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October 24, 2014

THE MANILA BULLETIN: Congress set to tackle PNoy’s emergency powers

Congress which will reconvene today following a three-week recess and is expected to tackle Malacañang's request  for emergency powers to address Luzon's projected power deficiency of up to 900 MWs next year.

Malacañang has invoked the emergency provisions of the existing Electric Power Industry Reform Act (EPIRA) of 2001 to enable government to establish the required additional generating capacity under such terms and conditions as lawmakers may authorize through a joint resolution.

Oriental Mindoro Rep. Reynaldo Umali, chairman of the House of Committee on Energy for the House earlier said the target is to pass the emergency powers measure by October 29.

Umali said as scheduled, his panel would tackle today the joint resolution, which "is still a work in progress."

He assured they would grant the Chief Executive the flexibility to address the power shortage during the summer months of 2015.

"The plan is to approve the joint resolution before Halloween break," he said.

He said they would "not necessarily" adopt the Department of Energy's draft joint resolution, citing that "there may be need for some modifications."

During the three-week congressional recess, Energy Secretary Carlos Jericho Petilla submitted a copy of the draft resolution to the Lower Chamber. It also submitted a copy to the Senate Committee on Energy during a hearing last October 9.

The DOE's draft resolution urges Congress to allow the President to "negotiate contracts for the acquisition of additional generation capacity which may include the construction, repair, rehabilitation, improvement or maintenance of existing power plant projects and facilities or its rental."

Umali said his committee would immediately approve the joint resolution, which was formally requested by President Aquino in a letter dated Sept. 12, 2014.

By October 27, his panel target to submit the resolution for plenary debate and on October 29, the Lower Chamber is set to approve the urgent measure on third reading.

In a letter dated Sept. 12, 2013, President Aquino formally asked Congress to immediately enact the joint resolution. The request was signed by Executive Secretary Paquito N. Ochoa Jr.

Once Congress endorses the installation of the extra generating capacity, the Department of Energy (DOE) intends to enter into an emergency lease agreement with a foreign supplier for the delivery of some P6 billion worth of diesel-fired modular generators.

However, House Deputy Minority Leader, Rep. Arnel Ty previously warned that government's plan to rent and operate new generators "could be prone to corruption."

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