MANILA, Philippines (5th UPDATE) – Energy Secretary Jericho Petilla will quit to “keep his word that he will resign if all the towns [in Yolanda-hit areas] are not energized,” Presidential Spokesman Edwin Lacierda said on Wednesday, December 25.
“Whether or not President Aquino will accept is another matter,” Lacierda told Rappler.
Petilla told Lacierda in a text message that 3 towns in Yolanda-hit areas, where power had already been restored, experienced problems recently. But as of 2:40 pm Wednesday, the problems appear to have been addressed, Lacierda said, quoting Petilla. The 3 towns were not immediately identified.
“Those 3 towns were powered before. Hindi stable,” Lacierda added. “I asked, Is this [report about resigning] true? He told me, ‘Since my commitment was I would energize all the towns’ and he was not able to energize all the towns…”
Petilla later sent a text message to reporters: “I will have no word of honor if I stay on and in public service, word of honor is extremely important.”
In another text message to reporters, the energy chief said: “I’m not quitting on the people. I’m simply keeping my word which I find is the essence of my being in public service.”
On Wednesday afternoon, Petilla told reporters he was “drafting my resignation letter now although I’m still monitoring the restoration of the three towns.”
He did not say when his resignation would take effect but when asked if it’s irrevocable he said, “I guess so, but I will give the President enough time to look for replacement.”
As of December 25, Petilla said only 3 towns out of the more than 300 towns that were badly affected by the super typhoon have yet to be energized. “I have three towns still without power.”
But Petilla, in an interview with Rappler Tuesday, December 24, said that all typhoon-affected areas have been “100%” energized. “If we are talking about towns and municipalities, then power has been restored 100%.” (READ: Petilla: Power restored in Yolanda-hit areas)
“The last 5 towns have been energized,” Petilla said in a text message to Rappler Tuesday when asked about the status of power restoration in Yolanda-hit areas.
The last 5 municipalites of Eastern Samar that remained disconnected from the grid but have been energized dawn of December 24 were Lawaan, Guiuan, Balangiga, Quinapondan, and Giporlos, according to Petilla on Tuesday.
Not resigning as of Tuesday
We called him up after the text message for more details. Below is the transcript of our phone interview with Petilla Tuesday:
Rappler: So it’s safe to say that as of midnight or early this morning [Tuesday] 100% nang electrified yung lahat ng Yolanda hit towns?
Petilla: Yung lahat ng towns meron ng access sa kuryente, grid level. Meron acesss sa grid level. (All the towns already have access to electricity at the grid level.)
Rappler: Pero paano ninyo ito i-explain to an average person, grid level lang sila meron? (How do you explain this grid level-access to the layman?)
Petilla: Kung kayo ay pwedeng mag-kabit ng kuryente sa bahay niyo ay depende kung ayos na ang electrical wiring. (You can restore your electricity if your electric wiring has been fixed)
Rappler: So definitely, hindi kayo mag-re-resign? Sorry to ask this. (So definitely you’re not resigning?)
Petilla: Hindi. Yung mayor yata ng Tacloban nagrereklamo wala pa raw kuryente. (No. It seems it’s the mayor of Tacloban who’s complaining that power has not been restored in his area.)
Petilla then pointed out that while all towns and municapilities have been connected to the grid, some houses are still without electricity. Connecting local households to power sources is the responsibility of local government units not his department, Petilla stressed in the interview.
“Ang sinabi ko dadalhin ko ang kuryente sa inyo pero kayo naman mayor may responsibilidad kayo na mag-assess ng mga bahay, kasi building code na yan eh. Hindi na yan amin. Kayo naman ang may karapatan na mag assess kung pwede ng ilawan o hindi pa. Hindi na sa amin yan. Sa amin, taga-kabit lang kami. Hindi kami taga assess kung pwede namin kabitan. Pero kasi ang mayor dun eh medyo kabilang panig, kaya ang kanya hanggang hindi naiilawan ang bahay niya, para sa kanya hindi pa naiilawan ang Tacloban.”
(What I’m saying is that I will bring electricity to your area, but it’s the mayor’s responsibility to assess the capacity of households to connect to it. That has something to do with the building code. That’s not our responsibility. Our responsibility is only to make sure there’s power to access to. But the mayor in Tacloban belongs to another camp…and as far as he’s concerned, as long as there’s no electricity in his house then there’s no electricity in Tacloban.”
We earlier reported that households in Tacloban and Leyte spent Christmas eve in the dark. (READ: Dark Christmas for Yolanda survivors)
Sought for clarification regarding his conflicting statements on Tuesday and Wednesday, Petilla refused to take our calls.
Lacierda said Wednesday afternoon that Petilla hasn’t talked to the President.
Petilla earlier vowed to resign should the Department of Energy fail to restore power in all areas devastated by Yolanda by Christmas eve.
“Do you want my position if I don’t make it by December 24? You will have it…. I’ll submit my resignation if that is what you want,” Petilla told reporters in Palo, Leyte, last November 18.
Petilla has said the December 24 target did not include the restoration of power in remote barangays because “the situation is different there.”
“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. “The first sign of hope is always electricity. We will persevere to give them that.”
Full restoration was estimated to take up to 6 months from November 8, when the typhoon struck. “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.”
A party mate of the President and former Leyte governor, Petilla was named to the energy department in 2012. His brother Dominico is now the Leyte governor. – with reports from Cherrie Regalado and Carmela Fonbuena/Rappler.com