit Compostela Valley since February had affected the mining industry and her family’s business. With reports from Amy R. Remo and Nikko Dizon in Manila; and Vincent Cabreza and Yolanda Sotelo, Inquirer Northern Luzon

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

Entire RP power grid unstable – National Grid Corp

Entire RP power grid unstable – National Grid Corp
By Donnabelle Gatdula
The Philippine Star

MANILA, Philippines – The entire Philippine grid – not just Mindanao – has turned out to be unstable, with power plants bogging down one after another.

In a report, the National Grid Corp. of the Philippines (NGCP) said reserves in the Luzon and the Visayas grids normalized on Tuesday only to get depleted again yesterday.

The Luzon grid succumbed yesterday to generation deficiency of 236 megawatts as the 3150MW Masinloc 1, the 180-MW Calaca 2, and the 260-MW Sta. Rita 30 plants remained inoperational. With available capacity of 6,585 MW, the Luzon grid’s peak demand reached 6,821 MW.

The NGCP said hydroelectric power plants are running with limited capacities due to the steadily falling water levels at reservoirs.

The NGCP said one of the three units of Kalayaan hydroelectric plant is unavailable due to the low elevation of Caliraya Lake. Each unit of the plant generates 152MW.

The lake’s water level is 286.16 meters or below the 286.50 meters required to keep all three units of Kalayaan running. The critical water level at the reservoir is below 286 meters.

The Magat hydroelectric plant, the NGCP said, is generating only 30MW from the normal 90MW.

The Visayas region, which is importing power from the Luzon grid, recorded a deficiency of 25MW with available capacity of 1,325 MW as against peak demand of 1,160 MW.

Mindanao’s peak demand stood at 1,334 MW as of yesterday but available capacity was only 836MW.

Continuous monitoring

Energy Secretary Angelo Reyes said they are continuously monitoring the grids as electricity supply remains erratic.

“We have to watch the water level especially that Kalayaan is a hydro generating plant and it’s generating about 700MW,” Reyes said on the sidelines of the Philippine Economic Briefing yesterday.

“So that’s huge. And if the water levels continue to come down then we might be experiencing some difficulties in Luzon,” Reyes said.

He admitted that Luzon is still vulnerable to power outages because hydropower plants have been operating below capacity due to lack of water brought about by the El Niño phenomenon.

The Police Regional Office of the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao, meanwhile, said the blackouts are greatly hampering operations.

“We’ve suffered so much. No Internet or fax machine operating at all and you cannot even run the computers or charge your cellular phones. It has so much affected our operations especially when you are rushing important reports,” spokesperson Police Senior Inspector Annie Rose Alvarado said.

Rotating blackouts

With the unstable power situation, rotating blackouts swept across Metro Manila and nearby provinces serviced by the Manila Electric Co. or Meralco.

Meralco said it implemented blackouts in Metro Manila, Bulacan, Cavite, Laguna, and Quezon.

Reyes, meanwhile, assured businessmen at the forum that measures are being worked out to ensure energy security and sustainability.

The programs, he said, include more oil, gas, and coal explorations and development, greater utilization of renewable and environmentally friendly alternative energy resources and technology, strict enforcement of energy efficiency and conservation, electrification of far-flung towns, upgrading transmission and distribution systems and maintaining a competitive energy investment climate, among others.

Reyes noted that the greatest challenge is to boost the existing capacity across the country by 16,550 MW between 2010 and 2030.

Excuse

Critics of the administration believe granting President Arroyo emergency powers is meant to justify government’s doing away with stringent bidding and procurement rules.

“Emergency purchases don’t have to pass Commission on Audit scrutiny. That’s what Sen. Noynoy Aquino has been saying: a power shortage is being forced on us,” Liberal Party vice presidential candidate Sen. Manuel Roxas II said in Filipino. Aquino is LP’s standard-bearer.

He said the Arroyo government was not interested in buying the necessary power equipment at the proper time so that it could later go around procurement laws.

Rep. Liza Maza of the party-list group Gabriela, for her part, expressed suspicion that the power shortage in Mindanao may be artificial.

“It seems that the power crisis is being artificially staged to force a situation where emergency powers are invoked and transparency in biddings and negotiations can be foregone,” she said.

Maza, a senatorial candidate under the Nacionalista Party, cited reports quoting officials of electric cooperatives in Mindanao as questioning the pronouncements of the authorities in Manila that there is power shortage in the island.

“Emergency powers include the ability to dispense with the requirement of public bidding and enter into negotiated contracts as what the Ramos administration did with the so-called independent power producers,” she said.

Maza said a power shortage scenario might also be related to the May 10 elections.

She said power outages would mean that the balloting process might be disrupted.

“Is this a dry run for a failure of elections?” she asked.

Senatorial candidates of the opposition Pwersa ng Masang Pilipino also voiced opposition to granting Mrs. Arroyo emergency powers.

“They should have addressed that (power crisis) long ago. Emergency powers will be subject to abuse by the people in the present administration. I think there are enough laws,” Agusan del Sur Rep. Rodolfo Plaza, said.

“They really want to control the May 10 elections. They did not present facts, figures and when and what the level of power needs. There is no basis for that. You give the emergency powers and there will be no elections,” former Negros Occidental Rep. Jun Lozada said for his part.

“They have to define exactly what they want. If it is specific to electricity crisis, so it should be so defined. We were burned in the past. Present the exact proposal,” former senator Francisco Tatad said.

PMP standard-bearer former President Joseph Estrada also vowed to oppose the granting of special powers to Mrs. Arroyo.

“They might take advantage of the emergency powers and continue the corruption because there will be no bidding, like what had happened during the administration of my predecessor. He asked for emergency powers that is why the rate of electricity right now is very, very high,” Estrada said referring to former President Fidel Ramos.

He also warned that a revolt might erupt in the event of “failure of elections” in May as a result of power outages. – With Jess Diaz, Jose Rodel Clapano, Delon Porcalla, Rose Tamayo-Tesoro