Valenzuela City Congressman Sherwin “Win” Gatchalian today said he is not supporting moves to impeach President Noynoy Aquino saying this will be counter-productive at this point in time when the government should be focusing on more pressing issues, such as the looming power crisis.
“Right now, Congress and Malacanang must move as one team and decide how to stave off this serious problem in our energy supply which is expected to be a full-blown crisis during the dry season,” Gatchalian said.
Department of Energy or DoE Secretary Jericho Petilla has admitted that the country has a thin power supply in 2015 and that longer rotating brownouts are expected in the summer months that usually begins in March and ends in May. He said additional generating capacity is needed to avert a power crisis next year.
Petilla has proposed the granting of emergency powers to the President to deal with the impending power crisis in the form of contracting modular power plants from Dubai and the United States that can be installed from four to five months. The mini power plants can generate anywhere from 2 Megawatts – 30 MW and can be contracted on a short-term basis.
“I fully support the granting of emergency powers to deal with the power crisis, but this should be specifically defined by Congress through a joint resolution by the House and Senate. Congressional approval is needed to allay fears of possible executive abuse of emergency powers,” Gatchalian said.
Gatchalian pointed out that Secretary Petilla’s proposal makes sense since no new power plants can be installed in the next two years since natural gas pipe plants can take 2-3 years to build while coal-fed plants take 3-5 years to install and become fully operationalized.
“And since the EPIRA law prohibits the government from setting up its own power plant, it is more practical to rent modular power plants that are easy to install and disassemble once the power crisis is over,” Gatchalian pointed out.
Gatchalian, a Nationalist People’s Coalition or NPC member who is also part of the House majority, had earlier expressed hope that the President will include in his State of the Nation Address (SONA) on Monday the government’s plans on averting the crisis, which he said may setback the country’s economic gains.
“I hope the President is ready to report to the public his concrete plan on how to save the country from this imminent power crisis before it is too late,” he said.
The legislator noted that such problem threatens to diminish the country’s 83-percent-total electrification rate, which already lags behind Thailand’s at 88% and Vietnam’s at 98 percent.
Earlier, Gatchalian said that the rotational brownouts in the capital and in nearby provinces are indicators of the likely power crisis as existing power plants cannot catch up with the energy requirements.
President Aquino has tried to downplay reports of a looming power crisis by announcing that various companies are set to build new plants in Luzon between now and 2016. He said the constructions would produce a total generation capacity of 2,412 megawatts (MW), which would be more than the projected additional energy demand from the Luzon grid in two years.
The President made the assurance during the groundbreaking ceremony in Batangas City last January for the $600-million natural gas-fired San Gabriel project, which would consist of three power plants with a 414-MW capacity each. It will be built and operated by First Gen Corp.
Gatchalian, however, noted that the San Gabriel project will only be completed by 2017 based on the lead time of constructing power plants which is three to five years.
“This means that the projected power crisis in 2015 is a big possibility. Unless all the existing power plants will be in tip-top shape, a power crisis will be averted. This, however, is not the case since a number of the power plants are already experiencing serious mechanical problems,” Gatchalian said. (Monica Cantilero)