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Aquino gives energy chief until yearend to restore power in areas hit by ‘Pablo’


President Aquino congratulates Jericho Petilla after the Leyte governor took his oath as energy secretary at Naia 2. INQUIRER FILE PHOTO

MANILA, Philippines—President Aquino has given Energy Secretary Jericho Petilla until the end of the year to restore power in typhoon-ravaged towns of Compostela Valley and Davao Oriental.

He issued this order even as he noted that some local government units appeared to be the weak links in the national government-driven disaster preparedness and response initiatives, echoing the observation of key climate change and risk reduction experts.

In a speech at the International Conference on Energy Retail Markets at a hotel in Mandaluyong City, the President took note of the presence of officials of the Energy Regulatory Commission and Department of Energy, and said:

“Why do our (energy officials) look sad? Perhaps, they are afraid to renege on their promise to restore power in areas affected by (Typhoon) Pablo. But I am fully confident that they could achieve that,” said the President.

The President added: “Before the end of the year, our Energy Secretary, Icot Petilla, has committed to restore power in Compostela Valley and Davao Oriental. And that is despite the damage wrought, and even the main transmission lines, which we saw, were on the ground already.”

The President, who visited the two provinces last Friday, told energy stakeholders that the national agencies were “well prepared” for Pablo.

“But we realize that, at times, even the best preparations will not be enough without cohesive cooperation with the LGUs, and that is something we are working on moving forward,” Mr. Aquino said.

However, the President said he still “could sympathize with some of our heads of our LGUs” since, in one particular area, the last time it suffered a typhoon of the same magnitude was in 1912.

“So it is, I think, safe to say that there are no people who have living memory of such an event, and despite all of the warnings, it really does become difficult to accept all of these warnings given that they are not in the realm of your consciousness. One governor in fact asked me, ‘Is this how it is in Luzon every time there’s a typhoon?’ Anyway, that is another topic,” said the President.

He reported that the administration, along with private donors, have been “hard at work to get those affected back on their own two feet.”

“Soldiers and policemen are manning the hardest hit areas to maintain order and to assist in rescue and relief work; our social workers are spending long hours in various evacuation centers; and volunteers are lining up to provide the needed support in order to restore normalcy,” he said.

“But while the immediate concern is restoring supply to the affected areas, we must also realize that the challenge that follows is making sure that power is affordable, particularly for the less fortunate,” he said.

Mr. Aquino then disclosed that in June 2011, he signed a bill extending the lifeline electricity rates started by his predecessor.

“Lifeline rates are lower rates charged to customers who consume less than 100 kilowatt hours per month. We need to undertake programs like this to make our people less vulnerable to sudden increases in the prices of commodities especially—so that, ultimately, they are given a legitimate chance to lift themselves out of poverty.

“Over the long term, we also want to promote a system that will naturally keep power prices reasonable if not preferably low, and this is the rationale for the Wholesale Electricity Spot Market (WSEM),” he said.

He explained that WESM would not “magically lower electricity prices overnight,” but it could be a “sensible long-term solution.”

“It encourages competition and saves consumers from being at the mercy of a single company with monopoly power; it allows them to select the retailers who offer the most benefit. While it won’t happen immediately, an efficient WESM will increase competitive pressures and will play a large part in lowering the cost of electricity in this country and increasing our competitiveness,” he said.

“As long as we are able to ensure a level playing field, then the market will do its work. The upcoming implementation of retail competition and open access can only help. We can look forward to more players in the market, which will move us even closer to more reliable and fairly priced energy for both people and businesses,” he added.

He urged his audience to engage in genuine exchanges with one another to ensure a reliable energy supply for the country.

“The past week has been very difficult for us, but our countrymen have always shown that no storm can ever dampen the spirit of the Filipino. So I ask every person in this room and every citizen of this country: Let us continue our pursuit of excellence in our respective fields. I am certain that as long as we fulfill our individual responsibilities towards the collective task of building this nation, this country of ours will always make it through the storm and emerge stronger under the broad light of day,” Mr. Aquino said.

The conference was organized by the Philippine Electricity Market Corporation in line with the celebration of the National Energy Consciousness Month.

The conference focused on the critical convergence of wholesale and retail markets amid the imminent opening of the retail electricity market in the country, and was designed for industry professionals interested on how this new market environment would affect their respective business positions in relation to electricity trade.

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Tags: Calamities , Compostela Valley , Davao Oriental , Death Toll , DoE , Electricity , Energy , Government , Mindanao , Natural Disasters , NDRRMC , Pagasa , Search & Rescue , Typhoon Pablo

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