Power restoration in typhoon-hit Bicol areas eyed before new year

Jorge Cariño, ABS-CBN News

Posted at Dec 28 2016 06:24 PM

MANILA – The Department of Energy on Wednesday said it is targeting to restore power in key commercial areas in the typhoon-devastated Bicol Region.

Energy Undersecretary Wimpy Fuentebella said the DOE is targeting to restore power in Daet, Camarines Norte; Virac, Catanduanes; Libmanan, Iriga City, and Naga City in Camarines Sur; and Ligao City, Albay. Also under DOE’s priority is Boac, Marinduque.

Fuentebella said that as of Tuesday evening, power was already restored in the commercial area of Naga City while work is being done today in Virac to restore electricity in hospital and government agencies.

"Mas mabilis ang restoration kapag restored ang power sa areas na ito. Mas mabilis maka-withdraw ang mga kababayan, kapag umaanadar na ang ATM (Automated Teller Machine). Mas mabilis maka-respond ang mga doktor at nurses, government officials, pulis at mga mayor," said Fuentebella.

The National Grid Corporation of the Philippines, however, is expecting a great challenge when it comes to power restoration.

"It's not easy to restore 34 toppled towers and 581 affected 69kv poles," said Gil Listano, head of NGCP's Operations and Maintenance Management Department.

Listano said the ERS (Emergency Restoration System) is being moved from Northern Luzon to Bicol Region to replace the fallen towers and electicity poles. Listano said they have employed the same technology in areas that were devastated by Typhoon Yolanda.

"We can energize Daraga (Albay), by the 31st, sub-station including the business centers, together with Sorsogon and some of the lines connected to both the sub-stations of Daraga and Sorsogon. We're not sure about restoring the area of Tabaco (Albay). It is in those areas where we have al lot of downed poles," said Listano.

The NGCP deployed 400 people to work on restoration, in addition to linemen of electric cooperatives who volunteered under Task Force Kapatiran of the National Electrification Administration.

The DOE could not provide the number of households and businesses which were affected by the loss of electricity.

NGCP spokesperson Cynthia Alabanza said the transmission towers in Bicol were not yet built for strong typhoons.

The NGCP is now looking at changing the design of their transmission towers for it to become resilient to 250 to 300 kilometers per hour of winds.

According to the National Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Council, power has yet to be restored in at least 122 areas in Calabarzon, Mimaropa, and Bicol as 10 power lines have been cut-off since Christmas day.

Catanduanes Rep. Cesar Sarmiento earlier said that efforts to restore power have been hampered as most national roads have yet to be cleared of fallen trees, electric posts, and debris.

As of Wednesday morning, at least 30,897 houses were damaged by the typhoon in Bicol alone.

The total cost of damage and number of affected residents are expected to increase as other regions hit by the Christmas day typhoon have yet to complete their post-disaster assessments in their respective areas.