Saturday, 6 March 2010

No emergency power for GMA

It’s next to impossible — Nograles
With reports from Mike U. Crismundo, Sarah Hilomen, and Hannah L. Torregoza
Manila Bulletin

Giving President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo emergency power to address the current energy crisis in the country is next to impossible.

House Speaker Prospero Nograles said this Friday as he suggested instead that the government find remedies to solve the crisis other than the emergency power for the Chief Executive.

At the Senate, Minority Leader Aquilino Q. Pimentel Jr. urged the national government to use six idle power barges to resolve the power crisis crippling Mindanao without Malacañang being given emergency powers by Congress to deal with the crisis.

Pimentel cited four idle power barges operated by the state-owned National Power Corporation (Napocor) and two other barges owned by Aboitiz, a private firm, whose total power output could be fed to the Mindanao grid.

As this developed, the National Grid Corporation of the Philippines (NGCP) stated that the 820 megawatts now available in the Mindanao grid remain insufficient to meet the peak demand of 1,470 mW for the region.

From 498 generation deficiency on Wednesday, the additional power supply increased after STEAG Power, Inc. and Aboitiz Power Corporation increased their respective capability on Thursday, the NGCP advisory said.

In a statement, Nograles said that aside from the difficulty of mustering a quorum for both the House of Representatives and Senate for a special session, most senators are also opposed to the idea of giving the President emergency power.

“Many of our senators are either running for re-election or are seeking other elective posts. This is the same case with our Congressmen so it would not be easy to hold a special session now even if the leaderships of both Houses of Congress are ready and willing to oblige. And even if there would be a quorum, it is very unlikely that Senators would simply agree to cloak the President with emergency powers to address the Mindanao power crisis. Just read the statements of the senators and you will already know that granting the President with emergency powers is close to impossible. There must be some other way to address this problem,” Nograles said.

Nograles said that instead of simply passing the buck on the President, energy officials led by Energy Secretary Angelo Reyes can address the Mindanao power crisis by removing all the red tapes and stringent terms of reference to allow private investors to come in and invest in power generation.

“This is the quickest fix to our power crisis in Mindanao. Let us allow the private sector to come in until after the power situation goes back to normal,” he said.

“My take is that those who want to invest in power have to go through an obstacle course because of so many requirements as if the government does not want them to come in. This is the report given to me by Deputy Speaker Noli Fuentebella who is the House energy expert and the author of the Electric Power Industry Reform Act of 2001 (EPIRA Law). Energy officials did not follow the energy laws on creating the reserve capacity required by the EPIRA,” he said.

Latest update from the NGCP as of March 5 showed that Luzon has a power deficiency of 641 megawatts and Mindanao with 700 megawatts.

Still, Davao City is experiencing two hours of rotating brownouts since Friday as the Davao Light and Power Company (DLPC) announced Thursday that the power plant in Bajada, this city is undergoing emergency preventive maintenance.

The Visayas grid, meanwhile, has improved after President Arroyo formally put into operation the first of three units of the 246 megawatts (mW) of the coal-fired power plant of the Cebu Energy Development Corporation (CEDC) in Toledo City last Friday.

The switch-on ceremony signals the full operations of the 82-mW first unit of the three-unit power plant and comes at a time when Cebu and other provinces in the region are experiencing rotating brownouts lasting up to two hours a day, causing work stoppages and inadvertent loss of income for businesses and individuals.

“Today the Visayas grid is experiencing shortage of supply. With the launching of the 82 megawatt power plant, the whole Visayas can now meet its present needs,” President Arroyo said after the ceremonial switch on of the P3 billion plant.

CEDC's $450-million, or roughly P3 billion coal-fired power plant, is a joint venture among Global Business Power Corporation (GBPC) of the Metrobank group, Formosa Heavy Industries Corporation, Aboitiz Power Corporation, and Vivant Power Corporation.

The other two units of the 246 MW power plant are expected to go online by end of May and the end of December, respectively.

Once the Toledo plant is fully operational, CEDC President Jesus Alcordo said they hope to install a dependable energy supply of 216 mW for the Visayas grid, reducing the unfilled energy demand and reserve deficit to only 17 mW from the current 233 mW.

“This new power plant signals the end of rotating brownouts in the Visayas and the end of Cebu's importation of power from Luzon," said the President, adding that Cebu can even become an exporter of power to Luzon and Mindanao.

Meanwhile, Nacionalista Party presidential candidate Sen. Manuel Villar Jr. said President Arroyo should make a public disclosure of the contracts that would be entered into by the government when she addresses the power crisis in Mindanao.

For the sake of transparency, Villar said government contracts with power investors must be open to the public once Mrs. Arroyo pushes through with her plans to declare a power crisis in the South.

The President has agreed to Energy Secretary Angelo Reyes’ proposal to declare a power crisis in Mindanao which would pave a way for the government to forge agreements to set up generation sets that would supply Mindanao with power.

Aside from Mindanao, the power crisis has also worsened in some parts of Luzon and Metro Manila.

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