Petilla: I’ll resign if no power by Christmas

Judith Balea
The energy secretary, who was former governor of typhoon-hit Leyte, promises to bring electricity back to areas hit by Typhoon Yolanda (Haiyan) in the Visayas on December 24

ON THE LINE. Energy chief Jericho Petilla says he will resign if power isn't restored in Visayas by Christmas eve. Photo by Malacañang Photo Bureau

MANILA, Philippines – If power isn’t restored in Typhoon Yolanda-ravaged areas by Christmas eve, he will resign.

Energy Secretary Carlos Jericho Petilla made this promise as he announced they will do all they can to restore power in areas devastated by Yolanda (Haiyan) by December 24.

“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 said during an interview with media in Palo, Leyte on Monday, November 18.

Petilla admitted that December 24 is a “very, very tight” target, but he said he’s betting his position on it so typhoon survivors won’t have a “dark Christmas.”

Petilla was the governor of Leyte before he was appointed to the Cabinet. His brother Dominico is the current governor of the province hardest hit by the super typhoon.

“The first sign of hope is always electricity. We will persevere to give them that,” he said in a mix of Filipino and English.

He was quick to “qualify” however that the December 24 target doesn’t cover remote barangays. “That will add more time.”

When they first surveyed the damage wrought by Yolanda on power towers and poles in Visayas Saturday, November 9, Petilla shared his initial estimate was full restoration would take about 2 to 6 months.

He said the damage was the worst they’ve seen so far. “We targeted, actually, January. But I said, ‘no, let’s try December 24.’ No ifs.”

Petilla said he’s optimistic this is feasible because of several factors.

First, he said highways and roads damaged by the typhoon are now passable. He said materials for repairs are available, and there’s more than enough manpower to work on the restoration of power lines.

“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.”

Based on the latest inspection by the National Grid Corporation of the Philippines (NGCP), 566 transmission towers and poles are either leaning or toppled because of the typhoon, while 7 substations are damaged.

NGCP spokesperson Cynthia Perez-Alabanza said on November 13 that fixing the transmission backbone and main lines of the grid in Visayas will take up to 6 weeks.

Yolanda, one of the world’s strongest typhoons on record, struck several regions in the Philippines on November 8, flattening homes, buildings, and infrastructure. It killed thousands and displaced hundreds of thousands, mostly in Visayas provinces.

As of 6 am Monday, the National Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Council (NDRRMC) placed damage from the typhoon at P10.38 billion, while the death toll climbed to 3,976. –

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