MANILA (Mabuhay) — Amending provisions in the Electric Power Industry Reform Act of 2001 (EPIRA) and allowing government to build and run power plants once again is the better solution to a looming power crisis than giving President Benigno Aquino III additional clout to deal with the situation.
The People Opposed to Unwarranted Electricity Rates (POWER) said granting the President emergency powers to solve power crisis – as proposed by Energy Secretary Carlos Jericho Petilla – is part of the “quick fixes that will ultimately lead to higher prices of electricity without effectively solving the supply problem.”
“The emergency powers route has been tried before under the Ramos administration. It led to skyrocketing power rates and the ruin of the National Power Corporation (Napocor) whose effects we are still suffering until today,” POWER Convenor and former Bayan Muna representative Teddy Casiño said in an e-mailed statement Tuesday.
On Monday, Petilla said he already recommended declaring a state of national emergency on power due to a looming power supply shortfall next year, giving the President free-hand to contract new power plants or rent modular generators.
POWER said Petilla’s proposal to lease or put up bunker or diesel plants would add supply and, at the same time, jack up the cost of electricity consumers would eventually bear.
Philippine households are already paying one of the highest electricity rates in Asia, mainly because government does not subsidize the power sector.
The group also said the Public Sector Assets and Liabilities Management Corp. (PSALM) is not competent in running power plants since its primary mandate is to privatize power assets.
Instead, Congress should repeal the EPIRA provision prohibiting government from building and running power plants.
Casiño said it is high time for government to break free from the “restrictive, private-sector, fossil-fuel dominated energy development paradigm” and pursue a strategy that would give the state the ability to address the power sector’s needs in a manner that maximizes the rich sources of energy – renewable and non-renewable – the Philippines have in abundance.
Building solar arrays as a short-term solution to meet the supply crunch expected in the summer of 2015 is a viable proposition as it only takes three to six months to build a solar power plant, the group also said.
Government should focus on building renewable energy facilities – hydro, geothermal, biomass, solar, wind and natural gas – to address the supply side in the face of growing demand and help avert the impending deficit that is expected to hit hard the Philippines starting next year, it said.
“Funding for all these energy supply projects can be taken from the P270 billion Malampaya Fund,” POWER said.
POWER noted that EPIRA should be amended to declare power generation as public utilities to ensure effective government regulation, especially in the short- to medium-term when supply is expected to still be a problem.
Business groups and energy industry players have earlier called on government to review and resolve the issues hounding EPIRA and to bring down the cost of electricity.
However, such recommendations are on a head-on collision course with the position of the Energy Department on the matter.
Instead of scrapping EPIRA provisions, Petilla said what is needed are long-term solutions to solve the energy problem and the high cost of electricity. (MNS)