Aquino rejects emergency powers

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Tuesday, January 14, 2014


PRESIDENT Beningo Aquino III on Tuesday rejected proposal to grant him emergency powers to address the rising prices of electricity.

Aquino told reporters in Batangas where he led the groundbreaking of a power plant that the country is not under a national emergency that would require him to ask Congress for emergency powers.

Under Section 17, Article XII of the Constitution, he said that the executive is empowered to take over certain industries during the time of national emergency.

“In times of national emergency, when the public interest so requires, the State may—during the emergency and other reasonable terms prescribed by it—temporarily take over or direct the operation of any privately owned public utility or businesses affected with public interest,” he said quoting the Constitution.

"So, I don't think we are in the situation that we have to employ Section 17 of Article XII," Aquino stressed.

He noted that proposals that he be granted emergency powers did not come from the executive but from some lawmakers.

The President said that the concerned government agencies are now conducting a study on whether there was collusion or abuse of market position why Manila Electric Company (Meralco) has to impose higher charges to its consumers.

He explained that Meralco should have foreseen that Malampaya gas field would undergo maintenance since it has been doing this every two to three years.

"There is periodic maintenance required. Foreseen event 'yon or foreseeable event. Alam mo na 'yung magpo-produce ng fuel mo will not be able to produce, then you have to find a substitute. So ‘yung pwedeng paghandaan, dapat pinaghandaan," he said.

Meralco said that it has to increase its power rates by P4.15 per kilowatt hour since when Malampaya shutdown, it had to source supply from wholesale electricity spot market (WESM), which was selling expensive power.

"Our impression is there are people who really made a very significant profit from this situation," the President said.

If it was Meralco's commercial decision that was wrong, he said, "government never promised that they will be shielded from their wrong decisions."

"And it follows, if it was a wrong decision—again, ano, ilagay ko lang 'yung 'if'; tatapusin muna 'yung investigation—'pag mali, hindi naman dapat ipapasa sa consumer 'yung maling desisyon ng negosyo," he added.

Aquino also reiterated that his office is also studying possible amendments to the Electric Power Industry Reform Act (Epira), particularly on the provision pertaining to the powers of the Energy Regulatory Commission (ERC).

Asked if he was not concerned that the temporary restraining order issued by the Supreme Court on Meralco's power rate adjustment would scare off investors, the President said that his government is committed to provide a business environment "where a reasonable profit can happen." (SDR/Sunnex)

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