House body okays declaration of energy crisis in Mindanao

March 1, 2010 11:58 pm 

By Lilybeth G. Ison

MANILA, March 1 — The committee on energy of the House of Representatives on Monday approved a proposal for President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo to declare a power crisis in Mindanao.

The House energy committee chaired by Pampanga Rep. Juan Miguel "Mikey" Arroyo unanimously approved the motion of Cagayan de Oro Rep. Rufus Rodriguez to "recommend that the President act under Section 71 of the EPIRA (Electric Power Industry Reform Act) law and that she determines and declares that there is an acute and a present, actual shortage of electricity."

The motion of Rodriguez also proposes for the President to call on Congress to a special session to consider passing a joint resolution to address the energy problem in Mindanao under terms and conditions to be set by Congress.

Section 71 of the EPIRA provides that "upon the 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."

After the House committee hearing, Rodriguez told reporters that the special session might be held by March 8 to immediately address the energy shortage in Mindanao, where residents of several provinces experience at least four hours of rotating brownouts daily.

Energy Secretary Angelo Reyes, during the committee hearing, recommended that the President invoke Section 71 of the EPIRA to enable the government to take further steps to ensure that additional electricity would be generated.

In his presentation before the committee, Reyes said the Department of Energy (DoE) expects rotating brownouts in Mindanao to last until June, as the El Nino phenomenon has dried up water sources, resulting to a 60 percent drop in the electricity production of hydropower plants in the island.

He said the exact details of what will constitute the powers of the President during a power crisis will depend on Congress.

However, leaders of the Lower House junked Reyes' proposal to give emergency powers to the President in addressing the power crisis in Mindanao.

Speaker Prospero Nograles, in a text message, said there's no need for a special session on Congress as "energy laws have enough powers to address crisis and to act swiftly."

"The executive department has enough powers on its own already," he said.

Besides, Nograles said some P500 million were added in the budget of the National Electrification Administration (NEA) for the year, which could be spent to address shortage of electricity in the country.

House Deputy Minority Leader and Bayan Muna party-list Rep. Satur Ocampo said the government must not commit the same mistake when it gave then President Fidel V. Ramos the same power to deal with independent power producers (IPP) in 1992.

"The folly that ensued from the exercise of power — the unjust IPP contracts — should not be repeated. The IPP deals burdened both (on) the government and the consuming public with paying at high cost of power produced by the IPPs," said Ocampo, who is running for senator in the May election.

Rodriguez, however, said his proposal was already "long overdue."

"I wish the President will immediately act on this," he said, adding that this has been raised as early as last year during hearings in the Lower Chamber.

He clarified though that the special power to be given to the President should only be up to June this year, as the rains, which would fill up dams used in generating electricity, are expected to come by then. (PNA)



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