MANILA, Philippines (UPDATE) - Energy Secretary Jericho Petilla has recommended to President Aquino to declare a state of emergency on the power situation, based on a projected deficiency in supply by the summer of 2015.
Petilla added he has asked the President to declare an emergency about two or three weeks ago after seeing the projected electricity supply deficiency which is estimated between 400-500 MW.
Petilla clarified the current power situation, where Metro Manila and nearby provinces in Luzon are plagued by rotating power interruptions, is not the basis for his recommendation but the projected deficiency in supply next year and the coming years.
Petilla said what the government can do in case the President is granted emergency power is to purchase or rent modular generator sets of diesel/ bunker fuel-run generators to cover the expanding demand.
According to Petilla, there is still a window for the government to lay down measures to avert a power crisis in 2015.
Under the Electricity Power Industry Reform Act (EPIRA), the government is prohibited from venturing into the generation of electricity as this is supposedly reserved only for the private sector.
But section 71 of the law provides that the President can declare an emergency and ask the House of Representatives and the Senate for a joint resolution that will authorize him to implement some measures to generate more electricity supply.
While there are new power plants being built, Petilla said the DOE feels that some of them will not be online or add power to the grid as scheduled to meet the expected demand in electricity.
Estimates place the annual spike in demand at 4-6 percent due to industrial and commercial business expansions.
Business groups divided
Meanwhile, business groups are divided on whether to give President Aquino emergency powers to handle the situation.
"The dire need to act on the impending power shortages now makes such emergency powers necessary. I think that most, if not all, of the substantial gains of the Aquino administration will go to waste if we do not address this matter right away," Management Association of the Philippines president Greg Navarro said.
Employers Confederation of the Philippines (ECOP) president Ed Lacson disagreed, saying that "emergency in a well managed economy is an aberration and an admission of failure of the system."
"The only justifiable emergencies are state of war, great number of casualties and destruction from natural or man-made disasters, alien invasion, massive food shortage, serious coup d' etat, and economic collapse due to global crisis, and the like... Power shortage which has been staring at us for more than two decades is a big problem requiring big solutions without resorting to emergency powers," Lacson said.
Senator Serge Osmena expressed doubt whether the purchase of power barges will solve the impending power shortage next year.
"It is good that the Department of Energy is finally able to face reality and acknowledge they did little in the past 4 years to ensure sufficient supply of power for 2015, 2016, 2017, 2018. If their band- aid solution is to buy power barges, how long will it take to bring them in? It is doubtful deliveries will be made before March 2015. How much will they charge the consumer on a per kwh basis? They will cost P9 to P15 per kwh depending on utilization," he said. - With report from Coco Alcuaz, ANC