Gatchalian: DOE should admit shortcomings in addressing power outages

Published June 6, 2021, 4:09 PM

by Hannah Torregoza 

The Department of Energy (DOE), headed by Secretary Alfonso Cusi, should own up and take responsibility for the power outages happening in Luzon and Metro Manila, Senator Sherwin Gatchalian said.

Gatchalian said the agency must accept accountability, since it is mainly responsible for implementing the government’s policies on energy to ensure unimpeded power supply especially during this COVID-19 pandemic.

“Sa akin, ang pinaka-basic dito, akuin ng DOE ang pagkukulang (For me, the most basic suggestion would be for the DOE to accept they had shortcomings),” said Gatchalian, chairman of the Senate Committee on Energy.

“Magrekomenda rin sila sa amin, sa Senado kung ano pang kapangyarihan pa ang kailangan nila dahil alam ko si Secretary Cusi, maraming naiisip na reporma na kailangan ng batas. So magrekomenda rin sila (They should put forward their recommendations to the Senate, what other authority they need. Because I know Secretary Cusi has so many ideas about reforms and amendments to our power laws. So they should also recommend),” Gatchalian added during an interview over Radio DZBB.

Gatchalian’s panel is set to hold an investigation into rotational power outages that hit Luzon and most parts of Metro Manila recently despite the DOE chief’s earlier assurance there is enough power supply for summer or dry months.

The senator earlier warned the country cannot afford to have power outages in the middle of a COVID-19 pandemic given that the vaccine supplies obtained by the government need to be stored in a proper temperature to avoid spoilage.

But at the hearing of the House Energy Committee, Cusi said “some people dramatized” the June 2 to 3 power outages that lasted for 11 hours, saying it was “meant to put panic into the heads of the people.”

Gatchalian, however, said the Senate’s separate probe is “not meant to criticize” Cusi, but to find concrete long-term solutions to the perennial energy woes of the country and to “help the DOE perform their mandate better.”

“Antayin natin sa Miyerkules at ilalabas natin ang lahat ng problema at pagkukulang ng DOE at hahayaan ko na ang taumbayan ang manghusga (Let’s wait on Wednesday and we will present all the problems and the failures of the DOE and just allow the people to weigh on the issues),” the senator said.

“I’ll be fair naman to Secretary Cusi. May mga bagay na nagawa siya, naimplementa siya na hindi naimplementa sa huli (There were some things that he was able to implement, some things he started but was unable to implement lately),” Gatchalian explained.

“Pero ang hindi natin pwedeng alisin yung pinakamabigat na problema na hindi niya malutas, yung brownout…yun ang dumudungis sa imahe niya (But we cannot remove the fact that there’s one problem he is unable to solve and that is the recurring brownouts…and that is negatively affecting his image),” he pointed out.

Possible collusion

Gatchalian said the Senate energy panel will also touch on the issue of possible collusion among generation companies (GenCos) to jack up electricity rates.

“Ayoko i-rule out yan. Ayoko i-rule out na walang sabwatan na nangyari dahil dapat tingnan natin ang lahat. Tingnan natin ang performance ng planta. Tingnan natin kung nagkakaroon ng support (I don’t want to rule that out. I don’t want to rule out that there’s no collusion happening because we ought to scrutinize everything. Let’s check the performances of these power plants. Let’s also check if they are getting some kind of support),” he said.

“Tignan natin kung ano ba talaga ang nangyari. Ayoko i-rule out dahil alam ko merong imbestigasyon ang ginagawa ng DOE at tama naman dapat tignan ang lahat ng anggulong dapat tignan (Let’s see what is happening. I don’t want to rule out because I’m aware that the DOE is also investigating and that’s the right move, we need to see all angles),” the senator added.

Gatchalian lamented that each time there are rotational brownouts or red alert, the prices of electricity rates in Luzon would kick up.

“Sigurado ipapasa yan sa consumer. At the end tayo ang magbabayad diyan. Syempre ang kikita o makikinabang dito sa mataas na kuryente ay ang nag generate ng kuryente—ang mga power plants (That would surely be passed on to the consumer. At the end of the day, we are the ones who will pay for it. of course, those who will benefit here are those who generate electricity—the power plants),” he noted.