Ni Clemente Bautista
In times of crisis, granting emergency powers so the government can solve national concerns is generally acceptable. His people gave it to Hugo Chavez when the Venezuelan government wrestled with foreign giant corporations in 2007 to nationalize their oil industry.
So did the Russians to Joseph Stalin so he can mobilize their people to defend the Soviet Union and later on defeat the Hitler-led Germany during World War II.
But the emergency power BS Aquino wants has a different purpose or intention. It does not mean to build an efficient power industry in the country. Neither does it mean to regain control of power industry from private and foreign-owned corporations. It does not aim to buy, takeover and operate the plants of the oligopoly of private power producers that include Energy Development Corporation and First Gas of the Lopezes, DMCI Power Corp of the Consunjis, and the corporations of the Aboitizes, Ayalas, Congjuancos and Ang’s.
Aquino’s wanted emergency power (or increased authority as he prefers to call it) does not seek to lessen our reliance on expensive and dirty imported fossil fuels like coal and oil. Neither does it seek to ensure affordability and sufficiency of electricity. BS Aquino is allergic to the proven measures adapted by other South Asian governments such as giving subsidies to public consumers or giving financial support to emerging small and medium local companies developing modern but cheap energy technologies.
Aquino’s demanded emergency power does not aim to raise the income or the ability of Filipinos to pay for electricity, something which can be achieved by creating plenty of jobs with living wages.
BS Aquino says nothing about the government building new plants and infrastructure that will use our cheap, clean and indigenous natural energy resources such as natural gas, bio fuel, geothermal, solar and wind.
He says nothing as well about any plan to decentralize energy production and provide electricity to the countryside, which could have been done easily if only the government will give small and medium local power generators, local government units and even the communities larger role in generating electricity.
We have sufficient experiences at proven capabilities as shown by successful projects of micro-hydro plant in Cordillera and solar-power projects in Visayas and Mindanao
Aquino’s emergency power says nothing about resolving the worsening corruption in the government. Small local power producers often complain about red tape and corruption in government hindering the processing of their permits to build small power plants.
Aquino’s soon-to-be emergency powers is not geared toward developing a progressive Philippine power industry.
For these reasons, we must oppose the demand for emergency powers by the Aquino government. If he gets emergency powers, BS Aquino and Malacañang will only give more power, more rights through ‘Ramos-style onerous deals’ to giant energy corporations owned by big comprador families and foreign capitalists.
The emergency power will likely be used again to entice these corporations to build power plants at the expense of our people and environment. We can expect the government to allow these corporations to raise unreasonable electricity rates. With emergency power, Malacañang will overturn the decision of local government units in Aborlan, Palawan and Subic, Zambales to allow the construction of polluting, health hazard, and expensive coal power plants of Pangilinan and Consunji business groups.
If these happen, how are we to continue advancing and expanding technologies for renewable energy? As the monopoly control of big corporations on our power industry continues to gain strength, it will all the more bury and disadvantage the small, local power producers.
Thus, our advocacy for an independent, efficient and nationalized power industry is strongly linked. It includes opposing the emergency powers demanded by Aquino.
In opposing this emergency power, we all need to realize that we have the natural resources, the manpower and the technology to aspire for and achieve a power industry controlled by the people, one that can provide a reliable, affordable, accessible and clean energy to our nation.
Clemente Bautista is national coordinator of Kalikasan People’s Network for the Environment. He read this in concluding the Round Table Forum on “alternative and renewable energy sources and technologies in the Philippines”, one of activities held in preparation for People’s Climate March – Philippines.