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Last updateFri, 19 Sep 2014 7pm

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Bringing back hope through power restoration

IT has been more than a month since Supertyphoon Yolanda ravaged Eastern Visayas and full restoration of electricity has yet to happen.

Government agencies are trying their best to restore power to give hope to survivors of the strongest typhoon that ever hit the country. Even Energy Secretary Carlos Jericho L. Petilla vowed to resign from his post if power wouldn’t be restored by Christmas Eve.

“The first sign of hope is always electricity. We will persevere to give them that,” Petilla, who used to be the governor of Leyte before his appointment to the Cabinet, said. His brother, Dominico, replaced him.

The December 24 target, however, does not include the restoration of power in remote barangays because, he pointed out, “the situation is different there.” More time is needed, he stressed.

“December 24 is, indeed, a tight target but as I’ve said if you give them something just to hold on to, then maybe it will give them hope. They shouldn’t have a dark Christmas,” Petilla said.

As of December 25, Petilla said, “I still have three towns out of 300 plus that we are still working on.”

At first, full restoration was estimated to take up to six months from November.  This, after he personally saw the damage brought by Yolanda on transmission towers in the Visayas. “It’s the worst I’ve ever seen but I really wanted to target it, at least try to target it, to have power back on December 24.”

As days passed by, the roads damaged by the typhoon are now passable. Help kept pouring in. Even the Manila Electric Co. (Meralco) sent some of its people to help restore power as soon as possible.

“When Meralco comes, I expect to have at least 200 people working on this right now. In Bohol we were able to do it within a week because we had 215 people. Here, if we can muster more, it is actually possible to hit December 24,” he said earlier.

According to the assessment of the National Grid Corp. of the Philippines (NGCP), Yolanda damaged more than 2,000 transmission structures of 34 transmission lines and affected 22 substations in the the Visayas. The NGCP restoration team has prioritized the restoration of major lines interconnecting Luzon to Visayas, Leyte to Cebu and Leyte to Bohol.

NGCP Spokesman Cynthia Perez-Alabanza said the company has taken steps to replace old towers with much sturdier and durable ones to withstand Signal No. 4 storms.

“We can now restore the power transmission towers like the 14 towers struck by Typhoon Juan in five days because of our state-of-the-art emergency-restoration system like the ‘Lego type,’ and the by-pass lines,” Alabanza said. “Even before Yolanda came we were already replacing the transmission towers with new ones,” she said.

Meanwhile, the State Grid Corp. of China (SGCC), shareholder and technical partner of NGCP, sent a team of experts to assist in the restoration of the High Voltage Direct Current (HVDC), and transmission line design and construction to the Philippines.

The SGCC has also donated an initial $100,000 financial assistance to victims of Yolanda.

“With around 1,400 line personnel [including hired contractors from all over the country] already deployed in the Visayas, the NGCP is going all out, in terms of resources and manpower. With SGCC’s full support, the direction of the DOE [Department of Energy], and the cooperation of the National Electrification Administration [NEA] and other agencies involved, and the hard work and determination of our line crews, we are confident that we will be able to fulfill this commitment to bring back power soon to the Visayas,” NGCP President and CEO Henry Sy Jr. said.

The NEA, which oversees all electric cooperatives (ECs), had estimated damage in distribution lines, substations and subtransmission lines at P4.92 billion.

Immediately after Yolanda devastated many provinces, the NEA and 34 ECs in Luzon and Mindanao have deployed 226 engineers and linemen to assist the nine co-ops in the Visayas in their power-restoration efforts.

“The early ‘energization’ of the entire Visayas is our top priority. Our men and women are working nonstop to make this happen. The damage brought about by this typhoon is unprecedented. But this only makes us work harder to bring electricity to all those affected,” Alabanza said.

When Petilla was asked if the country’s power structure can withstand another massive damage come another super typhoon as strong as Yolanda he replied, “the Philippines is moving toward the right direction. Calamities such as Yolanda can be a setback but this can be overcome by good economic fundamentals backed by good governance.”

He explained that good leadership and infrastructure assets are vital weapons that make the country as one of the best in the region. “We are working hard, together with the private sector, to put up the needed infrastructure and projects in the power sector. All of these will be a success if there is good leadership,” Petilla said.


In Photo: Energy Secretary Carlos Jericho L. Petilla: “The first sign of hope is always electricity.” (AP)


 

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