President Aquino on Thursday sounded cool to the idea of using emergency powers to deal with brownouts in Mindanao, but he assured the public that there would be an adequate power supply on Election Day on May 13.
“Maybe we should first define what kind of emergency powers needs to be done,” the President told reporters in Naga City in an interview aired over government-run dzRB.
He was responding to the call of the Zamboanga Chamber of Commerce Industry Foundation for him to use his emergency powers to address the problem.
Aquino acknowledged though that he could invoke the Electric Power Industry Reform Act of 2001 to declare a state of emergency, but this must be authorized by Congress.
Otherwise, there was a sufficient supply of water in the region’s hydropower plants to ensure an adequate electricity “especially for Election Day,” he said.
The President said Energy Secretary Jericho Petilla was due to present an “immediate solution,” such as purchasing or renting diesel-powered plants, to the “crisis” in Mindanao by Friday.
“We’ve found a way to ensure there won’t be a failure of election for lack of power,” he added.
For about a month now, Misamis Occidental, Lanao del Norte and Iligan City have been hit by two rounds of brownouts, with each round lasting from two to six hours.
Misamis Occidental 2 Electric Cooperative Inc. said the outages were caused by power supply deficiencies from the Agus and Pulangi hydroelectricity generation plants, which are operated by state-owned National Power Corp. (Napocor).
Officials, however, said that the long brownouts in Mindanao were an offshoot of the state-owned electricity generator’s action to conserve power for the midterm elections.
Napocor and Power Sector Assets and Liabilities Management Corp. have been mandated by the Commission on Elections to ensure an adequate supply of power for the elections, its officials said.
Repair of hydro plants
Mindanao currently has a shortfall of 300 MW due to the repair of hydropower facilities in Bukidnon and Lanao and other factors, according to the energy department.
As part of the “immediate solution,” the government was considering purchasing diesel-powered plants and had been assured of authorization from Congress, Aquino said.
“Once that is done, that will be the stop-gap measure. We will either buy or rent from those that have the generating capacity. That will reduce brownouts there,” he said.
“Once the private power plants come on line by 2014, we will no longer need these expensive diesel power plants. We will bring them to missionary areas.”
In Davao City, Luwalhati Antonino, chairman of the Mindanao Development Authority (Minda), said that to ease the power shortage at least three diesel and bunker fuel-fed generators would be commissioned next month as repairs on hydropower facilities continued.
The energy department, however, said even if the hydropower facilities resumed normal operations, Mindanao would still suffer a power shortage because existing plants could produce up to only 1,181 MW while peak demand was expected to hit 1,484 MW this year.—With reports from Allan Nawal, Edwin Fernandez and Aquiles Zonio Inquirer Mindanao