Bright Christmas for quake-hit Bohol – Aquino

Bea Cupin
Its power lines destroyed by an earthquake in October and a super typhoon in November, Bohol will have power supply back before Christmas, the gov't promises

RUINS. The San Vicente Parish in Maribojoc, Bohol, 20 October 2013. Photo by Franz Lopez/Rappler

MANILA, Philippines – Boholanons still recovering from the powerful quake that struck in October will have a bright and brownout-less Christmas, President Benigno Aquino III promised on Thursday, November 28.

Ang ating inaasahan ay sa Disyembre ay magkakaroon na tayo ng zero brownouts or rotating brownouts dito. Palagay ko ‘yun po ang Christmas gift ni Secretary Petilla sa inyo, bago ho ang Pasko – ibig sabihin, baka bisperas ng Pasko,” he said during the inauguration of the temporary Abatan Bridge in Maribojoc, Bohol.

(By December, we expect the brownouts to end. This is probably Energy Secretary Jericho Petlla’s Christmas gift to you. This will happen before Christmas – which means, on Christmas eve probably.)

Bridges and power lines were damaged by the 7.2-magnitude quake on October 15, affecting communication and transportation in the province. Power lines in Bohol had been repaired since, but were damaged again by Typhoon Yolanda (Haiyan) that ripped through the Visayas on November 8.

Since then, Bohol has been experiencing rotating brownouts.

Yolanda also damaged a Leyte geothermal plant and over 200 transmission towers, including lines connecting the Luzon and Visayas grid.

Petilla has appealed to Luzon power consumers to cut down on their consumption to help power up the Visayas in December. The energy secretary earlier said he would resign if Yolanda-ravaged areas remained power-less by Christmas.

Working with the LGU

Aquino, in his speech, praised the leadership of Bohol Governor Edgar Chatto, his party mate.

Kung minsan ho ‘yata 3 times a day tumatawag or nagte-text. Talagang masigasig ho siya, [kaya] palagay ko lalago ‘yung BPO industry dito sa Bohol,” the President said, partly joking.

(Sometimes he calls or texts me thrice a day. He’s very persistent, I think the BPO industry will flourish in Bohol.)

Aquino said rehabilitation in Bohol was swift because of close coordination between the national and local governments.

Mabilis ang pag-asikaso natin sa rehabilitasyon ng mga paaralan, ospital, at pampublikong gusali dahil pumaspas ang kakayahan ng estadong arugain ang taumbayan,” he added. (Bohol’s rehabilitation didn’t take a long time because the state did double time attending to the people’s needs.)

The dynamics between the national and local governments in times of disaster recently came under scrutiny after Aquino and Tacloban Mayor Alfred Romualdez traded barbs over the relief efforts in the Yolanda-ravaged city in Leyte.

The President, facing criticisms for the slow pace of rescue and relief operations after the super typhoon, blamed the city government for not preparing enough, thus the numerous deaths and widespread damage. The heavily populated Tacloban City, the center of commerce in the Eastern Visayas region, was wiped out by 17-foot-high storm surges.

Disaster-proof infra

Aquino said on Thursday he noticed big improvements in the province since he spent the night in Loon, another town in Bohol, on October 23.

Sa aking pagbalik po, parang normal na normal kayo dito. Kayo ay nagiging halimbawa sa lahat ng mga lugar na sinalanta ni Yolanda na kakayanin natin talaga,” he said. (I’ve noticed a sense of normalcy here. You are examples to Yolanda survivors that we can overcome adversity.)

Over P166 million in relief assistance has been poured into Bohol so far. The National Housing Authority also gave survivors P5,000-P10,000 worth in construction materials for their homes.

The President said government and private groups have learned valuable lessons in the aftermath of the strong quake. Among them: how to build bridges properly.

“Concrete isn’t flexible. When there’s an earthquake, it will give. So maybe it’s better to use metal or other materials – there are designs being studied – so there’s a little flexibility and our bridges can withstand earthquake,” he said in Filipino, explaining why the bridges in Tagbuane and Abatan are temporary.

Damaged bridges and roads isolated several Bohol towns, causing a delay in the distribution of relief. The temporary bridges were unveiled Thursday, but the permanent ones will be done by September 2014.

Government is also re-evaluating where the bridges are being built. “Para ‘pag naibalik ang tulay ninyo, hindi tulay lang ang ibinalik, dapat may garantiya na mas mahusay, mas mabuti, mas matatag, mas magagamit maski ano pang dumating,” he said. (So when the new bridges are built, we can give you a guarantee that they’re better, stronger, more resilient.)

The bridges are just the start of Bohol’s rebuilding efforts. A bigger airport is set to replace the one in Tagbilaran. Aquino also promised that Bohol’s historic churches will rise one more, with the help of the National Museum, National Commission for Culture and the Arts, and the National Historical Commission of the Philippines.

Darating ang panahon na maitatayo ang mga ito, at muling ibabantayog ang mayamang kultura at pananalig ng mga Boholano,” he said. (In time, these will rise again and will symbolize the rich culture and faith of Boholanons.) –

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Bea Cupin

Bea is a senior multimedia reporter who covers national politics. She's been a journalist since 2011 and has written about Congress, the national police, and the Liberal Party for Rappler.