Jul 23, 2014

Philippines - Emergency powers for Philippine president pushed

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The Philippine House of Representatives is amenable to giving President Aquino emergency powers to deal with a threatened energy supply crisis in 2015 but consumer and business groups and some House members cautioned against the grant of such powers.

Bayan Muna Rep. Neri Colmenares said granting Aquino emergency powers was a dangerous idea.

“It is very dangerous to grant emergency powers to anyone with a dictatorial propensity like President Aquino, as can be seen with his usurpation of Congress’ power and now threatening the Supreme Court when it declared the Disbursement Acceleration Program unconstitutional,” he said.

Colmenares said he had proposed a bill which will, among others, prohibit the government from selling what is left of the government’s energy assets and infuse capital to rehabilitate and increase the capacity of these plants, and order the Department of Energy to use the 175-billion-peso (US$4.04 billion) Malampaya Fund to construct power plants.

But Speaker Feliciano Belmonte said the House would surely grant the President emergency powers to address the looming power crisis.

“[It is] long overdue. Many people [have been] urging him before,” he said in a text message.

But he said it was up to Aquino to specify what sort of emergency powers he wanted. “Exactly what is this emergency power they want? The House will surely give it.”

Energy Secretary Jericho Petilla has proposed that the President declare a state of emergency in the face of an imminent shortage of power supply in early 2015.

He said the country’s contingency energy reserves would run below the minimum level set by regulators in the middle of March 2015.

He asked the President to invoke Section 71 of the Electric Power Industry Reform Act (Epira) which authorises him to ask Congress for authority to establish additional generating capacity.

The President has yet to act on Petilla’s proposal but Communications Secretary Sonny Coloma said Aquino was set to meet with Petilla later Tuesday.

DJ Yapa, Riza T. Olchondra

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