MANILA - Sen. Antonio "Sonny" F. Trillanes IV has filed a bill granting emergency powers to President Benigno Aquino III amid the threat of rotating blackouts in the franchise area of the Manila Electric Co. (Meralco) in the the coming summer months.
Meralco, the country's biggest power distribution utility firm, aired the warning on looming blackouts in a pleading it filed with the Supreme Court.
"With the powers granted under this Bill, it is expected that the President would be able to address the looming energy crisis, if not immediately, at least on the short and medium term," Trillanes said in Senate Bill No. 2051.
Under the proposed legislation, President Aquino will be granted the power to enter into negotiated contracts for the construction, repair, rehabilitation, improvement and/or maintenance of power plants, projects, and facilities for national welfare and in public interest.
"Out of the abundance of caution, this measure expressly prohibits the government from granting sovereign guarantees for the payment of obligations incurred by the Independent Power Producers (IPPs). Likewise, this measure proscribes the inclusion of onerous 'take or pay' contracts or similar provisions which appeared to have been abused in the past," Trillanes said.
In an apparent bid to prevent rotating blackouts in Luzon, the bill also aims to empower the President to compel independent power producers (IPPs) to sell electricity to distribution utilities like Meralco, as well as power distribution cooperatives, and fix the rate of return of the IPPs on their rate base to a reasonable rate not exceeding 12% per annum.
The President shall also be empowered under the bill to authorize the use of all available funds, as well as special funds including the Malampaya Fund, to finance the maintenance, rehabilitation, and replacement of energy infrastructure in preparation for and/or in response to natural and man-made calamities.
He will also be authorized to finance subsidies for energy consumption by end users in case of market failure.
"Through this bill, the President would be in a better position to protect consumers, who are already reeling not only from the recent calamities but also from seemingly endless actual and/or threatened increases in the cost of gasoline and diesel, liquefied petroleum gas (LPG), water, transport fare as well as in the premium contributions imposed by the Social Security System and PhilHealth, and the public-at-large from the debilitating effects not only of rotating blackouts but also from the unprecedented and record-setting increases in the cost of power," Trillanes said.