'Emergency powers not solution to power crisis'

By Lynda Jumilla, ABS-CBN News

Posted at Feb 22 2010 06:57 PM | Updated as of Mar 11 2010 02:39 AM

MANILA, Philippines - Some senators are lukewarm to cloaking President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo with emergency powers to address the power shortage in Mindanao as well as in other parts of the country.

Senate minority leader Aquilino Pimentel said on Monday that apart from the concern that the powers might be used elsewhere, there is simply no time for Congress to meet and deliberate on such a piece of legislation.

“Marami pa namang alternative remedies. Therefore, that may not necessarily be the immediate solution, lalo na kung kakalat sa ibang areas yung emergency power na yon. That’s what I'm afraid of,” Pimentel said after attending a hearing of the joint congressional power commission to assess the power supply and demand situation.

Although Congress returns for a 2-week session May to June, Pimentel pointed out the time will be spent canvassing results of the presidential and vice presidential elections.

“There’ll be no time to discuss a very sensitive issue like granting emergency powers to the President. Besides Mayo pa yun. Ang pangangailangan, ngayon na--Pebrero, Marso, Abril,” he said.

Senate energy committee chair Sen. Gregorio Honasan, meanwhile, said he is suspending judgment on the proposal for emergency presidential powers until after he has heard the Department of Energy.

Honasan is co-chair of the Joint Congressional Power Commission (Powercom), which called a hearing on Monday to assess the power situation in all the grids and sub-grids, as well as the stability of supply in Luzon, Visayas and Mindanao.

Reyes a no-show

But no answers were forthcoming because Energy Secretary Angelo Reyes was a no-show.

Reyes was attending a power crisis-related meeting in the Visayas.

However, the National Power Corp. (NPC), National Grid Corp. of the Philippines (NBCP), Power Sector Assets and Liabilities Management Corp. (PSALM), and other stakeholders in the power sector were represented.

“We had wanted a description of the supply-demand situation but this was not adequately answered, despite the urgency of the situation,” Honasan said. But he added Reyes had a valid excuse and had informed the Powercom beforehand.

Honasan said he does not have adequate information “to warrant a decision for or against emergency powers.” “Dahan-dahan tayo, because we don’t want to raise hopes,” he added.

But Honasan said there could be enough powers provided in the Electric Power Industry Reform Act (EPIRA) law to allow the president, as well as local government units, to deal with the shortage in power supply, which has already set in in some parts of the country. -- by Lynda Jumilla, ABS-CBN News