Cebu City

Cebu City residents concerned over tilting utility posts weeks after Odette

John Sitchon
Cebu City residents concerned over tilting utility posts weeks after Odette

LEANING POLE. Utility poles are still leaning weeks after Typhoon Odette hit Cebu City.

Ryan Macasero/Rappler

Although the city is working on clearing spaghetti wires, officials say it's the utility providers' responsibility to fix the posts damaged during the typhoon

CEBU CITY, Philippines – Eight weeks after Typhoon Odette ravaged parts of the country in December 2021, some damaged utility posts in this city have yet to be repaired, causing concern among residents.

A resident who did not want to be named alerted Rappler about several poles they spotted nearly tipping over in their neighborhood in Barangay Guadalupe.

“This is a busy street and so many vehicles were already entangled with the wires of different diameters,” the resident said. 

The resident told Rappler that they had reported this situation to various service providers like Visayan Electric Company (VECO) and PLDT, the Cebu City Emergency Operations Center (EOC), Cebu City Mayor Michael Rama, and other concerned barangay officials, yet the poles remain unrepaired.

At least three members of a family were killed in Barangay Apas during Odette, when a pole crashed on their house.

Rappler independently surveyed Barangay Guadalupe and several other areas in the city and found more than five posts tilting, almost all within an arm’s reach of a house or building.

When asked about what the city plans to do about the tilting posts during a press conference on Friday, February 18, Councilor Jerry Guardo, the city’s chair of the infrastructure committee, said that the posts were the responsibility of the telco operators.

“Most of these [posts] are owned by either Globe or PLDT. The problem they have is that they have been overwhelmed by this because their area of coverage is not only in Cebu City, but includes Lapu-Lapu, Mandaue, and the rest of the province that was affected,” Guardo said.

UTILITY POLES. A leaning utility pole is spotted in Cebu City. Ryan Macasero/Rappler

According to the city councilor, some telcos share posts under a joint-pole sharing agreement. But sharing the posts is on a case-to-case basis, and sometimes the competitors don’t agree to share the poles, resulting in too many being built in one area.  

“We are coming up with a single-pole policy so we are now in talks with Converge and I would expect that our restoration efforts will become faster for these broken or leaning poles because they have prepared a 50-man team to replace poles in Cebu City,” Guardo said, referring to the internet service provider of Dennis Uy.

Guardo said that during the first few weeks after the typhoon, Converge offered to replace these broken and leaning poles, even the ones they don’t own, and donate them to the city government. 

When asked about any immediate fixes to the leaning posts, Guardo did not answer the question directly. Instead, he said that the city was continually working to remove wires that were no longer functioning. 

Dead wires
SPAGHETTI WIRES. Cebu City is working on clearing ‘dead’ spaghetti wires. Ryan Macasero/Rappler

According to the city government, more than 40% of the wires connected to poles are already “dead” and pose a great risk to public safety.  

“We created a team two years ago, and started clearing the city of these inactive non-functional wires. We started the clearing operations downtown, including the uptown area and we’ve moved from Banilad towards the Talamban area,” Guardo said in a mix of Cebuano and English.

However, due to Typhoon Odette, operations were halted. 

“We have also observed some areas, because of these leaning poles, the wires are tangled again. We need to raise up these wires,” he said.

In the long term, Guardo has proposed an ordinance to increase the height limit of poles from a minimum of 16 feet to 21 feet to prevent future accidents.

He noted that because of the tilting posts, the wires are now more susceptible to latching on to the top part of huge vehicles whenever they pass by.

Guardo believes that once the ordinance is approved, this will set a standard that other local government units can adopt.

He also mentioned a proposed ordinance that would pilot underground wires in SRP, an up-and-coming business district in Cebu, in the near future.

Debris-clearing

With regard to clearing debris caused by the storm, a Cebu City official said they are about 94% finished clearing the lowland areas of the city.

“Our challenge is that sometimes, some of the wires we are supposed to cut turn out to be restored by VECO. We experienced one time when we cut them, it suddenly sparked,” said City Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Office (CDRRMO) head Kevin Sanchez.

The city’s policy when it comes to broken posts and spaghetti wires is to clear anything that touches the ground. 

Sanchez noted that there have been instances when the city government cleared wires which have supposedly been restored, but were left lying on the ground.

The government aims to finish power restoration efforts by February 24 for both the north and south districts of the city. – Rappler.com

Add a comment

Sort by

There are no comments yet. Add your comment to start the conversation.