Senator Chiz Escudero said President Aquino needs more than emergency powers to address the worsening power crisis in Mindanao, which now brings four to eight hours of rotational brownout all over the island.
This after administration allies in the House of Representatives moved to consider holding a special session to grant the country’s chief executive emergency powers to immediately address the inadequate power supply that is crippling the southern Philippines.
“I am willing to give the President more than emergency powers given the gravity of the present situation. He should be granted standby power in case of extraordinary situations that he can exercise at his own sound discretion without having to run to Congress every now and then and wait for its imprimatur,” Escudero said.
The senator, however, said that the standby power extended to the President should be defined within the framework of extreme circumstances and limitations. He added that it should ensure not to replicate same mistakes of the past where instead of finding solutions, people were made to suffer more.
In 1992, the country was plunged into a severe power crisis which led then President Fidel Ramos to seek emergency powers from Congress to deal with the problem. Forty independent power producers signed contracts with the take or pay provisions with the government, which only spawned an oversupply of power plants and forced consumers to shoulder energy costs that they did not use.
The standby power, Escudero explained, should only be temporary meant to provide immediate remedies in cases of national emergencies.
“This power crisis in Mindanao is one of those extraordinary circumstances that calls for extraordinary power,” Escudero said. “Its impact and its consequences are already felt by every single resident. If long-term solution is not yet readily available in the nearest time frame, then let an immediate remedy be readily provided.”
President Aquino over the weekend said the power problem in Mindanao was a long neglected one and solving it may take more than two years, referring to the rehabilitation of the Agus hydropower plant where bulk of Mindanao’s energy supply comes from.
The government is sending two crude-powered barges to the island to ease the shortage, but this is costly and will make consumers pay more.
“The standby power of the President can very well address the valid issue on pricing. He can impose a price cap in case of market failure. Fears of monopoly and skyrocketing power prices grip our Mindanao residents aside from the already tenuous power supply issue, but the President can prevent this from happening with the said standby powers and calm the edgy residents,” he said.
Last week, Escudero filed Senate Resolution No. 753 asking the Senate committee on energy to look into the real power situation in Mindanao to determine the issues to be resolved and institute policy reforms even if it would mean amending the EPIRA Law.#