THE 2010 budget has appropriated P500 million for the power crisis, House Speaker and Davao Representative Prospero Nograles said.

Nograles said, with this amount, the use of emergency powers by the President is unnecessary.

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“The power crisis in Mindanao was already foreseen by the National Power Corporation (Napocor) as early as 2006,” the Speaker said.

The P500 million emergency fund was included in the budget of the National Electrification Administration (NEA) in the 2010 General Appropriations Act worth P1.541 trillion, according to Nograles.

The possibility of purchasing two 30 megawatt generators using the funds is being discussed, said Nograles.

The House Speaker has been maintaining his position that there is no need for President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo to exercise her emergency powers because the executive department has enough capability to mitigate the power crisis in Mindanao.

Nograles said he is positive that the president will release the funds to address the situation.

“As Speaker and a Mindanaoan, I could not sit by idly waiting for the Department of Energy (DOE) to solve the problem. That is why I initiated this appropriation as a safeguard measure,” he said.

Energy Secretary Angelo Reyes also clarified his earlier call for President Arroyo to use her emergency power, saying that he was only urging the President to invoke Section 71 of the Electric Power Industry Reform Act (Epira).

Section 71 will enable the government to purchase or lease modular generation sets like the two generators being considered to be bought right now.

Most of Mindanao is powered by hydro-electric plants from Lanao del Sur and Bukidnon.

The El Niño phenomenon being experienced by the country has worsen the power crisis, causing water levels in dams to drop and result to brownouts in the region extending up to 24 hours.

Continues brownout

A day after the assurance of Meralco of no brownout, some areas in Metro Manila and in Luzon on Wednesday still suffered from brownouts lasting one hour.

The National Grid Corporation of the Philippines (NGCP) said it was due to generation deficiency at the Luzon grid after three power plants remains offline. Luzon recorded 236 megawatt generation insufficiency Wednesday after peak demand reached 6,821MW as against the 6,585MW available capacity.

NGCP said Masinloc 1 with a capacity of 315MW, Calaca 2 having 180MW capabilities and the Sta. Rita 30 with 260MW capacities were on outage resulting to power supply shortage in Luzon.

Among the areas affected by the one hour brownout were Sta. Cruz and Tondo in Manila, Batangas, Bulacan. Cavite, Laguna and some parts of Quezon province.

NGCP also noted that contributed to the power shortage in the Luzon grid is the limited capacities of the hydro plants because of low elevation of water reservoirs.

"Two units of Kalayaan hydro-electric plant are running at 152 MW each. A third unit is unavailable because of low elevation at Caliraya Lake. Current elevation is 286.16 meters, which is below the required elevation of 286.50 meters to keep all three units of Kalayaan running. The critical water level at the reservoir is below 286 meters," NGCP said.

NGCP added that the Magat hydro-electric plant is also running below its capacity at 30 MW instead of 90 MW.

In a chance interview after the Philippine Economic Briefing, Energy Secretary Angelo Reyes admitted that the power supply situation in the country specifically in Mindanao is not good.

He said “water levels (on the dams) continue to come down so we really have to be concern about that”.

Reyes said they are closely monitoring the water level of the hydro plants in Luzon in particular the Caliraya-Botocan-Kalayaan hydroplants which are generating about 700 MW.

On Monday, several parts of Metro Manila and Luzon suffered two to three hours rotating brownouts after the unit 1 of the 1,000 MW Sual coal-fired power plant and the unit 1 of the 600MW Masinloc coal fired power facility malfunctioned due to broiler tube leak. Meralco said power situation normalizes Tuesday after Sual 1 was put back to the grid.

Arroyo decides on power crisis

Amid problem in power supply, the Malacanang said President Arroyo is “inclined” to approve the proposal of Energy Secretary Reyes to declare a power crisis in Mindanao which could pave the way for the immediate putting up of power generating plants by the government.

Press Secretary Crispulo Icban Jr. said the President has already received the report and proposal of Reyes and she is now awaiting the inputs from Congress on how to go about it.

Icban, in an ambush interview at the farewell boodle fight hosted for outgoing Executive Secretary Eduardo Ermita at the New Executive Building grounds Wednesday, said the President is determined to solve the power problem which has heavily affected Mindanao.

“Crisis only in the power. Just to solve the power problem in Mindanao,” he said when asked if Arroyo would declare a state of emergency or a power crisis.

“No actual approval yet. She is inclined to fix that biggest problem which is in Mindanao . They are studying what other things must be declared first,” he added when asked when the President would come up with her decision and what areas would be affected by the declaration of a power crisis.

Reyes had stressed that his proposal was for the declaration of a power crisis in Mindanao which is needed to secure an exemption from the privatization of the power generation business mandated by the Electric Power Industry Restructuring Act (Epira) of 2001.

"Upon the determination by the President of the Philippines of an imminent shortage of the supply of electricity, Congress may authorize, through a joint resolution, the establishment of additional generating capacity under such terms and conditions as it may approve" he said citing Section 71 or the electric power crisis provision of Epira.

Reyes said this means that the government could also lease or purchase generator sets (gensets) and barges or negotiate of short-term power supply contracts to increase the generating capacity of Mindanao

Under the February 27 memorandum of Reyes, he recommended the leasing or -rental of 160 megawatt (MW) gensets; the operation and maintenance of the Alsons Corp.’s 30-MW Iligan Diesel Power Plant 1 (IDPP); entering into an operation and maintenance agreement with Alsons Corp. for the 70MW IDPP2; and entering into a contract on an additional five MW from Southern Philippines Power Corp. (MW) - which is jointly owned by Aboitiz Equity Ventures, Conal Holdings Corp., and Tomen Power Corp. of Singapore.

Reyes said cost of these measures, was placed by the National Power Corp. (NPC), at P8 billion to P10 billion wherein the leasing or rental would depend on the length of the dry spell or until the rainy season starts in July.(Angela Casauay/MSN/JMR/Sunnex)