power and water

Power to be fully restored in Catanduanes ‘before Christmas’ – DOE

Pia Ranada
Power to be fully restored in Catanduanes ‘before Christmas’ – DOE

Vice President Leni Robredo checks the damage left behind by Super Typhoon Rolly in Catanduanes, Bicol on November 3, 2020. Photos from Robredo's Facebook page

The energy department needs to purchase equipment to be used by their personnel to repair power distribution lines

The Philippine energy department said it is targeting the 100% restoration of power in Catanduanes before Christmas as the province struggles to get back on its feet after bearing the brunt of Super Typhoon Rolly (Goni).

“We are attempting, under the order of Secretary [Alfonso] Cusi, na before pasko, bago mag pasko (before Christmas),” said Department of Energy Undersecretary Wimpy Fuentebella on Thursday, November 5, during a press briefing aired partly virtually from Virac, Catanduanes itself.

Giving assurances that the department is “working double time,” Fuentebella said materials needed to repair the felled electrical equipment are now being purchased.

“We are purchasing the supplies so that when our linemen arrive there, as well as our Task Force Kapatid, they can go straight to work,” he said in Filipino.

An estimated 500 linemen have been sent to the Bicol region. A contingent of 50 people from Meralco will also get there by Saturday, November 7, said Fuentebella.

The materials and personnel are expected to reach Catanduanes by roro.

“We are expecting 1 to 2 weeks to bring light to Virac and other vital installations,” said the energy official.

‘Partial’ restoration before Christmas

But Presidential Spokesman Harry Roque, who led the press conference, gave assurances that some of the province’s electricity would return even before Christmas, typically a much-anticipated holiday for Filipinos.

Magkakaroon naman ng partial, huwag kayo mag-alala, partial naman po ma-rerestore yan. Hindi naman ibig sabihin dalawang buwan kayong walang kuryente,” said the Duterte spokesman.

(There will be partial power, don’t worry. It doesn’t mean you will endure two months without electricity.)

Some 60% of electricity poles were toppled by Rolly while 30% are now leaning, said Fuentebella.

To provide alternative sources of energy, he said the DOE is now looking for operators of a diesel plant and hydro powerplant in the area, as well as buying more petroleum or diesel supplies.

Heavy damage

Authorities had earlier estimated that 80% to 90% of infrastructure in Catanduanes had been damaged by the super typhoon.

Its governor, Joseph Cua, said over 140,000 residents were affected by the storm. Over 10,400 houses were damaged while more than 19,200 were partially damaged.

Damage to agriculture was pegged at P1.4 billion by the provincial government. Damage to its main crop, abaca, was estimated to be worth P1.3 billion.

Government facilities sustained damage costing an estimated P471 million.

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Cua pleaded for more rehabiliation funds from the national government, saying its disaster fund has already been depleted due to the back-to-back effects of Rolly, another storm Quinta, and the COVID-19 pandemic.

Budget Secretary Wendel Avisado said the national government’s disaster risk reduction and management fund (or NDRMM fund) still has P3.6 billion that can be tapped.

But Office of Civil Defense Undersecretary Ricardo Jalad said the release of such funds for Catanduanes must be approved by President Rodrigo Duterte himself. – Rappler.com

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Pia Ranada

Pia Ranada is a senior reporter for Rappler covering Philippine politics and environmental issues. For tips and story suggestions, email her at pia.ranada@rappler.com.