Friday, 12 March 2010

PGMA places Mindanao under state of calamity

President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo today placed Mindanao under a state of calamity to enable the national and local governments to cope with the crippling power crisis caused by dry spell attributed to the El Nino weather phenomenon.

The emergency move was recommended by National Disaster Coordinating Council (NDCC) chair Norberto Gonzales, who is also the secretary of national defense, following meetings by a crisis group in the Cabinet tasked by the President to evaluate options in the Mindanao power problems, other than invoking presidential emergency powers or emergency measures under the so-called EPIRA law of 2001.

Among the options under consideration were:

• enjoining companies and their workers to operate at night when power usage is low;

• sharing of generating capacities among generator sets owners;

• continuous conservation measures and rotating brownouts (a form of managing demand);

• importing gen-sets and even power barges that have higher wattage; and

• mobilizing and releasing of calamity funds.

A declaration of a state of calamity allows mobilization of calamity funds from both the national and local governments to address crisis and would include the imposition of price controls on basic commodities.

But Deputy Presidential Spokesperson Gary Olivar said at a Malacañang briefing that price control is not an option in Mindanao.

The declaration of a state of calamity for Mindanao was also recommended by the Department of Energy (DoE) which earlier had sought emergency measures available under the Electric Power Industry Reform Act of 2001, which would require Congress approval. However, the move to invoke crisis powers under EPIRA was deferred.

The DoE, Department of Justice (DoJ) and NDCC are meeting today to flesh out the implementing measures of the calamity declaration.

“The crisis has a definite period and we want to hit the ground as quickly as possible to give the problem a timely solution,” Olivar said.

“Although the rains are expected to come in late June, the recovery of water level may take a little longer and the tight supply of power will stay as long as water levels start to recover,” Olivar said.

The calamity funds will be used primarily to lease power generation capacities needed in Mindanao, Olivar said.

Highly dependent on hydro power, Mindanao has been experiencing power shortfalls and rotating blackouts since 2009 when the dry spell caused water levels in reservoirs to go below normal levels. (PND)

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