5 March 2010
Criticizing President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo’s declaration of a power crisis in Mindanao, various electricity consumers across the country expressed doubt on the veracity of such a crisis, saying it may be a hoax to force the use of nuclear power plants and raise power rates.
Arroyo, upon recommendations of Energy Secretary Angelo Reyes, on Friday declared that there is power crisis in Mindanao. She has also adopted the energy chief’s recommendation to invoke Section 71 of the Electric Power Industry Reform Act which allows Congress to authorize, through a joint resolution, the establishment of additional generating capacity under terms and conditions that it will approve.
Some parts of Luzon like Metro Manila have also been experiencing rotating brownouts lately due to alleged power shortage in the grid.
“First of all, we doubt the veracity of claims by the Department of Energy and Malacanang that there is power shortage in the country,” said EmPOWER Consumers Alliance (EmPOWER) in a statement.
According to Freedom from Debt Coalition (FDC), co-convener of EmPOWER, there is still huge energy surplus in the country, citing Department of Energy figures for year 2008 which indicate a surplus of about 4,000 MW based on 13,049 MW dependable capacity and peak demand of only about 9,054 MW.
“We have a growing suspicion that the energy crisis could be hoax and just being created by the government to justify need for nuclear power plants in the country and to enter into new contracts with the independent power producers (IPPs),” said FDC Secretary General Milo Tanchuling.
The coalition has long opposed the operation of the Bataan Nuclear Power Plant. “What the government should do instead is conduct a technical review of NPC plants especially the IPP plants,” added Tanchuling.
“Second, we question the real motive behind this dim scenario being painted by the government, especially at a time when the country is heading for national elections,” added EmPOWER.
Instead of emergency powers to the president, the group called for an “immediate thorough investigation and participatory planning.”
The umbrella alliance of electricity consumer groups called on Congress—before it even considers granting emergency powers to the president or allow government to enter into ominous contracts with the independent power producers (IPPs) to address the so-called power crisis—to instead conduct a thorough investigation of the energy situation in the country, stressing the participation of electricity consumers in this process.
“The participation of electricity consumers in decisions that address the present energy situation is very important since we are always made to bear in the end the impact of these decisions. We do not want a repeat of the solution to enter into contracts with IPPs even when they were so onerous and to the detriment of the public” emphasized EmPOWER.
In Mindanao, Lanao Power Consumers Federation (LAPOCOF) also had qualms about this energy crisis claim by the government. “The power shortage may be true, but we are also in the dark as to the real truth on the energy situation in Mindanao,” said LAPOCOF president Dr. Melchie Ambalong.
“For all we know, this situation is being manipulated to increase power rates since this power shortage scenario has long been painted to us and the government saw justification for this with the present El Nino,” added Ambalong whose group has opposed the privatization of Agus-Pulangi hydropower complexes.
LAPOCOF bared that for several times, during deliberations last year on the privatization of Agus-Pulangui hydropower complexes, both the DoE and the Power Sector Assets and Liabilities Management (PSALM) Corp. could not really give figures on the real energy requirement in Mindanao.
Electricity consumer group in Iloilo also shared the position of EmPOWER, FDC, and LAPOCOF to have thorough investigation on the power crisis claims. The Ilonggo Consumers Advocacy and Welfare (ICAW) said that there is indeed a need to verify accuracy of government data.
“In the past few years, the government had consistently said that there was power shortage in Panay region, but in the recent brownout in Luzon, Visayas augmented the electricity requirement in Luzon,” said Ted Ong of ICAW. “Power shortage is not yet felt at least in Panay, but if there were any occasional brownouts, it’s mainly due to efficiency, not supply issue – due to preventive maintenance shutdowns,” Ong added.
Maris dela Cruz, EmPOWER Consumers co-coordinator, 0929682990