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Aquino still undecided on emergency powers to avert power crisis

MANILA, Philippines–Malacañang on Monday downplayed its own technical report categorically stating that the government “will invoke” emergency powers to avert a looming energy shortage in Luzon next year.

President Aquino had yet to make up his mind on Section 71 of the Electric Power Industry Reform Act (Epira) to deal with the crisis, his spokesman Edwin Lacierda told reporters.

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But Lacierda could not say why the technical report on the President’s State of the Nation Address (Sona) was categorical in saying that the government will use the Epira’s “Electric Power Crisis Provision.”

“I think a clearer announcement is the State of the Nation Address where the President did not mention that,” the Palace official said. “So between the Sona technical report and the State of the Nation Address, we should look into the State of the Nation Address as the way forward for now.”

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In his Sona last week, President Aquino asked Energy Secretary Jericho Petilla to “coordinate with the Joint Congressional Power Commission, the Energy Regulatory Commission, members of (the power) industry, and consumers…to increase our capacity to respond to (the energy) problem.”

But the Sona Technical Report, which was prepared by the Office of the President and posted on the official government website, was more categorical on the emergency powers earlier proposed by Petilla.

Emergency powers

“To address the need for additional capacity during the critical period in Luzon in 2015, the government will invoke Section 71 of RA 9136, or the Electric Power Industry Reform Act of 2001,” according to the document.

The provision states that: “Upon determination by the President of the Philippines of an imminent shortage of the supply of electricity, Congress may authorize, through a joint resolution, the establishment of additional generating capacity under such terms and conditions as it may approve.”

Once a joint resolution was issued by Congress, the government “would contract a private proponent to construct capacities equivalent to 500 to 600 MW power plants,” according to the Sona report.

The report assured the private sector that the government would operate and maintain the facilities for only five years and that it would “not intervene in the power generation business.”

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Lacierda rejected the possibility that the Sona report was erroneous, and said that strategies mentioned in the 86-page report were but “recommendations provided by the Department of Energy.”

The report pegged the power shortage in Luzon at between 400 and 1,000 MW from March to May 2015, and said the inadequate supply would result in “rotating brownouts.”

“Mindanao may experience longer brownouts in 2015 if no new power plants come in of dependable capacities,” it added.

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TAGS: Aquino, Benigno Aquino III, emergency powers, Philippines, Power crisis, Sona 2014
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