Press Release
March 29, 2012


Senator Chiz Escudero brushed aside calls for Department of Energy (DoE) Secretary Rene Almendras to resign amid the worsening power woes gripping the southern part of the country.

Escudero, a member of the Joint Congressional Power Commission (JCPC), said there was no basis to call for the DOE chief's resignation even after some quarters were pushing to extend emergency powers to the President Aquino to immediately address the energy shortage in Mindanao.

The senator, who expressed support for the granting of standby power to the President rather than emergency powers, said "the resignation of Secretary Almendras has nothing to do with the emergency powers. The reason why we are giving the President this power is because it's not available to begin with. It is not to take the place of the powers of the DOE secretary because he is merely an alter ego."

The standby power, which the senator proposes, is a readily available extraordinary power that the Chief Executive can exercise under extreme circumstances without needing congressional nod. It is temporary and should be defined within the framework of extreme circumstances and subject to certain limitations and safeguards.

Mindanao has been experiencing daily rotational power interruptions due to power supply deficit of around 200 megawatts. The available power capacity in Mindanao is only about 1100 or 1200 megawatts but the demand, especially for the month of March, is 1300 megawatts, Escudero said.

"The deficit for March is about 178 megawatts, but come April it will become 345 megawatts, which is already very difficult to catch up given the current supply side. One of the causes of this problem is a complicated and technical issue which is very expensive if addressed and executed. But it will be a long-term solution to end these woes" Escudero said.

He explained that the supply deficit in Mindanao was partly due to the separation of Mindanao from the national power grid. The Luzon and Visayas grids are interconnected which allow their respective grids to share capacity loading.

"Only one line rotates in Mindanao. All generated power is brought to one single grid, one private company - the National Grid Corporation of the Philippines (NGCP) - which has the sole decision to distribute the load."

Escudero lamented that with the privatization of the NGCP, which has been a crown jewel of the country, the government lost its police power over energy distribution in Mindanao.

"This is one of those cases wherein the President can use part of the standby power he has at hand. In case of market failure, when monopolies usurp the people, the President can allocate and decide in the exercise of government's police power to stabilize the market and to promote competition and thereby stabilize prices," Escudero added.

The senator said the DOE can begin exploring utilization of self-generation capacity which most of the big industries and corporations readily have.

Through an executive order, the government can make an inventory of all privately-owned generator sets through mandatory registration so we would know the total capacity we have from these self-generators.

"As example, the Shoemart, the Robinson's, big industries, they have their own generators. Encourage them to use these instead of connecting to the main line to relieve the pressure from the grid. DOE can come up with a rebate or incentive scheme so we encourage more owners to use their own sets".

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