‘Crisis powers favor big, dirty power plants’ | Inquirer News

‘Crisis powers favor big, dirty power plants’

/ 04:25 AM December 12, 2014

MANILA, Philippines–Owners of coal- or biomass-fired power plants are expected to benefit from President Aquino’s special powers allowing him to bypass rigid regulations meant to protect the environment, a party-list lawmaker said on Thursday.

The House of Representatives has approved Joint Resolution No. 21 granting the President special powers to address the expected power shortfall in summer.

Bayan Muna Rep. Neri Colmenares identified the plants and their owners as follows:


— 600-megawatt (MW) coal-fired plant in Subic Freeport, Zambales province, owned by the consortium of Aboitiz Power Corp., Manila Electric Co. and Taiwan Cogen Corp.


— 135-MW Puting Bato coal plant of South Luzon Thermal Energy Corp. owned by Ayala Corp. and Trans-Asia Oil and Energy Development Corp.

— Twin 150-MW plant in Calaca, Batangas of DMCI Holdings’ South Luzon Power Generation.

— 2-MW biomass-fired plant of San Jose City Power Corp.

— 12.5-MW rice husk-fired plant of Bataan 2020 Inc.

— 20-MW biomass plant of Isabela Biomass Corp.

Colmenares said a key provision in the joint resolution suspending environmental laws practically gave the President a “blank check” to allow big and dirty power plants to degrade the environment.


“During the effectivity of the President’s special powers from March to July next year, ‘all national government agencies and local government units are hereby authorized to suspend the operability of pertinent laws, rules and regulations including, but not limited to, mitigating measures adopted for the Wholesale Electricity Spot Market, the Biofuels Act, the Clean Air Act, the Philippine Grid Code, the Philippine Distribution Code, that may affect the operation and transmission of the contracted generation capacities under this Joint Resolution, to ensure the timely commissioning and utilization thereof,’” the resolution said.

Colmenares said that in a country like the Philippines “visited regularly by supertyphoons like ‘Yolanda’ and ‘Ruby’ caused by climate change, it is best that we must do all we can to protect the environment and not add to its destruction.”

Oriental Mindoro Rep. Reynaldo Umali, energy committee chair, assuaged fears that the President would abuse his powers to bend the rules in favor of big power firms.

“The resolution demands that power be immediately available within the crisis period and this exempts power plants that would operate after the risks,” Umali said in a press conference.

He said lawmakers felt that whether the power supply came from “clean or dirty sources,” their overriding concern was to avert power outages at any cost.

He placed the maximum cost of getting additional power from excess supply and interruptible load program suppliers at P200 million.

Umali said he expected the Senate to approve the joint resolution next month, claiming that he and Senate energy committee Chair Sergio Osmeña III were on the same page on granting the President emergency powers.

But Osmeña on Thursday said there was no need to pass this month a Senate resolution granting Aquino emergency powers to avert the looming power shortage.

Mothballed coal plant

Kabataan Rep. Terry Ridon said the joint resolution would offer the mothballed coal plant Mount Redondo in Subic a golden opportunity to operate without the need for compliance with environmental laws.

Ridon served as legal counsel for environmental groups that sought a writ of kalikasan against the Meralco power plant in the Supreme Court in 2012.

Akbayan Rep. Walden Bello said Meralco should be taken to task for any shortfall in power because of its decision to choose the Redondo project rather than other more viable proposals at that time.

“Isn’t the energy crisis, to a great extent, created by the inability of the Redondo plant of Meralco to come on stream? Meralco is in fact a company that is controlled by Beacon electric, First Philippine Holdings, Metro Pacific and First Pacific, all of which are tied in to the Salim family, an Indonesian family,” Bello said.

“This is a matter of national security. Meralco controls 70 percent of the distribution of electricity in Luzon and we have an electricity distributor that is in fact an Indonesian-owned company,” he said during his interpellation on the floor during the plenary debates.

Bello said he and his colleague, Rep. Barry Gutierrez, voted no to the joint resolution because they were not convinced that the emergency powers were necessary for what he called an “artificial power crisis.”

Malampaya maintenance

Bello blamed Shell Corp.’s unilateral decision to do its maintenance work on the Malampaya natural gas field off Palawan province—which provides up to 45 percent of Luzon’s power requirements—in March and April next year when demand for power would be at its peak.

“Instead of passing this bill giving the President emergency powers, I have proposed a simple alternative and that is for Congress to ask the President to order Shell to do its maintenance work later in the year. He has the full authority to do this, as the Department of Energy (DOE) admitted during the committee hearings,” Bello said.

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He said the DOE was hard-pressed to give “a good, consistent reason” why the shutdown could not be delayed “so Philippine energy security would come ahead of Shell’s corporate bottom line.”

TAGS: Congress, power plants

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