WESM maintains operations, contingency measures in place

OPERATIONS IN the Wholesale Electricity Spot Market (WESM) is “business-as-usual” amid the Luzon-wide lockdown due to the new coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) threat, the Independent Electricity Market Operator of the Philippines (IEMOP) said on Tuesday. Following the Department of Energy’s (DoE) advisory last March 15, the WESM operator implemented its business continuity plan, providing possible risk scenarios during the enhanced community quarantine from March 17 to April 13. This includes its coordination with the government’s Inter-agency Task Force on Emerging Infectious Diseases and the release of status updates on its market operations to all trading participants and stakeholders. If a confirmed COVID-19 case forces a lockdown of the Robinson Equitable Tower building in Pasig City, where IEMOP is based, or an employee tests positive of the disease, the electricity market operator assured that it will still be able to continue normal operations. On Wednesday, the DoE also asked suppliers of oil, coal, and steam to extend the deadline of payments of obligations and dues by energy generation firms to 30 days after April 14. It also called for the postponement of independent power producer administration payments, as well as universal and environmental charges to the Power Sector Assets and Liabilities Management Corp. (PSALM). Payments to the IEMOP, feed-in-tariff allowance remittance to the National Transmission Corp. and payments of Generation Rate Adjustment Mechanism and Incremental Currency Exchange Rate Adjustment to PSALM and the National Power Corp. (NAPOCOR) were also asked to be deferred.

Meanwhile, the National Electrification Administration (NEA) instructed all electric cooperatives (EC) across the country to ensure continued power services following the imposition of the Luzon-wide quarantine. In an advisory, NEA ordered all 121 ECs nationwide to operationalize their respective Vulnerability and Risk Assessment and Emergency Restoration Plans for Crisis Management, and for management to implement strategies to maintain their operations and support infrastructure. It also advised all community-owned power distribution utilities to implement their Business Continuity Plans. “Possible or assumed scenarios should be considered, including delayed payments by the consumers,” NEA Administrator Edgardo R. Masongsong said in a statement. The agency, which is tasked to implement rural electrification, stressed that power services to “critical loads” — such as hospitals and medical facilities, government offices, basic utility service providers, as well disaster risk reduction and management offices, the Philippine National Police, and the Armed Forces of the Philippines — must be unimpeded. — Adam J. Ang

Bill filed on protection of volunteer workers during emergencies

VOLUNTEER WORKERS during times of calamities or emergencies such as the ongoing coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) pandemic will get protection for omissions if a bill passed by the House of Representatives gets enacted into law. Under House Bill 6091, or the Emergency Volunteer Protection Act, volunteers who commit omissions while in the performance of their duties during emergency situations will not be held liable. The bill was passed on third and final reading on March 10. The proposed law provides the following conditions: the volunteer was properly licensed, certified, or authorized by the appropriate authorities, either government entities or non-government organizations, for the activities undertaken in an emergency at the time of the act of omission; and the harm was not caused by willful or criminal misconduct, gross negligence, reckless misconduct, or a conscious, flagrant indifference to the rights or safety of the individual harmed by the volunteer. Volunteers who commit acts of misconduct constituting a crime under the Revised Penal code or an offense in any special penal law will not be covered. The approved bill was transmitted to the Senate on March 11. — Genshen L. Espedido