Belmonte urges Senate not to pass on ILP to consumers

By RG Cruz, ABS-CBN News

Posted at Mar 04 2015 04:14 PM | Updated as of Mar 05 2015 12:14 AM

MANILA – House Speaker Sonny Belmonte is urging the Senate not to pass on to residential consumers the additional burden of shouldering the cost of the interruptible load program (ILP) under the emergency powers resolution to curb a looming power crisis this summer.

The House and Senate bicameral conference committee is expected to finalize the resolution by next week.

Meanwhile, power interruptions have already been occurring in Luzon, Visayas and Mindanao.

“The DOE and the Grid Management Committee should already actively implement measures to prevent forced outages given that brownouts are now occurring nationwide,” said Belmonte.

“Where there is a red alert declared by the National Grid Corporation of the Philippines, there should be a sequence protocol to meet the shortage such as first disconnecting those with large generators but who have not volunteered to be participants of the ILP,” explained the Speaker.

“Since it is the people’s money that would pay for the committed ILP power supply, DOE and ERC must ensure efficient utilization of these public funds,” the Speaker cautioned.

“These agencies must device a monitoring system to verify whether a mall, factory or building actually deloads from using Meralco power. It should likewise create a system that validates the amount of electricity actually being generated by embedded generators of these ILP participants. We cannot have ILP participants billing the government or the people for power they are not actually generating,” said the Speaker.

“We are sacrificing and bearing the burden of low power supply during the critical months of summer. And, these ILP participants are in fact going to be compensated for generating power for their own consumption. In exchange, we limit brownouts in residential areas. I am thus appealing to all -- particularly those who are in the power sector -- not to add to the burden of the nation and cooperate at becoming the solution,” the Speaker said.

Under the ILP, private companies with self-generating facilities will be tapped to augment or plug any deficiencies in power at cost. Cost is estimated at least P200 million a month for the duration of the ILP.

Belmonte also wants the power sector not to aggravate impending electricity shortage, and calls for vigilance from DOE and ERC.

“The power industry must not make matters worse by arbitrarily shutting down power plants whose maintenance can be rescheduled after the March to July critical period,” the Speaker said.

“The power producers should behave responsibly at this time when all are sacrificing,” he added.

Bayan Muna Rep. Neri Colmenares, for his part, said separately that now it appears the emergency powers resolution is just meant to derive more revenues from the public because its cost will be passed on to consumers.

Colmenares maintained there is no actual shortage of supply that would justify the emergency powers.

He added they will vote to reject the emergency powers resolution as it is nothing more than a measure to make money out of consumers and to exempt new power plants from complying with the requirements of environmental laws.

One of the provisions of the resolution mandates that the cost of the ILP be charged to the Malampaya fund. Another would be the suspension of environmental laws that apply to building new power plants.

The Speaker also prodded the DOE and ERC as well as the National Grid Corporation of the Philippines (NGCP) to work closely with one another, and step up their monitoring of independent power producers’ delivery of available capacity.

“Both DOE and ERC have a duty to carefully scrutinize these sudden claims of forced outages to ensure that these are really because of unexpected mechanical breakdowns. We should guard against any artificial shortage caused by the deliberate withholding of supply just to jack up prices,” Belmonte said.

The House of Representatives' resolution granting emergency powers to the President addresses the need to build up dispatchable power reserves through the ILP.

Through the ILP large industrial and commercial Meralco customers would run their own generators, thereby freeing up electricity to be used by residential customers -- small electricity users who do not have back-up generators. Government would then compensate these ILP participants.