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PLDT, Globe Restoration Works In Mindanao Nearing Completion

PLDT, Globe Restoration Works In Mindanao Nearing Completion
Members of the Office of the Civil Defense and tourists try to communicate through two satellites at the Siargao Sayak Airport on Dec. 19, 2021 following the onslaught of Typhoon Odette last week. Photo by Presidential Communications Operations Office Secretary Martin Andanar.

Communication restoration works in Typhoon Odette-affected areas in Mindanao are nearing completion, as they continue to provide relief activities in hard-hit communities, according to telecommunications giants PLDT Inc. and Globe Telecom Inc.

PLDT said 99% of Mindanao fixed services and 97% of wireless services are up as of Tuesday, Dec. 21, including vital communication links in the areas of Misamis Oriental and Surigao del Norte.

On the other hand, 86% of its wireless services and 60% of its fixed services in the Visayas have been restored.

PLDT, however, said customers may experience intermittent service in previously restored areas due to prolonged unavailability of commercial power and transmission lines.

PLDT and Smart Communications’ technical teams are working round-the-clock in affected areas in Palawan, amid clearing operations and power interruptions.

Additional support teams have also been flown from Manila to critical areas through PLDT’s aviation unit to augment resources on the ground.

Smart has provided emergency load assistance to affected mobile users in various provinces, and more free calls and charging centers have been set up in the Visayas and Mindanao.

PLDT also implemented a bill reprieve to help ease the burden on PLDT Home customers.

Affected customers in the Visayas and Mindanao will not be required to pay any service fees incurred during the days they experienced connectivity disruptions due to Odette.

There will also be no disconnection of service due to non-payment until January next year, and the rebate will be reflected in customers’ January/February 2022 billing.

Meanwhile, Globe said restoration efforts in typhoon-affected areas in Mindanao are progressively nearing completion.

The telco firm said on Tuesday it has restored services in Eastern Samar, Agusan del Norte and Surigao del Sur, as more areas become operational.

In the Visayas, Globe said certain areas remain challenged due to damaged roads, bridges and power lines.

It said its network engineers on site are working to bring services back to normal.

Globe assured subscribers that it is working closely with local government units in clearing operations and infrastructure repairs to get communication lines in typhoon-hit areas operational.

The company is providing free and unlimited GoWiFi in select malls, government offices and airports in areas in the Visayas and Mindanao affected by the typhoon.

It is also setting up additional free call and charging stations.

Amid these developments, Vice President Leni Robredo said on Tuesday she would make underground power and communication lines a priority in her infrastructure development agenda if elected president to reduce impact of destructive typhoons in the country.

“One realization from the series of very strong typhoons which hit our country is that our next priority infrastructure development agenda should be putting electric and communication lines underground, particularly in typhoon-prone areas,” Robredo said in a Facebook post.

“In the long run, this would be cost-effective compared with the recurring costly rehabilitation of above-ground electric and communication lines and posts, which are felled and destroyed by typhoons,” she added.

The Vice President noted how the disruption and absence of power and communication services adversely affected the economy and businesses and that the extension of health, hygiene and sanitations services is significantly hampered.

“This includes the conduct of both virtual and face-to-face classes,” she added, noting her proposal is already being pushed by Albay Rep. Edcel Lagman in his district, which is also frequently hit by typhoons.

“It is high time to start giving it very serious consideration,” Robredo said.

Meanwhile, three provinces – Bohol, Dinagat Islands and Surigao del Norte – are unlikely to have power by Christmas and New Year due to the extent of damage in power transmission and distribution assets caused by Odette.

The Department of Energy (DOE), however, said power generation facilities in typhoon-affected areas are on standby to provide power once transmission and distribution facilities are up and running.

At a virtual briefing on Tuesday, DOE-Electric Power Industry Management Bureau (EPIMB) director Mario Marasigan said there was no major damage reported in power generation facilities in typhoon-hit areas.

“Since Sunday, there are no major impact on our generating facilities. At the moment, our power generators are on standby. It’s all up to the transmission and distribution system to restore power,” Marasigan added.

National Grid Corp. of the Philippines (NGCP) spokesperson Cynthia Alabanza said out of 95 transmission lines affected by Typhoon Odette, only 19 need to be restored.

The NGCP’s most damaged transmission facilities are in Bohol.

“For Bohol, we’re sure that 100% of transmission service is damaged,” NGCP engineering project management head Randy Galang said.

The NGCP is targeting to restore critical 69-kilovolt (kV) transmission lines by Dec. 31.

The Vice President went to Negros provinces on Tuesday to continue with the relief operations and assessment of areas affected by Typhoon Odette.

Among those who joined her were actress and former presidential sister Kris Aquino, who also brought relief supplies for evacuees.

Robredo previously visited Bohol, Southern Leyte, Cebu, Surigao and Dinagat Islands to bring relief goods, meet with local officials and residents affected by the typhoon.

She had earlier cited the lack of signal and power as a major challenge in relief operations.

“There is a way to address this problem that we always face during typhoons,” she said in an earlier tweet in Filipino.

“We have, on average, 20 typhoons a year. It is better to spend now and put (power and communication lines) underground, rather than spend every time the posts are down,” she added. 

No power by Christmas, New Year

Three provinces – Bohol, Dinagat Islands and Surigao del Norte – are unlikely to have power by Christmas and New Year due to the extent of damage in power transmission and distribution assets caused by Typhoon Odette.

The DOE, however, said power generation facilities in typhoon-affected areas are on standby to provide power once transmission and distribution facilities are up and running.

At a virtual briefing on Tuesday, DOE-Electric Power Industry Management Bureau (EPIMB) director Mario Marasigan said there was no major damage reported in power generation facilities in typhoon-hit areas.

“Since Sunday (Dec. 19), there are no major impact on our generating facilities. At the moment, our power generators are on standby. It’s all up to the transmission and distribution system to restore power,” Marasigan added.

National Grid Corp. of the Philippines (NGCP) spokesperson Cynthia Alabanza said out of 95 transmission lines affected by Typhoon Odette, only 19 need to be restored.

The NGCP’s most damaged transmission facilities are in Bohol.

“For Bohol, we’re sure that 100 percent of transmission service is damaged,” NGCP engineering project management head Randy Galang said.

The NGCP is targeting to restore critical 69-kilovolt (kV) transmission lines by Dec. 31.

Meanwhile, task forces deployed to help in restoration efforts find it challenging to get to Bohol, according to National Electrification Administration (NEA)-Total Electrification and Renewable Energy head Ernesto Silvano.

“Most likely, we cannot peg that it can be finished by the end of the year because task forces cannot cross to help them,” Silvano said.

“We want to make sure there is transportation access available for a smooth arrival of task forces,” he added.

For Bohol, DOE undersecretary Felix William Fuentebella said the energy family is concentrating on how to address the issues.

“Before we send a task force, we need to know what equipment and facilities they need because it’s pointless to send people there without (data). What we are focusing on in those areas that are difficult to conduct normal operations from the lines, we are looking into island mode operations. Meaning, we’ll tap power generators within the island so we can concentrate the power for banks, hospitals,” Fuentebella added.

Meanwhile, the NGCP is targeting to restore 69-kV transmission lines in Surigao del Norte by Dec. 25.

Distribution assets in Surigao del Norte, Siargao Island (which is under the jurisdiction of Surigao del Norte) and Dinagat Islands, however, were heavily damaged by Typhoon Odette, which would be difficult to restore by year-end.

“It would be difficult to restore power with all the challenges in communication, transportation, mobility, availability of materials and extent of damage,” Silvano said.

For the oil sector, Fuentebella said there is sufficient fuel supply even in typhoon-affected areas; the challenge, however, lies in transporting these products to the end-users.

“Secretary Alfonso Cusi is in contact with heads of fuel companies. They already assured sufficient supply of petroleum products. The challenge is to bring these to end-users,” he said.

Fuentebella stressed that there is no reason to worry as far as availability of fuel is concerned.

“There’s no need to hoard; that will only make it harder for the communities affected,” he said.

To move the fuel supply to end-users, DOE-Oil Industry Management Bureau (OIMB) director Rino Abad said the agency is working on an arrangement with the Philippine Coast Guard (PCG) to coordinate with port authorities for the entry of supply to the import terminal and depots in Cebu and Bohol.

“The PCG agreed with the DOE to create a platform of communication. We have a Viber group. Hopefully, the PCG can address this one by one,” Abad said.

“They will be the one directly assisting the downstream oil industry players as to the request of clearance of entry of the vessel – unloading of the imported petroleum products. They will be the one who will coordinate with the harbor pilot,” he added.

Based on the DOE-OIMB’s monitoring, 24 out of the 26 import terminals from Region 4B to Region 8 are already fully operational, with the remaining two looking at a one-month period for assessment and repair.

For depots, 46 out of the 49 distribution depots are operational while the remaining three are under assessment and repair until next week.

The bureau also said all identified 24 liquefied petroleum gas refilling plants have been operational as of last Monday, Dec. 20. – With Janvic Mateo, Danessa Rivera, Jose Rodel Clapano