By BENJIE OLIVEROS
After admitting in a Lower House hearing that the projected power shortage in April 2015 that it is referring to is actually a deficit in net reserves of from 21 to 31 megawatts during the peak week, the Department of Energy is at it again, raising the specter of three-to-four hour power outages. The reason for this is that it is insisting on getting emergency powers for President Aquino to enable the administration to sign negotiated contracts worth P6 to P10 billion ($136 million to $227 million) for 300-500 megawatts.
The Department of Energy’s antics is getting to be more than irritating. It is already becoming suspicious. What is in it for Energy Sec. Jericho Petilla and Malacañang?
As this writer mentioned in a previous analysis, experience shows that when the president is granted emergency powers to solve the supposed power crisis, the people are at the losing end. Then president Fidel V. Ramos signed suspiciously disadvantageous deals with independent power producers, which the Filipino people has been paying for in the form of higher electricity rates.
Because once the president is granted emergency powers, he could disregard government controls such as bidding processes, approval of Congress, among others. It is hard to believe that nobody from the former Ramos administration gained anything from these negotiated contracts.
It is also hard to believe that once President Aquino is granted emergency powers and is able to negotiate contracts with power producers, upon the advise of Energy Sec. Petilla, nobody would stand to gain from these. Teddy Casiño, of Bayan and Power, estimates that these negotiated contracts could benefit the approving authority somewhere between P600 million to P1 billion.
Casiño’s estimate is based on the standard “facilitation fee” of 10 percent of gross value for government contracts. But that is small time compared to negotiated contracts for power supply. These are being sweetened with guaranteed loans and profits, and the ability to increase rates at will.
The group Power has already raised a lot of suggestions on how to address the projected shortfall in net reserves, as well as how to reduce electricity rates. But the Aquino administration and its Energy department refuse to listen. It still insists on twisting its own data and demanding for emergency powers.
One could not help but surmise that next year 2015 is the unofficial start of the campaign period. This early, one could already observe the politicking that is going on: the pronouncements of Malacañang regarding President Aquino’s intention to seek another term by amending the 1987 Constitution; the selective attacks on the opposition, most especially the frontrunner among the candidates for president Vice-President Jejomar Binay (Without making judgments on the basis of the accusations against Vice President Binay one could not help but notice the timing of these “investigations”.); and the start of the “information plugs” featuring politicians who have intentions of running in the 2016 elections.
Also, this is the time to build the campaign kitty of political parties and candidates. Does this pitch for emergency powers for the President have any connection with the insistence of President Aquino that he has the power to embargo the allocations of government agencies and declare it as savings for rechanneling to other projects?
The controversy over the Disbursement Acceleration Program and how the funds for this were sourced is all about the expanse and limits of the power of the president, specifically the power of the purse. President Aquino even went to the extent of openly challenging the Supreme Court then circumventing the High Court’s decision through an act of Congress in asserting his power.
The Aquino administration has been using Congress to concentrate more power in its hands, especially the kind of power that would enable it to accumulate funds. It is doing so because it arrogantly thinks that it is popular and therefore, could get away with anything. Thus, only a strong show of political dissent by the Filipino people could stop it from doing so. Otherwise, it would be another politically charged 2015 and a dirty, bloody 2016 ahead of us.