Timely Actions Should Have Been Taken On Power Crisis

Tia Belau Editorial on November 14, 2011.

TIMELY  ACTIONS SHOULD HAVE BEEN TAKEN  ON POWER CRISIS 

We applaud the valiant efforts by the government and the employees of PPUC to get Babeldaob  hooked to the capital power plant and to maintain the Malakal Power Plant and ration  power  hours in Koror. But we think more should have been taken  at the top by the PPUC  board and  government leadership at the beginning to restore power without having to resort to state of emergency.

Though we admit the fire at Aimeliik created an emergency situation, we do not  believe it rose to the level  of a natural  catastrophe calling for a state of emergency. And for these reasons.

One engine at Aimeliik was destroyed  and three were incapacitated by the fire which should have left 16 or more megawatt  capacity at the Malakal Power Plant due to the recent  acquisition of two 5-magawatt Nigata generators. The peak hours consumption of power in Koror and Babeldaob is about 11.8 megawatt hours. For inexcusable reasons, the two Niigata generators were not functioning so that leaves us with little more than 6 megawatt of power  to ration for Koror, Airai, and Aimeliik during this time of crisis.

So  we need to do now are to acquire two or three generators of up to 4 or 6 megawatt capacity  on rental basis or  outright purchase  to fully restore power  temporarily. We can  then  repair and put on line  the two idle Nigata  and the country will be back to normal while we  wait for the two other new  generators (5-megawatt each) being donated by   Japan. We are told it will take a year to receive them but with the emergency situation, we can ask Japan and we are sure Japan will oblige, to facilitate their handover by mid 2012.

ACTIONS TAKEN AT THE TOP WERE  INADEQUATE

If  certain timely actions  were taken by the PPUC board and GM, President, OEK,   the crisis could have relieved in a few days and  resolve in weeks making the state of emergency unnecessary.

We just cannot understand why the board, President, and OEK did not meet Saturday evening and all night if needed  to take remedial actions to address the situation if they thought it was a catastrophe. The incident occurred Saturday at 5pm  plunging the country into darkness.

Why did the board, President, cabinet, and OEK leadership waited until Sunday morning to meet instead of immediately after  the incident. With the leaders of this country so smart, well educated, and  experienced in business and government, they could have diagnosed the problem, figured out  solutions Saturday night  and took some actions by Sunday morning.

The first action they could have done was  to find a generator or  generators of up to 4 or 6-mw capacity to be brought to Palau to temporarily provide power. Palau government could have requested  US military to send the next day or by Monday  such generators by plane  to Palau  from Guam or Okinawa  even if we have to pay  them. Or the President could have also asked his friend, President Ma of Taiwan, to send generators.

The government could have  started the  process that evening of  contacting or  hiring   engineers from Philippines, Japan, Taiwan, US,  or even Guam to fly to Palau   on Sunday or Monday to work on the idle generators.

If this is a catastrophe then those responsible particularly the government leadership must act in time and with due diligence.

The OEK could have met in a special session Saturday evening to give the President or PPUC  necessary authority and funds to take immediate  actions to resolve the crisis instead waiting for the President to issue a constitutionally questionable state of emergency based on a wrong constitutional provision two days later.

Fire  at Aimeliik does not justify constitutional state of emergency 

Granted that life and property in Palau were threatened when power was disrupted  and reduced last Saturday evening . We agree that  without power, water and sewer systems will be disrupted which adversely affect our daily life at home, business,  hospital, schools, airport, communications, public safety, etc.

But this event does not rise to one of the four reasons for calling a state of emergency under Article VIII, Section 14 of the Palau Constitution.   “Whenever war, external aggression, civil rebellion or natural catastrophe threatens the lives or property of a significant number of people of Palau, the President may declare a state of emergency and temporarily assume such legislative power as may be necessary to afford immediate and specific relief those lives or property so threatened.

The fire at Aimeliik and its destruction does constitute a war, external aggression, civil rebellion, or A natural catastrophe. It is aT best, a crisis or disaster but not a catastrophe but even if it  can be expanded to a catastrophe, it is not a natural one. It was not caused by nature or some action of  the supernatural being.

The fire was caused  by human error, negligence or  a mechanical  or technical failure or accident but definitely not a natural occurrence or catastrophe. It does not matter how one can spin it, nature has nothing to do it. The truth shall be prevail and just cannot be twisted in this instance. It is like the sun rising from the east, it cannot be from the west.

In addition, emergency declaration in  Presidential Declaration No. 11-15 is based on Article 1X, Section 14 of the Palau Constitution, as cited on pages 2 and 3. This is wrong as the correct citation is Section 14, Article VIII and the President corrected the next day.  But to add salt to injury, the OEK in approving  the declaration by  House  Joint Resolution No. 8-62-19S, on November 10, failed to correct the mistake even the Delegate from Kayangel pointed it out.

In addition, how did the 25 members of the Congress  their lawyers and  advisors oversaw  the requirement for a catastrophe to be natural one as  specified  the constitution which forms  the authority and basis for a  state of emergency declaration.

Furthermore, the OEK resolution specifically states on page 3, “Be it further resolved that the state of emergency shall continue for ten (10) days beginning November 9,2011, unless terminated earlier by both houses of the Olbiil Era Kelulau or extended by both houses of the Olbiil Era Kelulau.” As far as the OEK is concerned, the emergency began on the 9th and expires on the 19th.

The President  on November 7 declared a state of emergency and assumed legislative and other powers of government and on November 8, enacted a law-RPPL No. 8-34 to take over PPUC and appropriated $1,5 million of public funds to fund the operation and other project relating to the emergency. And he   began to exercise such powers and to expend public funds on the 8th but the OEK authorized the emergency to start on the 9th. Does this mean that RPPL No. 8-34 is void and whatever actions taken pursuant to that law, are illegal?

But a more serious question is whether the declaration is constitutionally void as it does not meet the requirement that  one of the four conditions set under Section14 of Article VIII existed and is also based on a wrong provision.

This is definitely  a very serious matter as it is the first time that it happened  in the 31-year history of Palau constitutional government and it  must be resolved. This is a government of law, not of man.

The best remedy for the OEK  is to meet and enact  a law to amend and  ratify the declaration of emergency,  restore PPUC, repeal  RPPL No. 8-34, and give the President necessary funding to buy additional generators and to  repair the damaged ones.

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