Osmena warns of blackouts in Luzon next year

by Ira Pedrasa, ABS-CBNnews.com

Posted at May 25 2014 04:03 PM | Updated as of May 26 2014 12:39 AM

MANILA (UPDATED) - Senator Sergio Osmena III on Sunday warned of widespread brownouts in Metro Manila and Luzon next year which can no longer be blamed on the previous administration.

In an interview with radio dzMM, Osmena said traditional power plants such as coal, hydro, and geothermal usually take around five years to complete.

“The brownout this year [2014] is still the fault of former President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo, but next year, we should already blame President Aquino," he said.

He blamed mismanagement of the Department of Energy (DOE), headed by Secretary Jericho Petilla, for the thin power reserves, noting that there have always been investors wanting to put up new power plants.

“The work of the DOE is to anticipate the problem. In Mindanao, there are 4 coal-fired plants ready to be used, but it took years before they got the approval,” he said.

He said he has no problems with nuclear power plants, but “where will we throw away the nuclear waste?”

He also said a 10-year lead time is needed for a nuclear power plant before it can be dispatched.

Coal-fired power plants, on the other hand, continue to be blocked by environmentalists.

“It’s all about the management of the DOE,” he said.

Osmena said he's praying that the power plants currently being built won’t face any problems that will delay their completion.

Breakdowns, maintenance, and other unforeseen problems will further affect the tightening supply, he said.

He cited, for example, Luzon's thin reserve at 1,800 megawatts (MW); it needs 2,800 MW.

He slammed Malacanang for claiming that new power plants will come on stream next year.

“What if the plant that will be online next year is only 1 MW? They also know how to twist the facts. When the problem comes, they will be singing a different tune.”

If he were to rate Aquino’s management skills, Osmena would give him 9.5 out of 10 for its anti-corruption campaign.

For ensuring energy security, however, he gave the Aquino administration a low grade of 3.

Osmena also gave the president a failing grade of 2 for its work in the transportation and communications sector.

“It’s so easy to fix the Ninoy Aquino International Airport (NAIA) Terminal 1. Four years ago, it was tagged as the worst airport. It remains so until now.”


Senator JV Ejercito also chimed in, urging Petilla to “shape up or ship out” as energy chief.

Ejercito said it is high time for the government to admit its shortcomings.

"The government cannot continue its penchant of blaming the previous administration for inheriting their problems. They cannot blame Gloria Arroyo forever," he said in a separate statement.

He said the problem with the DOE is that many of the appointed or non-career officials don’t have the necessary technical knowledge to resolve the situation.

"Last year, we witnessed Petilla's incapacity first-hand as a technocrat and energy secretary when he decided not to run the Malaya power plant. That was at the height of the power shortage in Luzon, which caused the spike in power rates last December," he added.

He said he is alarmed by the power situation.

"I am very alarmed over the country's inadequate power supply and its high cost because this may eventually cascade into a 'doomsday' scenario in power failure," Ejercito said.