Nationwide protest set to Resist Emergency Power

Press release - November 24, 2014
Power for People, a national campaign network group has marked November 28 as the day to hold a nationally coordinated protest to resist the grant of emergency power to President Aquino. The broad network is composed of people’s organizations, electric cooperatives, lawyers, members of the academe, and others from different parts of the country coming together to address issues in the energy sector by advancing alternatives.

On November 18, 2014, the House of Representatives Committee on Energy approved proposed House Joint Resolution 21 which will give the President the authority to provide for the establishment of additional generating capacity as mandated by Section 71 of the Energy Power Industry Reform Act (EPIRA).

Representatives Feliciano Belmonte, Jr., Neptali Gonzales II, Reynaldo V. Umali, Henedina Razon-Abad, Rufus B. Rodriguez, Ben P. Evadone, Edgardo “ERM” Masongson, Rosenda Ann M. Ocampo, and Ronaldo B. Zamora were the authors of the Joint Resolution.

During the first reading, eighteen representatives voted to approve the resolution. Only one legislator voted to deny it and there was one abstention.

Projected shortfall discrepancy

In the four-page document, the maximum shortfall is projected at 1,004 MW, of which 600 MW is needed to meet the required dispatchable reserve, and 404 MW is needed to meet the required contingency reserve.

This is contrary to the data presented by the DOE Energy Planning Executive Director Irma Exconde at a committee hearing on October 20. The DOE Representative showed that the country would only experience a 31 MW shortage in 2015 and would only occur during the first two weeks of April 2015, and not the entire summer season as suggested by the DOE Secretary Petilla.

“Absent substantiation of and agreement on the real amount of shortfall in energy for the summer months of 2015, the move of the House Energy Committee to grant emergency power to the President is condemnable,” said Gerry Arances, National Coordinator for the Philippine Movement for Climate Justice (PMCJ). PMCJ is the lead convenor of Power for People.

Emergency power is betrayal to the people

“Granting the President emergency power is to the detriment of the Filipino people. This resolution is masquerading as a messianic step to address an unverified power crisis but in reality, it is meant to circumvent laws and trample on people’s rights to resist projects which are detrimental to them,” Arances added.

As mandated in the resolution, all national government agencies and local government units are authorized to suspend the operability of pertinent laws, rules, and regulations including, but not limited to mitigating measures adopted for the Wholesale Electricity Spot Market (WESM), the Biofuels Act, Clean Air Act, The Philippine Grid Code, The Philippine Distribution Code, which may affect the operation and transmission of the contracted generation capacities under the Joint Resolution.

“Suspension of the Clean Air Act (CAA) and other mechanisms that were put in place to protect the health of the people and the environment is an insult to the people. To aggravate this insult, granting of emergency power to the President will ease the way and hasten more carbon dioxide-emitting coal power plants,” Arances further stated.

“The possible suspension of the CAA under the emergency power scheme might pave the way for the hasty approval of more waste-to-energy incinerators, which will block real progress to the climate-friend Zero Waste approach that conserves resources, creates green jobs, and cures garbage woes,” said Rene Pineda, Steering Committee member of EcoWaste Coalition and President of Partnership for Clean Air.

For his part, Paeng Lopez of Global Alliance for Incinerator Alternatives warned that, “The suspension of the CAA in the resolution is a clear indication that the authors of this measure intend to perpetuate our dependence on dirty energy and expand it from coal to banned waste-to-energy incinerators.”

The Clean Air Act is a law that had banned waste incineration in 1999.

‘Instead of solving an alleged crisis, this resolution will open floodgates to a myriad of real pollution, financial, and health problems,” Lopez added.

Greenpeace Climate and Energy Campaigner Reuben Muni stated, “It is deplorable that while the Aquino government tries to address the so-called looming power shortage, it is actually paving the way for a bigger air pollution problem which is more difficult and too costly to deal with in the long run.”

The Catholic Church supports the call against emergency power. Fr. Edu Gariguez, Executive Secretary of CBCP-NASSA said, “We oppose any measure which will curtail the rights of the people. We cannot support the move of the government to suspend laws set to protect the people and the environment. Environmental mechanisms cannot be sidestepped in order to hasten the operation of coal-fired power plants and other harmful energy projects.”

“Emergency power should not be a license to exacerbate the vulnerability of the people. The President should not be given the right to bypass rules and regulations installed to ensure that the rights are welfare of the people, especially the marginalized are upheld and prioritized,” added Fr. Gariguez.

EPIRA: The real power crisis

Atty. Aaron Pedrosa, Secretary-General of SANLAKAS said, “Emergency power will only result in socializing more obligations that the government intends to pursue. To this day, we are still paying for the take or pay provisions and sovereign guarantees extended by the Ramos Administration when it was granted emergency powers allowing it to enter into lopsided supply contracts with independent power producers.”

“The power crisis is bigger than a mere projected shortfall. To date, 2.7 million households remain without access to electricity; the country’s power rates are the most expensive in Asia and rank fifth in the world; market manipulation and collusion are at its worst with prices being manipulated in the WESM, defying a cornerstone promise of EPIRA – of providing affordable and reliable electricity to the people. This is the real power crisis,” added Pedrosa.

The resolution provides that “additional generating capacity shall be sourced from the Interruptible Load Program (ILP), fast tracking of new committed projects, and plants for interconnection and rehabilitation.”

Under the ILP, participating institutions and companies may be called upon to use their own power generating units to ease demand from the grid during peak hours, or when there is a supply deficit. The government will then offer compensation for their voluntary use of self-generating power capacity.

Sammy Gamboa, Secretary-General of Freedom from Debt Coalition (FDC) asserted that, “It is clear who stands to gain on the ILP. This mechanism favors the further entrenchment of corporate interest. Umali also promised that the ILP compensation will be VAT (value added tax)-free.”

“The corporate sector will not pass up on this generous offer of subsidy, contrary to Petilla’s claim that it will scare businesses. As of the time of writing, the Joint Congressional Power Commission (JCPC) reports that 911 MW has already been committed by private firms under the ILP. We have to remember that some of the participating retail and property developer conglomerates are already engaged in power generation anyway,” added Gamboa.

Emergency power is not the solution

“The government has consistently failed to acknowledge the glaring fact that the Philippines is rich with renewable energy sources like solar and wind. Granting emergency powers to President Aquino is not the solution – it is about ensuring full and strict enforcement of the Renewable Energy and Clean Air Acts. It is about upholding the ban against incinerator technologies and promoting real renewable energy technologies, to steer the Philippines from a disastrous pathway and into a robust and resilient low-carbon future,” Muni further stated.

“The Aquino Administration seems oblivious to the realities and experiences of the Filipino people to the impacts of the changing climate. Let this current situation be an opportunity for the Filipino nation to stir the country around and finally thread the path towards a clean, safe and renewable energy power system for the people and communities,” concluded Arances.