Bill clearing ‘power line obstructions’ inching closer to passage at bicam

By Myrna M. Velasco

After gaining traction at the bicameral level of legislative maze, a bill that will clear up obstructions at power line installations and operations is now inching closer on its enactment into a law.

The Senate committee on energy indicated that the bicameral conference committee with contingents from both Houses of Congress already reconciled the relevant provisions of the Anti-Obstruction and Power Line Act – and is now ready for transmittal to Malacanang for the President’s approval and signing.

The propounded law targets to safeguard the power line networks of distribution utilities as well as the transmission facilities of the National Grid Corporation of the Philippines.

“The reconciled version of the bill provides that the power line corridor – which includes the land beneath, the air spaces surrounding, and the area traversed by power lines, shall at all times be kept clear and free from any obstructions, dangerous structures, hazardous activities or any similar circumstances that impede the continuous flow of electricity,” a statement from the Senate energy committee has expounded.

In particular, the measure prohibits the planting of tall-growing vegetation (i.e. trees) as well as other considered hazardous activities near power lines because these could trigger power service interruptions and could also endanger lives.

As experienced in the past, tree-cutting and storm-tossed trunks and branches of tress as well as burning of grass beneath transmission lines had caused major blackout incidents in the country.

In the distribution segment of electricity services, technically snagged power lines especially in highly populated areas had ignited fire incidents that had caused not just loss of properties but even human lives.

And in areas where obstruction of power lines had been prevalent, these also served as “harassment tool” against the power utilities – with exorbitant costs often demanded just for the planted trees or vines to be cleared by their supposed owners.

In the bill principally authored by Senate Committee on Energy Chairman Sherwin T. Gatchalian, it was set forth that the power line owners and operators can “seek the assistance of local government officials, the Philippine National Police (PNP) and the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP)” to tidy up the power line passageways as warranted.

Corresponding penalties shall be also be meted against individuals and/or entities that shall be “found guilty of committing any of the prohibited acts” specified in the proposed law.

This legislative piece, according to Gatchalian, sets recognition to “the continuous conveyance of electricity as a matter of national security and as a central element to economic development.”