MANILA, Philippines — Senator Joseph Victor “JV” Ejercito on Thursday supported proposals to give President Benigno Aquino III emergency powers to address the energy crisis but warned Energy Secretary Jericho Petilla against “blackmailing the public” in his efforts to deal with the problem.
But Kabataan party-list Representative Terry Ridon worried that the Department of Energy “may be creating conditions for generation companies to do away with required government permits, especially environmental permits,” as he questioned why Petilla “kept information on the looming power crisis under the wraps until more than midway this year.”
“I am open to give President Noynoy Aquino emergency powers to deal with the impending power crisis in 2015 but only if they can assure us that these will not be abused like what had happened during the Ramos administration wherein independent power producers made a killing by collecting exorbitant power rates from the consumers,” Ejercito said in a statement.
At the same time, he acknowledged that, “a new power plant would take five years to build. There’s nothing much we can do in two years, except use of emergency power generators which will be expensive to operate.”
He warned that any powers granted to Aquino “must not also force us to pay more in our electricity bills later” and that Petilla’s “actual proposals must also be doable, practical, cost-efficient and safe.”
Ejercito also cautioned Petilla against warning of massive power outages by summer next year unless Aquino is granted emergency powers.
“Blackmailing the public is the last thing that the good secretary must do to deal with the impending power crisis. It will not help us any bit,” he said.
“In the first place, the Aquino government was not able to produce a power plant and did not do anything even with repeated warnings from experts and other stakeholders that there will be a shortage come 2015. The administration has been denying that there is a looming power crisis, now that they have finally admitted, the problem is now very serious that they are asking for emergency powers for the President,” Ejercito said.
Ridon, in a separate statement, said: “Before Congress rushes in to giving the president powers to immediately raise generation capacity, we have to remember that gencos need to comply with certain technical, financial, and environmental requirements. DOE’s rushed tone seems to imply that it wants such clearances, licenses and permits waived.”
He also chided Petilla for what he called the belated warning of a power crisis, saying the Energy secretary “knows how long it takes to establish new power plants and how difficult it is to raise additional generating capacity. I suspect that this urgent pronouncement is tinged with the motive of doing away with government requirements for gencos.”
Ridon had earlier opposed the proposal for emergency powers, noting that this was “one of the main reasons why electricity rates in the Philippines are higher than its neighboring countries.”
Former President Fidel Ramos was granted emergency powers to tackle a crippling power crisis after his predecessor, Corazon Aquino, mother of the incumbent, stepped down.
This led to contracts with independent power producers that bound government to buying their energy whether or not this was needed.