By Peter Wallace
Energy Secretary Jericho Petilla has recommended emergency powers for President Aquino to give the country additional supply of electricity. In the face of a looming shortfall in 2015, Malacañang has asked Congress to grant Mr. Aquino the extra powers.
Since 2012, the government had been warned that a shortage of electricity was very likely by 2015. That was after the Supreme Court stopped private investors from putting up a 600-megawatt coal-fired power plant inside the Subic free port. President Aquino ignored the warning, but now he wants emergency powers to tackle a power crisis predicted inevitable in the summer of next year.
There is a paranoid strain in Philippine politics, which sees a crisis lurking behind every corner and thinks the solution is always a form of decisive presidential intervention. You know infected politicians by their unmistakable symptoms: an unconcealable distaste for democracy’s messy procedures, an unexamined belief in centralized power.
By Peter Wallace
I had a discussion with a government exec last week, where I decried the low level of foreign direct investment (FDI) into the Philippines. He disagreed and explained that the apparent low level wasn’t correct as it was the NET number from the Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas. It deducted remittance of dividends, etc. of multinational corporations (MNCs) that were already here. And as the Philippines had many mature MNCs, ones who’d been here a long time, versus, say, Vietnam where they’re still new, they were sending back their profits, no longer needing to reinvest them in growth.
Congress wants to give President Aquino emergency powers to deal with the power crisis in Mindanao. I am from Mindanao myself and believe that no amount of emergency powers will immediately solve the crisis. It takes 3-4 years to build power plants. The best that could be done under the present circumstances is to station power barges. The downside is that these barges use diesel to generate electricity, and considering the fact that fuel (including diesel) prices are on the rise, the cost of electricity in Mindanao, which is already very high, will go up even more.