No assurance yet from DoE for ‘bright’ Christmas in Bicol

Santa Claus will soon be knocking on Filipino homes, but for the Bicol region, the Department of Energy (DOE) cannot give an assurance yet if they can have “literally bright Christmas” because the restoration of power supply in the typhoon-devastated areas is still uncertain.

Energy Secretary Alfonso G. Cusi shared the view that the provinces of Albay, Catanduanes, Camarines Sur, Camarines Norte and Sorsogon need not suffer blackouts of two months as projected, but when asked by the media on what they can promise as a timeframe for their electricity service to be back – the energy department cannot issue a definitive commitment.

“I just want to tell you that the DOE is on full alert. Not just the DoE, but the entire energy family is really on high alert,” Cusi said.

The energy chief said they will hasten restoration works in Bicol “not just because of Christmas, but because we are in a pandemic. Electricity is badly needed in hospitals, and in our vital government installations.”

More than 300 line workers had already been deployed by various electric cooperatives to help in reinstating electricity service in Bicol, but real work on the ground has yet to be stepped up.

For today, the DOE said it cannot give tangible update yet for Bicol power supply’s return, but it indicated that initial breakthrough might be feasible by tomorrow (Saturday).

The National Electrification Administration (NEA) already reported partial restoration of power supply in most affected areas in Batangas, Quezon, Oriental Mindoro, Occidental Mindoro, Marinduque and even the affected areas in Eastern Visayas, but news for the Bicol provinces remained grim.

Minus Bicol region, the power restoration in service areas of affected electric cooperatives already reached 54.73-percent as of Friday (November 6) morning, and that covered 1.144 million households out of the total 2.091 million households that suffered power interruptions.

The electrification agency similarly logged that the scale of damage sustained by power distribution infrastructure from super typhoon Rolly’s wrath stood at P327.909 million.

With that extent of damage on power facilities, even the P250 million allocation under the Electric Cooperatives Emergency and Resiliency Fund (ECERF) will not be enough to cover all the required restoration activities in the networks of the ECs.

This handout photo taken and received on November 2, 2020 courtesy of Philippine Senator Bong Go shows an aerial view of destroyed houses in the island province of Catanduanes, in the aftermath of Typhoon Goni. (Photo by Handout / Philippine Senator Bong Go / AFP)

In a related development, the DOE debunked claims that there had been fuel supply disruption in Catanduanes, noting that the fuel provider in the area already recommenced operations.

“Powerzone, the lone depot in the province, temporarily stopped operations on Tuesday (November 3) for damage assessment, but it resumed operations that same evening.”

The DOE narrated “when we received reports alleging that there was no fuel in Catanduanes, the DOE immediately sought to verify the situation on the ground. We take all such reports very seriously, especially since the entire energy family has been working round-the-clock to ensure the delivery of energy goods and services before, during and after calamities.”