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Bayan Muna blames EPIRA for the continuing energy instability in Philippines


Bayan Muna Rep. Neri Colmenares today said that it is the Electric Power Industry Reform Act (EPIRA) that is the culprit for the high cost of electricity and the continuing instability of energy supply in the country. Privatizing the energy sector left the country subject to the whims and collusion of private corporations resulting to the instability and high pricesof electricity.
“Sec. Jericho Petilla’s threats of spectre of brownouts only proves that the country is still in the same rut it was when EPIRA was passed. While we continue to question DOE’s basis for the supposed lack of supply, the much feared energy crisis will eventually happen unless we repeal EPIRA and craft a pro-people law that will govern the energy sector,” said Senior Deputy Minority Leader Colmenares.
“We oppose emergency powers for Pres. Aquino precisely because not only has Sec. Petilla failed to prove the claimed lack of supply, but also because this short-sightedband aid solution will increase the cost of electricity and will not assure stable energy supply. We need long term solutions, not short term magic tricks” said the progressive solon.
“There is only one and only one solution to our energy problem–repeal Epira now,” said Rep. Colmenares.
While calling for the immediate repeal of EPIRA, Colmenares continues to assert that Sec. Petilla has not adequately explained why there is a lack of supply. The energy secretary said that the figures he earlier used were wrong and that they were surprised of the supposed needed overhaul of Malaya 1.
“But what will keep Sec. Petilla from later claiming that the figures they are presently using are also wrong? As it is the secretary was hard put in explaining their obsession for emergency powers here in Congress and even at the Senate. So what would be the basis for congress and senate to grant emergency powers to the President before the end of October? There is no hard evidence that there would indeed be a power crisis next year” said Senior Deputy Minority Leader Colmenares.
“Hindi nga maipaliwanag ng maayos at kapani-paniwala kung kukulangin nga ba talaga ng kuryente sa susunod na taon ay minamadali naman itong emergency powers. Ang masama pa ay kukuhanan nito ng P6-P12 bilyon ang Malampaya funds at iba pa ito sa ipapasang singil sa mga gumagamit ng kuryente. Sa ngayon ay wala pa kaming nakikitang dahilan kung papaano magkakaroon ng kakulangan sa kuryente kung hindi ito sasadyain ng mga generating companies,” said Rep. Colmenares.
“At the next Energy committee hearing we will request all the owners and operators of power plants in Luzon to submit a detailed report of their installed and dependable capacities and their availability as well as power plants to go on the grid in 6-9 months. We also want a detailed report on the complete status of each plant as well as their scheduled shut downs. We also want various groups to present their position on alternative approaches other than the use of emergency powers,” said the progressive solon.
“The list below shows how we can objectively account the real power situation in the country and not based on some projected figure that anyone can use for their vested interests. This is the same framework that I used during my interpellation of the DOE budget and Sec. Petilla cannot even answer,” he added.
The peak demand for the grid is just at 8,700MW plus (this happens on summer – May in particular) — and the portion of Meralco in that is at 6,121MW (based on 2014 figures).
Earlier, Rep. Colmenares said that “Deducting dependable capacity from peak demand, there should have been allowance for reserves amounting to 2,967.3MW. This is more than the 400 MW deficit that Sec. Petilla claims. Based on the DOE figures itself, even in a tight supply condition, there should be more than enough supply,”
“Why has not Sec Petilla also factored in the Lopez group’s announcement that they can bring in additional 380MW before and in March-April 2015 which is outside the emergency powers scenario because these are already prior committed investments. The Visayas grid can also export to Luzon 80MW during summer. It must also be noted that the association of Retail Electricity Suppliers to which the ILPs are affiliated with also committed to bring in 300MW; and Meralco is contracting additional 180MW for its own supply portfolio. With all these generating capacities coming in, why is it that Sec. Petilla is so obsessed with emergency powers,?” asked Colmenares.
“The Energy Regulatory Commission (ERC) has not even submitted the long overdue collusion report of the Malampaya shutdown and now they are requesting emergency powers. We will hold them to their promise that the collusion report would be submitted on October 25, 2014 and we will continue to oppose emergency powers until this report is submitted. The Meralco rate increased because of the plant shutdowns during the Malampaya turnaround. Now the DOE claims a shortage of supply because of more plant shutdowns in 2015,” added Senior Deputy Minority Leader Colmenares.
“Also by early 2015, Avion power plant, South Luzon Tech Coal and Pililla Wind would be on the grid, why is it that the DOE is not factoring them in? Now, even if there would be a short fall of electricity the government can still tap state-owned power plants like the Malaya power plant and the Sucat power plant. These power plants should be immediately rehabilitated and recommissioned instead of being sold to the private sector. The DOE has not even considered renewable energy and even the demand side of the equation,” he added.

As of now contrived plant shutdowns would be the only reason for a power crisis. The emergency powers proposal has a minimum price tag of P6 billion and may even reach P12 billion to be taken from the Malampaya funds and passed on to consumers as universal charge, this is a lot of money that can be used as a campaign kitty for anyone with senatorial and/or presidential ambitions,” ended Rep. Colmenares.

Criselda Cabangon David, a happy mother of two kids, is a full-time Sociologist at the City Government of Lucena, Quezon Province. She is currently the Managing Editor of Ang Diaryo Natin Sunday News, a weekly local community newspaper in the Philippines and an active member of the National Union of Journalists of the Philippines.