A MALACAñANG official reminded the opposition that the proposal for President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo to use her emergency powers in addressing the power crisis in Visayas in Mindanao came from among their ranks.
Deputy Presidential Spokesman Gary Olivar, in an interview by Radyo ng Bayan, also said for the nth time that the President would exhaust all measures, including the use of emergency powers only when she deems it necessary.
Olivar said the President would consider all suggestions including those coming from the opposition like the use of emergency powers in deciding actions to address the power outages in Visayas and Mindanao and prevent the spread of the power problems to Luzon.
He added that the proposal to use emergency powers first came from opposition Representative Rufus Rodriguez following the rotating brownout and power outages in Mindanao.
“About the suggestion to use emergency powers, let's not forget that this suggestion came from an opposition congressman, Congressman Rodriguez, so if there are those from the opposition who are doubting, objecting, they should talk to him and not criticize the President again," he said.
He added that the President should be spared from the criticisms or speculations that the emergency powers was meant for something else.
"It should not be made an excuse for them to criticize her campaign. All of us should work together under her leadership in order to attend to this problem all together as one nation. This is something that we should rise above campaigning or partisanship,” Olivar said.
Liberal Party presidential bet Senator Benigno Aquino III said the power crisis may be artificial or thought up to enable the President to use her emergency powers especially during the elections period.
Olivar said it is up to the opposition members to decide whether they are supportive of proposals for an emergency power or not.
“We leave this particular matter to the opposition for them to solve. They are the ones without a unified voice about the suggestion of one of them. So let them work it out among themselves. All the President could do on her end is to do her job, listen to everyone opinion including those from the opposition and to make up her mind and do what is best for the country,” he said.
“Whether or not this involves assuming or accepting those emergency powers, we still don't know but we can be sure that as always the President will act to the best interest of the people in mind,” he added.
Meanwhile, House Speaker and Davao Representative Prospero Nograles, hailing from Mindanao himself, said that a joint session to grant the President emergency powers may not be necessary.
"Except she (President Arroyo) can always declare a state of calamity in case of power failure and authorize the use of calamity funds in the budget without any more appropriations," he said.
The Speaker expressed confidence that the executive department, especially the energy department, already has enough powers to address the situation.
Members of the Catholic Bishops Conference of the Philippines (CBCP) also expressed its opinion on this issue.
Former Lingayen Archbishop Oscar Cruz said “the easy granting of emergency powers to the incumbent president could make her use to it such that it would be easy for her to claim it and declare it whenever it is convenient.”
“It could be a bad precedent as she could just create a situation in the future where she can claim such emergency powers,” he added.
But for other bishops, they would rather want that a power summit be held to address the problem.
Caloocan Bishop Deogracias Iniguez, chairman of the CBCP’s committee on public affairs, said a power summit and not emergency power is the best solution to solve the power shortage happening in the Visayas and Mindanao grids.
Like Iniguez, Marbel Bishop Dinualdo Gutierrez also expressed his support to power summit.
“I’m in favor of the power summit provided that the government will implement the decisions,” Bishop Gutierrez said.
Archbishop Cruz noted that giving President Arroyo emergency power would not be reasonable since she’s been holding too many powers.
“It is not reasonable to give emergency powers to someone who precisely has already too much power,” Cruz said.
Energy Secretary Angelo Reyes who just visited various parts of Mindanao reported that several areas there are suffering from one to two to three hours rotating brownouts per day while the “difficult areas” have brownouts that lasted more than five hours.
Mindanao has a deficiency of 50 megawatts (MW) minimum to a maximum of 200 megawatts daily, Reyes said.
He said they are doing and exerting all efforts to address the power supply situation in Mindanao.
Among the solutions they are exploring is the possibility of tapping private generation firms who has excess capacity that can be sold to the public.
He noted that in Cebu and Davao this supply augmentation scheme is now being practiced.
"The supply augmentation, those who have excess power can sell their power to those who need power; we did that for the Bisayas but it took some time to be approved, its being done now by Veco (in Cebu) and Davao Light in Davao and I don't see any reason why we can't do it on a larger scale," he said.
Another solution they consider, Reyes said is to activate and put online additional generated capacities from the Sibuyan operated by Hedcor.
Reyes said placing Mindanao under the state of emergency due to power supply shortage would have to be thoroughly studied first.
He added that he already met with Rodriguez and the issue of placing Mindanao under the state of emergency has been discussed, however, he declined to give any opinion first until they have completed their report.
He also said that he will make his recommendation to the President and the Cabinet members once he completed their assessment of the situation in Mindanao and the Visayas.
Power monitoring conducted by the National Grid Corp. of the Philippines (NGCP) claimed that peak demand is expected to reach 1,214 MW in the coming week.
Continued generation deficiency is seen as the Western Mindanao Power Corp. (WMPC) plant is undergoing preventive maintenance and has a limited capability of only 40 MW.
Likewise, the 30-MW Iligan Diesel Power Plant (IDPP) is not available as per the advise of National Power Corp while the Agus 5 units 1 and 2 are undergoing testing and commissioning but only limited to 30 MW due to low water elevation.
In the Luzon grid, the NGCP said power supply situation remains normal and fears of brownout is unlikely to happen even until the end of this year. (JMR/MSN/Sunnex)