‘Time is of the essence,’ says power sector pres over looming crisis

By , on September 23, 2014

Shutterstock photo
Shutterstock photo

MANILA, Philippines – A looming electrical power shortage – expected to beset Luzon in the summer months of 2015 – has prompted Congress and the Department of Energy (DOE) to call for a special meeting to discuss President Aquino’s appeal to be granted emergency powers to deal the impending crisis.

The meeting, which was requested by Sen. Sergio Osmeña, chairperson of the Senate committee on energy, will include Energy Secretary Carlos Jericho Petilla and Power Sector Assets and Liabilities Management (PSALM) president Emmanuel Ledesma Jr.. Those involved will scrutinize the specifics involved with granting emergency powers.

“We will be meeting with Sen. Serge Osmeña. He agreed to it. We will provide him with additional information and updates,” Ledesma said.

Members of Congress, meanwhile, have asked Malacañang and the DOE to provide them with a greater amount of detail as to the special powers in question, as none have been submitted since the Palace sent Aquino’s request to the House of Representatives and the Senate over a week ago.

“We want to help the President, but we have nothing to act on. His letter-request is just a communication. It’s not a proposed law, it’s not a draft bill or a joint Senate-House of Representatives resolution containing the details of the proposed emergency powers,” said Isabela Rep. Rodolfo Albano III.

Malacañang, however, said that it has chosen to wait for the results of the meeting between Congress and the DOE.

It was likewise noted by the Palace that some lawmakers are not fully convinced about granting special powers to Aquino. But Presidential Spokesperson Edwin Lacierda said that lawmakers’ misgivings notwithstanding, believes the legislature to be concerned about the anticipated power crisis.

“I think our government officials, both in the executive and legislature, are fully aware that there is possible power shortage. The position taken by the DOE is that we need to exercise or invoke Section 71 of EPIRA (Electric Power Industry Reform Act),” Lacierda said.

He likewise stressed the need for lawmakers to thresh out their differences on the matter.

“The legislature may have a different view but we are certain that they are just as concerned in making sure that we address the possible power shortage in 2015. As to what the final proposal will be, let’s wait for the discussion between the House and Senate and the energy secretary,” he added.

Section 71 of the EPIRA of 2001, or Republic Act 9136 allows for the provision of special powers which will make it possible for PSALM to access an additional supply for the summer months of 2015.

Ledesma emphasized that the matter needs to be acted on promptly.

“Time is of the essence,” he said.

He also revealed that PSALM is already talking with several suppliers of generator sets, to boost the power capacity should Congress approve the declaration of a state of emergency in the power sector.

“We are at the stage of accepting and evaluating proposals sent to PSALM and DOE in case Congress grants the request for emergency powers. There are around four foreign companies. We would need to secure 300 megawatts of gas and/or diesel generator sets. Factors to consider include comparative cost, delivery time, minimum O&M contract period required as well as availability of fuel,” he said.