IBON says private power firms will only benefit from emergency powers

Nov. 22, 2014

DAVAO CITY—Research group IBON said that only big private power firms will benefit from the emergency powers granted by Congress to President Aquino.

“The real intention of granting emergency powers may be to promote the interests of big power firms whose projects have been delayed or mothballed because of regulatory and other issues,” says IBON.

IBON cited the Aboitiz-Pangilinan group as “one of the possible big business beneficiaries of emergency powers which controls the planned 600-megawatt (MW) Subic coal-fired power plant.”

This as IBON expressed concern on the requirement for presidential emergency powers to implement the Interruptible Load Program (ILP) that will supposedly address power supply gap.

“While ILP is gaining more prominence, tucked in House Joint Resolution (JR) 21 on the proposed emergency powers is the presidential authority to fast-track the construction of new power plants.”

To do this, the Joint Resolution 21 wants to suspend various laws and regulatory requirements, stressed IBON.

But IBON pointed out that the ILP has already been implemented in Visayas and Mindanao without requiring presidential emergency powers.

“Aquino’s allies in Congress and energy officials are highlighting the ILP as government’s primary response to the supposed power shortage in Luzon next summer,” says IBON.

IBON recalled that in 2012, the Supreme Court (SC) issued a Writ of Kalikasan against the coal plant while the Court of Appeals (CA) eventually invalidated its environmental compliance certificate (ECC) in 2013.

“As such, emergency powers could be used to revive the Subic coal power plant despite the judiciary’s prior decisions,” warns IBON, noting that “under JR 21, compliance to the ECC and other requirements shall be deferred until the completion of the power project.”

IBON said ILP “involves private businesses such as malls and factories to use their own generator sets (gensets) when power supply becomes critical. In return, government will reimburse them the cost of running their gensets.”

According to IBON, at least 30 companies, including the country’s largest mall operators, have already signed up for the ILP. Their gensets have a combined capacity of 171.96 megawatts (MW).

Meanwhile, the Department of Energy (DOE) is targeting an additional 32 companies with a total capacity of 61.53 MW to also join the ILP.

The DOE estimates that the ILP will cost government around Php450 million. The amount is based on operation and maintenance costs pegged at a maximum of Php23,500 per genset monthly and fuel costs at 0.34 liters per kilowatt-hour (kWh).

Despite the resolution’s approval on first reading, IBON maintained that “Congress should devote its time in crafting a law that will replace the flawed Electric Power Industry Reform Act (EPIRA).”

“The country should not entrust to the private sector the power industry because of its strategic role in development and the people’s quality of living,” IBON added. (davaotoday.com)

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