Emergency powers measure to result in ‘open season’ for environmental destruction, labor violations

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BUSAN, South Korea: President Benigno S. Aquino III participates in the 25th ASEAN-Republic of Korea Commemorative Summit Session 1 at the Convention Hall 205 of the Busan Exhibition and Convention Center (BEXCO) on Friday (December 12, 2014). The session agenda is to review of the ASEAN-ROK cooperation and its future direction. With Summit theme: “Building Trust, Bringing Happiness,” reflecting ROK’s commitment to strengthen its relationship with ASEAN through trust, which should result in happiness for the citizens of ASEAN and the ROK. (Photo by Ryan Lim / Malacañang Photo Bureau)
BUSAN, South Korea: President Benigno S. Aquino III participates in the 25th ASEAN-Republic of Korea Commemorative Summit Session 1 at the Convention Hall 205 of the Busan Exhibition and Convention Center (BEXCO) on Friday (December 12, 2014). The session agenda is to review of the ASEAN-ROK cooperation and its future direction. With Summit theme: “Building Trust, Bringing Happiness,” reflecting ROK’s commitment to strengthen its relationship with ASEAN through trust, which should result in happiness for the citizens of ASEAN and the ROK. (Photo by Ryan Lim / Malacañang Photo Bureau)

MANILA — With the House of Representatives at the verge of approving House Joint Resolution No. 21, which will grant President Benigno Aquino III “emergency powers” to address the purported power crisis in the summer of 2015, a party-list lawmaker reiterated that the measure also grants the president “great powers” that includes the suspension of pertinent laws, rules and regulations that protect the environment and prevent abuse in the power industry.

Last night, the House plenary concluded the period of sponsorship and debate for HJR 21.

“There is little doubt that the Majority will push for the passage of HJR 21 tonight if a quorum is reached in the plenary,” Ridon said. “And that’s what worries us.”

“Joint Resolution No. 21 will give Aquino the authority to waive the required technical, financial, and environmental requirements of generation companies. It will result in an ‘open season’ for environmental degradation and abuse, given that the operability of several laws will be suspended from March to July next year,” Ridon explained.

According to HJR 1, relevant laws, rules and regulations including the Wholesale Electricity Spot Market (WESM) Law, the Biofuels Act, the Clean Air Act, the Philippine Grid Code, the Philippine Distribution Code, and other “environmental and labor laws that may affect the operation and transmission of the contracted generation capacities” will be suspended for the period of March to July 2015.

“Imagine, for five months, laws that protect our environment from exploitation and destruction together with labor laws that protect our workers from abuse, will totally be inoperable. It’s a very large window open for abuse,” Ridon said.

“Essentially, HJR 21 will exempt power industry players from any liability if they commit infractions against pertinent laws during the period covered by the measure. If ever a large-scale environmental disaster happens in that period, generating companies will go unscathed,” the legislator emphasized.

Expensive power plants

Ridon added that the government is setting the stage to “allow expensive modular gensets and bunker plants to be setup in the country.”

“These types of power generating plants are easy to install, and can already be operated within the period of emergency. While convenient, these plants are very expensive to operate and maintain. This would this subject the public to an awesome economic burden, either through the use of public funds or higher electricity rates,” the lawmaker explained.

“In the end, granting Aquino emergency powers will result to threats of unhampered environmental destruction and additional burden to consumers,” he added.

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