Marinawa rockslide delays power restoration in Virac

DESPITE THE BEST EFFORTS of teams of linemen and equipment of FICELCO and Task Force Kapatid-PRRD teams from MERALCO and electric cooperatives, the power restoration effort was delayed by the relocation of two posts along the main power line that was left teetering on the steep mountain side by a rockslide triggered by Typhoon Ulysses.


With its main power line at the Virac-Bato boundary affected by a rockslide triggered by Typhoon Ulysses, the First Catanduanes Electric Cooperative, Inc. (FICELCO) had to temporarily place a pole along the national highway just to begin restoration of electric service to vital government installations in the capital town last Sunday (Nov. 15, 2020).

Heavy rains unleashed by the passing typhoon last week caused the already soaked mountainside, part of which has been undergoing removal under a road widening project of the Department of Public Works and Highways (DPWH).

The massive rockslide not only blocked the vital road linking Virac to seven towns along the eastern corridor of the island but also left two poles carrying the main power lines barely hanging on the steep mountainside.

It is claimed that due to the road widening project, FICELCO was forced to relocate poles higher up the slope but could not erect it over the top of the mountain as the owner of the private abaca farmland refused.

This thorny situation and the rockslide clearing operation unfortunately delayed delivery of the electric cooperative’s earlier promise to partially restore power supply to the provincial capitol and nearby areas by Friday last week.

Last weekend, General Manager Raul Zafe reportedly decided to install a temporary post along the highway near the rockslide site and within the national road-right-of-way just to be able to proceed with the power restoration effort in the poblacion by Sunday afternoon or evening.

Last Nov. 1, super typhoon Rolly’s 220 to 315-kph winds toppled, broke or left leaning 65 percent of the electric posts along the cooperative’s distribution lines in the towns of Virac, Bato, Baras, San Andres and San Miguel.

GM Zafe, in his report to Gov. Joseph Cua and the Provincial Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Council (PDRRMC), said rehabilitation of the lines would take two months if FICELCO would undertake it alone.

Malacanang, however, immediately ordered the Department of Energy (DOE) and the National Electrification Administration (NEA) to coordinate with the Philippine Rural Electric Cooperative Association (PhilRECA) to send several teams from its member cooperatives under the Task Force Kapatid-Power Restoration and Rehabilitation Deployment (PRRD).

On Nov. 7, three teams of linemen and trucks from Benguet Electric Cooperative, Inc. (BENECO) arrived to assist FICELCO’s four teams in the southern part of the island as well as two more in the less damaged northern towns.

The Manila Electric Company (MERALCO) also deployed two teams with several equipment and linemen who have been working on the installation of posts and stringing of lines from early in the morning until late at night.

As of Nov. 15, 69 personnel from TF Kapatid were billeted at FICELCO headquarters following the arrival of four more teams from SORECO 1, TISELCO, BATELEC 1 and 2,
Set to come in on Monday or Tuesday were 66 more from AKELCO, ANTECO, CAPELCO, GUIMELCO, ILECO 1, ILECO 2, ILECO 3, CENECO, NOCECO, and NONECO.

The task force’s latest additions will bring two (2) light vehicles, four (4) pickup trucks, two (2) utility vehicles, a maintenance truck, loader truck, and two boom trucks.

Accompanied by Philippine Rural Electric Cooperatives Association (PhilRECA) president and partylist Rep. Pressly de Jesus, Reynaldo Villanueva of Nueva Ecija Electric Cooperative and Bicol Electric Cooperatives Association (BECA) president Edwin Lamadrid, NEA Administrator Edgardo Masongsong assured the cooperative that its request for financial assistance for the Rolly rehab work is considered approved.

He also said cooperatives affected by the super typhoon should immediately send a purchase order to fast-track the purchase of needed materials and equipment from suppliers who will release the items even without advance payment.

The NEA chief described the P454-million damage wrought by Rolly on FICELCO’s distribution lines as “a blessing in disguise” as this gives the cooperative the opportunity to upgrade said lines and transformers using the free labor in the form of Task Force Kapatid and MERALCO.

He likewise encouraged FICELCO management to invest in resiliency measures, including underground distribution lines just like in Batanes.

The NEA official disclosed that the Electric Cooperative Rehabilitation Fund (ECRF), used in cases of calamity as reimbursement for costs shouldered by ECs, did not include allocations for areas hit by typhoons Quinta and Rolly.

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