Saturday, June 22, 2024

Solons want utility cables buried underground in Manila, remote LGUs

Lawmakers are pushing for the laying of utility cables below the ground to avoid the repeat of the near-catastrophic event on Thursday, Aug. 3, that saw the collapse of several utility posts near the Binondo Church.

Manila congressman Joel Chua said he “will also ask engineers and economists to study the feasibility of laying the utility cables underground in some parts of Binondo and Quiapo instead of keeping them hanging on posts.”

Chua is the author of HB 3750, seeking to make Quiapo adjacent to Binondo a heritage zone.

“This could be the long-term solution and contribute to the livability of Binondo and Quiapo, which are historical and tourism communities.

While underground utility cables are already normal in countries like Singapore, the only place in the Philippines where such cables are located below the ground is at Bonifacio Global City in Taguig City.

For her part, party-list congresswoman Bernadette Herrera is open to the idea of “parts of Manila and other cities having some of their powerlines and telecoms lines laid underground.”

“The feasibility of this could be studied… Laying cables and powerlines underground are also for safety reasons,” said Herrera, the filing author of the proposed Nationwide Underground Cable System Act (HB 1399).

Herrera filed HB 1399 because “underground powerlines and telecoms that include satellite Internet should be central to ensuring post-disaster continuity and survival, especially in the most calamity-prone localities.”

“This multiyear undertaking is, I believe, the appropriate solution to end the repeated isolation of coastal towns and remote islands often in the path of typhoons — as we have just experienced with Super Typhoon Egay,” she said.

“Most storms strike extreme northern Luzon, Pacific coastal towns in Regions 2, 3, 4, 5, 8, and Caraga. These towns are not many, and they are small, consisting of remote barangays and some islands like Catanduanes, parts of mainland Bicol, Samar, Dinagat, and Surigao. These characteristics of the frequently-devastated towns and barangays make them ideal for scalable electrification projects that are part of a foreign-assisted electrification program loan,” Herrera explained.

The congresswoman also noted, “Many of these remote locations are tourism destinations, so keeping them supplied with electricity and linked with telecoms serves both local and foreign tourists and tourism establishments. Their safety and security are further assured, no matter how remote their locations may be.”

On the matter of funding, Herrera said, “Considering how national funds are limited, a sectoral loan from the usual foreign lending agencies — Asian Development Bank, World Bank, and Japan International Cooperation Agency — would be the likely primary funding source which could be attached to and augmented by Public-Private Partnerships or Build Operate and Transfer projects.”

Herrera suggested to the Department of Energy and the National Electrification Administration that “they formulate and implement a long-term plan for the underground laying of electricity power lines and cables of telcos and Internet should be done gradually over the next 15 years in three phases of five years each.”

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