Trillanes files bill to grant Aquino emergency powers
MANILA, Philippines – Senator Antonio “Sonny” Trillanes IV on Tuesday filed a bill seeking to grant President Benigno Aquino III emergency powers in view of Manila Electric Company’s (Meralco) threat of scheduled blackouts this summer.
Trillanes’ filing of Senate Bill 2051 known as “An act prescribing urgent measures necessary and proper to effectively address the electric power crisis and for other related purposes” came shortly after the President himself clarified that he never asked for it.
“With the powers granted under this bill, it is expected that the President would be able to address the looming energy crisis, if not immediately, at least on the short and medium term,” the senator said in a statement.
Under the proposed measure, Aquino will be granted the power to enter into negotiated contracts for the construction, repair, rehabilitation, improvement and/or maintenance of power plants, projects and facilities whenever necessary for the national welfare and in the public interest.
“Out of the abundance of caution, however, this measure expressly prohibits the government from granting sovereign guarantees for the payment of obligations incurred by the Independent Power Producers (IPPs),” said Trillanes, an administration ally.
“Likewise, this measure proscribes the inclusion of onerous ‘take or pay’ contracts or similar provisions which appeared to have been abused in the past.”
Trillanes said the bill also empowers the President to compel IPPs to sell power to distribution utilities like Meralco as well as power distribution cooperatives, and to fix the rate of return of the IPPs on their rate base to a reasonable rate not to exceed twelve percent (12%) per annum.
The President, under the bill, will also be empowered to authorize the use of all available funds as well as Special Funds, including the Malampaya Fund, “ to finance the maintenance, rehabilitation, and replacement of energy infrastructure in preparation for and/or in response to natural and man-made calamities, as well as to finance subsidy for energy consumption by end users in case of market failure.”
“Through this bill, the President would be in a better position to protect consumers, who are already reeling not only from the recent calamities but also from seemingly endless actual and/or threatened increases in the cost of gasoline and diesel, liquefied petroleum gas (LPG), water, transport fare as well as in the premium contributions imposed by the Social Security System and PhilHealth, and the public-at-large from the debilitating effects not only of rotating blackouts but also from the unprecedented and record-setting increases in the cost of power,” Trillanes added.