Filipinos will welcome the New Year as much as P200 billion deeper in debt.
- This is because the national government is set to absorb the P200 billion outstanding debts of the National Power Corp. by Dec. 31, 2004. This development was revealed yesterday during floor deliberations by the House of Representatives on the proposed P907.6 billion budget for 2005.Rep. Alipio Badelles (NPC, Lanao del Norte), chair of the House committee on energy touched off the discussion about the Napocor debts. Badelles noted that under the Electric Power Industry Reform Act (Epira), the government is mandated to assume Napocor’s debts to make the losing state-run power agency attractive to potential buyers.Badelles pointed out that it has been two years since the Epira law was passed and asked Rep. Teodoro Locsin Jr. (PDP-Laban, Makati) whether such debt absorption has been complied with.
Locsin, who was defending the budget of the Department of Energy replied that according to the DOE, President Macapagal-Arroyo has already approved an executive order transferring Napocor obligations to the national government effective Dec. 31,2004.
Badelles then asked why it took two years to implement this particular provision in the Epira law noting that it has delayed the privatization of Napocor.
Locsin said that government obviously did not have the resources to absorb the P200-billion debt. Locsin added that the expected passage of new tax measures by Congress may have given the President confidence to approve such an executive order.
The discussion about Napocor’s sorry financial state was then picked up by Rep. Ronaldo Zamora (PMP San Juan) who asked:
“What went wrong?”
Locsin pinned the blame on former President Fidel Ramos under whose administration contracts with independent power producers were approved. “To find the real culprits, we have to back to the events in 1992 when Ramos requested Congress for emergency powers which I described then, as a journalist, as a blank check to steal,” Locsin said. “Instead of addressing the power problem with a cool head, the Ramos administration pushed the panic button and brought in the IPPs,” Locsin also said.
“Congress gave Ramos a blank check and boy, did he cash it in,” Locsin added.