Disruption by 'Odette' highlights importance of interlinked power, telecom sectors — advocacy group

Published December 24, 2021, 12:44 PM

by Alexandria Dennise San Juan

An advocacy group has urged power and telecommunications sectors to work together seamlessly following the widespread service disruptions in the aftermath of Typhoon “Odette,” particularly in the Visayas and Mindanao regions.

Surigao City after typhoon “Odette” (Photo courtesy of Jilson Tiu/Greenpeace)

Orlando Oxales, convenor of CitizenWatch Philippines, said both these services are essential to disaster relief operations and in the rehabilitation of the typhoon-ravaged communities.

“We need fast action and cooperation between telcos and power cooperatives. The disruption in electricity and communication services hampers efforts to save lives and property and compromises these communities’ ability to bounce back quickly after the disaster,” Oxales said.

The disruption in telecommunications was felt immediately after the typhoon, with relatives unable to contact their loved ones to find out whether they survived.

“This created a terrifying vacuum of information in the crucial hours when relief was most needed,” he added.

While power and telecommunication in some areas were restored after a few days, Oxales said services in most of the affected places are still disrupted.

“This reflects the gaps in our disaster resilience and shows how vulnerable we are to external factors like extreme weather and should be more than enough impetus for government to work closely with the private sector in modernizing our power and digital infrastructure especially in these regions where electricity cooperatives need big capital to upgrade capacity and build readiness to react to these events,” Oxales noted.

“[The] government has yet to provide sufficient incentives and more enabling policies to upgrade infrastructure and help the distribution utilities in these affected areas to restore services after any disruptive occurrences,” he added.

With this, the group convenor also suggested that assistance to electricity cooperatives be allocated using the quick-disbursing loans extended by the World Bank for post-disaster response.

He also called for the immediate rehabilitation of power and telecommunication facilities aside from other damaged establishments.

“During this sobering period, when Christmas is coming and yet we are not entirely free of the COVID problem, now comes an opportunity to pitch in and help our fellow Filipinos affected by Odette,” Oxales said.

“At the same time, we should think long term and ensure that such disruptions will be minimized by implementing pro-active strategies for disaster resiliency and sustainable communities,” he added.