Better enercon drive to cut P91-B utilities, fuel bill of government–Recto

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To help reduce power demand nationwide  even as the government’s utilities costs are surging, a leader of the House of Representatives on Wednesday urged the Marcos administration to relaunch a better version of the “enercon campaign” implemented in the 1970s.

Surging inflation or not, the government’s P91-billion annual utilities and fuel bill should prompt President Ferdinand Marcos Jr. to relaunch a better version of his father’s 1970s “enercon campaign,” according to House Deputy Speaker Ralph Recto.

On Tuesday, Finance Secretary Benjamin E. Diokno proposed measures to address high inflation.

Part of the proposal was to change the work schedule for government workers to a 7 a.m. to 4 p.m. shift and to maintain the temperature in public offices to 25 Celsius to dampen power demand nationwide.

If Marcos wants tips on how to implement a campaign of recent vintage, Recto said in a statement he can get them from President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo whose two orders in 2004 successfully pared down electricity use in government offices.

“It should be comprehensive. A national framework of which a four-day workweek, as proposed by the Finance secretary, is but one component,” Recto said.

“Economics and environment should be the driving force behind the campaign. For the people to support it, it should be framed as saving money and saving the Earth at the same time,” he said.

In 2019, Recto said before the pandemic “turned the lights off” in public buildings, the government—national, LGUs and GOCCs—paid P43.2 billion for power, water and gas.

On top of this is the P47.5 billion in “fuel, oil and lubricant expenses it racked up that year,” he added. “That’s about P90.7 billion in a year. You can save 10 percent, P9 billion in savings, which can be rechanneled to buy medicines,” the lawmaker said.

However, Recto said the parameters of the enercon campaign should be properly defined by a Palace order in order not to harm essential services.

“You don’t cut back on police and military patrols. But the gas coupons system that even private cars can get, should be stopped.  Ambulance runs should be exempt. As for hospitals, there is no deduction, because that is essential,” he said. Recto said Marcos should launch it now to familiarize the office before summer sets in, when a rise in air-conditioner use, low water levels in hydroelectric dams, and distribution lines trip-offs caused by high heat index combine to trigger power outages.

“But the main price driver is that coal, which accounts for 58 percent of generating capacity, is getting expensive, and this cascades down to higher meter charges,” Recto explained.

“Year-on-year, the price of electricity, gas and fuel has increased by almost 15 percent,” he said.

When the global oil crunch hit the country in the 1970s, President Marcos Sr. launched an “enercon campaign” from the demand side, while building plants on the supply side, under a world-class energy team led by then Minister Geronimo Z. Velasco.

And when world oil prices soared during her watch, President Macapagal-Arroyo responded with Administrative Order 103 which ordered government offices to reduce by 10 percent their cost of the consumption of fuel, electricity and other utilities.

It was followed by AO 110 which institutionalized a Government Energy Management Program.

“The records and aide memoires on these previous enercon campaigns are in the presidential library for President BBM to read,” Recto said.