Congress in no hurry to give Aquino crisis power

Congress in no hurry to give Aquino crisis power

MANILA, Philippines - Congress is not rushing the grant of emergency powers to President Benigno Aquino III to avert a looming energy crisis, deciding instead to determine first whether the country really needs additional generating capacity.

Senate President Franklin Drilon on Friday said it was too early for Congress to decide whether to grant Mr. Aquino authority to contract additional 300 megawatts of power to avert brownouts in the summer of 2015.

Drilon said the Department of Energy (DOE) had not submitted a draft resolution on the grant of authority to the President.

The Senate energy committee has set a series of hearings on the resolution, he said.

"First, there is no draft resolution coming from the DOE. In fact, the hearing is being conducted upon the resolution of Senator [Sergio] Osmeña and my resolution," Drilon told reporters.

House probe

In the House of Representatives, Speaker Feliciano Belmonte Jr. and Majority Leader Neptali Gonzales II directed the energy committee yesterday to open an inquiry, in aid of legislation, into "the need to establish additional generating capacity" to ensure the country's energy requirements.

The congressional decision frustrates the DOE's attempts to hasten the grant of emergency powers to Mr. Aquino.

The department has said there may not be enough time to rent or buy generators unless an emergency powers measure is passed this month.

The DOE is considering a number of options to fill the projected energy shortfall, including leasing or purchasing generators, which will cost the government P6 billion (for lease) (S$169.8 million) to P10 billion (for purchase), and a voluntary programme tapping the excess capacity of private companies, which will cost much less.

Energy Secretary Jericho Petilla has said that Congress must pass a joint resolution giving the President emergency powers by this month, as contracting for the lease or purchase of power generators will take three months.

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