state of calamity

GMA cronies took advantage of Mindanao power crisis – Erap

GMA cronies took advantage of Mindanao power crisis – Erap
The Philippine Star

MANILA, Philippines –   Former President Joseph Estrada accused yesterday the Arroyo administration of causing the power crisis in Mindanao to “line the pockets” of associates.

Speaking to reporters at the Pwersa ng Masang Pilipino (PMP) national headquarters in Mandaluyong, Estrada said the power crisis in Mindanao could have been avoided had the administration acted on it properly.

“The Arroyo administration did not take any concrete steps to avoid the calamity,” he said.

“It actually concocted the crisis as another means to line the pockets of its favored cronies yet again and further savage the economy.”

Estrada said if allowed to go unchecked, the power crisis in Mindanao could derail the elections on May 10.

“This government is not interested in solving the problem, a problem of its own making,” he said.

“It precipitated the crisis precisely to give them the reason to defraud the people through yet another graft scheme.”

Estrada said the daily eight-hour power outage in Mindanao could last till election day.

“It’s a very dire scenario that evokes all sorts of grim projections, including a failure of elections that could trigger tragic consequences,” he said.

“I don’t lightly throw accusations, but all available evidence point to this conclusion.

“The power shortage was preventable with just a little foresight and a modicum of honesty.”

Estrada said on a daily basis, the load requirement in Mindanao is 500 to 650 megawatts and the daily peak load requirement ranges from 1,200 to 1,380 megawatts.

The deficit is 600 to 750 megawatts as a result of the eight to 12-hour daily blackouts, he added.

Estrada said by declaring a state of calamity in Mindanao, Mrs. Arroyo is allowing the national government and local governments to allocate funds for the crisis without clarifying how it would be used.

“As if on cue, Rep. Mikey Arroyo, the President’s son, proposed allocation of P10 billion ostensibly to solve the problem,” he said.

Estrada said under Mikey’s proposal, P4.5 billion of the P10 billion will go to agriculture, while the rest of the P5.5 billion will be used to lease 160 modular generators each with one megawatt capacity.

“Why are they preparing for only 160 megawatts, when the deficit is 600 to 750 megawatts?” he asked.

“Enough of fooling the people. The problem in Mindanao has a solution and the solution to the problem does not include a scheme for tongpats!” referring to the practice of excess charges for profit.

Estrada said based on his computations, the government only needs P2.1 billion, not P5.5 billion to lease generating sets that can produce 160 megawatts.

“The cost of 160 one-megawatt generators for six months is as follows: P624 million in rent, P1.382 billion in fuel consumption and P80 million in mobilization/demobilization,” he said.

“That will add up to only P2.086 billion. So there is a remaining of P3.4 billion. Where will they use this huge amount of money? It smells of corruption.”

Estrada said the government’s claim that it will only generate 160 megawatts is highly suspicious because the deficit is 600 megawatts, which will cost P20.6 billion to produce using their formula.

“Meaning to say, if the people complain again, these greedy will ask another P13.1 billion,” he said.

“Isn’t it a clear tongpats? This does not include the newly announced $100 million or P4.8 billion that Mrs. Arroyo has ordered the Development Bank of the Philippines and Land Bank of the Philippines to borrow from the private sector, which will they will rake in from the generator set. They are using the crisis to profit.”

Estrada said the government should encourage the private sector to engage in bayanihan, or the neighborly practice of helping each other out.

“Let us enlist the participation of the private sector,” he said.

“Let us ask our countrymen, particularly the big capitalists, to be thrifty in using power. Let us encourage the big corporations to use their generators especially during peak hours.

“We can persuade business corporations and rich households to cut down power consumption by at least 10 percent.

“That will amount to 120 megawatts. We will also appeal to these firms to keep their emergency generators running.”   – Jose Rodel Clapano

Editorial: Blank check

Editorial: Blank check
Philippine Daily Inquirer

PLACING the entire island of Mindanao under a “state of calamity” allows affected towns, cities and provinces suffering from a severe power shortage to use as much as five percent of their respective budgets to fund emergency measures. This provision, however, amounts to a virtual blank check that unscrupulous politicians can use, not only to help bankroll their own election campaigns, but also to underwrite election fraud.

The deputy presidential spokesman, Gary Olivar, gave the official rationale: “The importation of gensets, maybe even power barges, which have much higher mega-wattage, will require calamity funds that will be mobilized by the declaration of a state of calamity.” There is no quarrel here. The Arroyo administration has failed to prepare for the onset of the (cyclical) El Niño weather pattern, despite being long forecast, and as a result, millions of Filipinos have had to endure rotating power outages that run for hours; the need for quick fixes is dire.

It is a usually hands-on administration’s unusual lack of control on the use of the five-percent provision that is worrying. All together, the total amount must run into at least a few billion pesos. (In 2009, the share of Mindanao’s local government units or LGUs in the Internal Revenue Allotment or IRA amounted to a total of P68.9 billion. Since some LGUs have other sources of income, the figure of roughly P3.5 billion, about five percent of the total share of IRA, represents the minimum amount involved.)

An administration ally, Cagayan de Oro City Mayor Constantino Jaraula, noted that “although there is a chance for abuse” of the authorization to release five percent of respective budgets, people should “assume good faith” in President Macapagal-Arroyo. But that would be like turning the clock to before July 2005 and the Hello Garci scandal. The public’s ready assumption of bad faith on the part of the President is one serious consequence of her persistent crisis of legitimacy.

In other words, President Arroyo has not succeeded in rebutting the firm belief of the majority of the people that she cheated in the 2004 elections; that she used government resources, such as the fertilizer fund administered by Joc-Joc Bolante, to buy political support; that she utilized soldiers of the military to help manipulate the vote in Mindanao.

It doesn’t help Malacañang any when a politically tone-deaf Ricardo Saludo, now the President’s chief spokesman, called the warnings raised by rival presidential candidates about a possible diversion of the five-percent funds a mere “campaign stunt to land on newspapers’ front pages.”

Is accountability in the use of government money now no longer important enough to the Arroyo administration that raising concerns about it is derided as mere election campaigning? The last time we checked, accountability is the principal responsibility elected and appointive officials owe the citizens of a republic.

Subsequently, Saludo fine-tuned his approach. First, he said, the Mindanao LGUs’ spending “will be subject to COA audit.” Then, in a radio interview, he said that the spending would be monitored by non-government organizations and the churches. “We have civil society and private sector observers,” he said.

Nothing wrong with either measure—except that, at best, they can only confirm wrongdoing after the dirty deed is done. In a political system that virtually leaves election cheats unpunished, this will have the effect of encouraging the use of part of the newly available money for election-related purposes.

Jesus Dureza, chief of the new Mindanao Development Authority, offered an argument from consequence: “The Mindanaoans are suffering and will never forgive anyone who would fool around with the calamity fund at a time of crisis like this.” That is likely true, but fooling around depends to a great extent on when the foolishness can come to light. If the dirty deed is done, it may be too late.

Besides, no one is seriously suggesting that all of the five-percent funds, some P3.5 billion at a minimum, will go to the pockets of the politicians or to election-related spending. We will see generator sets being purchased, power barges being leased, alleviation programs for hard-hit farmers being launched. But then election operators won’t need all of that newly vulnerable money; just a few millions here, more millions there—and the dirty deed of defrauding the electorate is done.

Palace: No need to worry about use of calamity funds

Palace: No need to worry about use of calamity funds
By Marvin Sy
The Philippine Star

MANILA, Philippines – Malacañang allayed fears raised by some politicians that the authority of local government units (LGU) to manage the calamity funds could become a source of corruption and abuse.

Presidential spokespman Ricardo Saludo, in an interview over Radyo ng Bayan, said that these comments, especially coming from opposition candidates, were expected as they would say anything get to their names in the news.

However, he said there are several mechanisms already in place to prevent such abuses, especially since all eyes would be on the LGUs in Mindanao to see how they would address the power crisis. It would thus be very difficult for them to divert the calamity funds for their own purposes.

He said the Procurement and Transparency Group (PTG), led by a representative of the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of the Philippines, and other civil society groups and watchdogs from the private sector would be monitoring the activities of the LGUs.

He emphasized that the declaration of a state of calamity in Mindanao should prompt the LGUs as well as the Department of Energy (DOE) to take immediate actions to ensure that the power crisis is addressed.

Mindanao Development Authority (MDA) chairman Jesus Dureza, meanwhile, said that in a worst-case scenario, power providers should shut out supplies for users and divert power to polling centers to ensure that the elections in Mindanao will not be disrupted by the power shortage. Speaking at the weekly radio program “Para Sa Iyo Bayan” of Vice President Noli De Castro, Dureza said buying, leasing and using high speed generators would mean higher cost of power in Mindanao.

Dureza noted that the Pulangui and Agus hydro power plants that are daily sources of 900 megawatts in Mindanao are now only generating 15 megawatts.

As a mitigating effort, he said the Cabinet agreed on Friday to assist the private sector, which is considering leasing “quick power generating” machines like those used during the Beijing Olympics that can be installed in 30 to 40 days.

Rains hardly mattered

Meanwhile, intermittent rains have failed to add to the dwindling water level of Magat Dam, which temporarily stopped generating power for the Luzon grid.

“The rains failed to have any effect on the dam’s water level,” said engineer Saturnino Tenedor, head of the National Irrigation Administration (NIA) based at the Magat dam hydroelectric and irrigation project located along the Isabela-Ifugao border.

Tenedor said that despite the rain, the dam’s water elevation further dipped to 152.57 meters as of 1 p.m. yesterday, compared to 153.1 meters registered the other day.

Last Wednesday, the Magat power plant temporarily stopped generating power after the dam’s water level dropped below 153.5 meters.

For the Magat power plant to generate the maximum amount of power, the dam’s water level should not be below 183 meters, or at least its minimum operational level at 160 meters.

The state-run NIA, which still owns the Magat dam’s irrigation facility, said that it is also anticipating closing its gates for irrigation if the dam’s water level reaches below 150 meters.

The dam is the second biggest power provider of all hydro facilities to the Luzon grid after Pangasinan’s San Roque Dam, which is also expected to hit its critical level in the next three weeks.

According to SRPC vice president for social responsibility Tommy Valdez and NIA engineer Seferino Sta. Ana, San Roque Dam, which lies at the boundary of San Manuel and San Nicolas in Pangasinan, “is dropping at about .4 meters a day and at that rate, the minimum critical low level of 225 meters may be hit by April.”

As of March 12, the water elevation of the dam was at 243.56 meters.

The dam’s average daily power dispatch is only 66 megawatts (MW), 50 MW during non-peak hours and 95 MW during peak hours, the officials said.

At 225-meter water elevation, officials said the plant could only generate power and will not be able to provide water for irrigation.

No need for emergency powers

Meanwhile, Lakas-Kampi-CMD standard-bearer Gilberto Teodoro Jr. said farmers displaced by the impact of the El Niño should be employed by the government state-funded construction projects to ensure that they will have a source of income during the lean months before the next harvest.

Liberal Party (LP) standard-bearer Sen. Benigno “Noynoy” Aquino III, on the other hand, is pushing for the expansion of renewable energy sources.

He also insisted that there is no need to grant President Arroyo emergency powers to address the power crisis, because there are enough laws to address the problem.

“She has been in power for almost nine years, and yet here we are still facing blackouts during a crucial election season,” he said.

He pointed out that it would take two to three, or even five years to build a power plant. But he acknowledged that there are large-capacity generators which government can buy to address the lack of supply.

The LP bet said he prefers developing clean, renewable energy because it is less polluting than fossil fuels. — Aurea Calica, Delon Porcalla, Jaime Laude, Pia Lee Brago, Charlie Lagasca

Presidential aspirants warn vs use of disaster funds in Mindanao for polls

Presidential aspirants warn vs use of disaster funds in Mindanao for polls

Following the declaration of a state of calamity over Mindanao due to the power shortage there, two presidential aspirants on Friday warned against the possible use of disaster funds for election purposes.

Liberal Party standard bearer Senator Benigno “Noynoy” Aquino III, who is currently campaigning in provinces in the south, said that while it was President Gloria Macapagal- Arroyo’s prerogative to place Mindanao under a state of calamity, the public should monitor how the funds will be used to ease the impact of the power shortage.

“This government has shown its propensity to divert funds for political purposes. The people must make sure that the unscrupulous do not succeed this time,” Aquino said in a statement.

Declaring a state of calamity in Mindanao will allow local government units to use up to 5 percent of their internal revenue allotments (IRA), which are their share of revenues from the national government.

Senator Richard Gordon, another presidential aspirant, also said the government should have laid down its specific plans on how the funds would be spent to address the electric shortage.

“To me pag nag-declare ka ng calamity may panggastos yung mga tao sa mga mayor, gagamitin yung pera sa pulitika (For me if you declare a calamity the people, the mayors will have funds to use for politics),” Gordon told reporters in Santiago City in Isabela province where he is currently campaigning.

Ano gagawin nila, babayaran nila mga farmer? Babayaran nila ang mga negosyong nalugi? Hindi ko alam gagawin nila sa pera so I’m asking, what does a state of calamity mean when people have brownouts (What will they do, pay the farmers? Pay the businesses that suffered losses? I don’t know what they’ll do with the money, so I’m asking what does a state of calamity mean when people have brownouts),” he said.

Mindanao, which has a 700-megawatt power supply shortfall, is suffering from three to 11-hour blackouts everyday. The brownouts are expected to last until the El Niño phenomenon, which causes low water elevation in hydroelectric plants in Mindanao and other parts of the country, ends in June.

Since Mindanao is not connected to the power grid in Luzon and the Visayas, power plants in the two islands are unable to dispatch excess electricity to Mindanao.

On Thursday, Mindanao Development Authority chairman Jesus Dureza said President Arroyo has approved the recommendation of the National Disaster Coordinating Council (NDCC) to declare a state of calamity so that local government units can use their calamity funds to remedy or alleviate the power crisis. [See: Arroyo approves state of calamity in Mindanao] – Johanna Camille Sisante and Aie Balagtas See/RSJ, GMANews.TV

Arroyo OKs state of calamity in Mindanao

Arroyo OKs state of calamity in Mindanao

MANILA, Philippines – President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo has approved the National Disaster Coordinating Council’s (NDCC) recommendation to place Mindanao under a state of calamity to address the power crisis in the island due to the ongoing dry spell, a Cabinet member confirmed Thursday.

Defense Secretary Norberto Gonzales, concurrent NDCC chairman, said Mrs. Arroyo approved the recommendation Thursday.

In a press briefing on Wednesday, deputy presidential spokesperson Ricardo Saludo said the declaration would allow local government units in the southern island to tap much-needed calamity funds and impose price controls on basic products in affected areas.

“There is the element of price control during a state of calamity. If you remember, there were price controls in Luzon when a state of calamity was declared after storms Ondoy and Pepeng. That is a possibility,” Saludo said.

Mindanao is currently suffering from a severe power shortage as the El Niño phenomenon disabled the region’s hydro-electric power plants, causing 6- to 7-hour blackouts.

Highly dependent on hydro power, Mindanao has been experiencing power shortfalls and rotating blackouts since 2009 when the ongoing dry spell caused water levels in resevoirs to go below normal levels.

According to the March 10 power systems update by the National Grid Corporation of the Philippines (NGCP), Mindanao has a shortage of 748 megawatts (MW). A month ago, Mindanao was experiencing a slim 159-MW power shortage.

The Department of Energy (DOE) Power Development Plan projected an energy shortage in the Mindanao grid as early as 2001.

Energy Secretary Angelo Reyes, meanwhile, has doused fears that the energy crisis in Mindanao would last until the May 10 elections, which has raised concerns about a failure of elections. With a report from Willard Cheng, ABS-CBN News

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

Place Mindanao under state of calamity, Arroyo urged

Place Mindanao under state of calamity, Arroyo urged
By Katherine Evangelista

MANILA, Philippines—The National Disaster Coordinating Council (NDCC) on Wednesday recommended that a state of calamity be declared in Mindanao in light of the power crisis being experienced in the region.

Defense Secretary and NDCC chief Norberto Gonzales said he expects President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo to agree to the agency’s recommendation and issue a proclamation as soon as possible.

“We expect that she will sign this the moment she sees it,” Gonzales told reporters after an emergency meeting held at the NDCC headquarters in Camp Aguinaldo.

Gonzales added that the Department of Energy will spearhead the implementation of the plan once it is approved.