Gatchalian pushing for P750-M assistance fund for ECs, hits DOE for lack of protocol

Win Gatchalian Senate

Senator Sherwin Gatchalian is pushing for the passage of a bill that will aid electric cooperatives (ECs) to immediately restore and rehabilitate power in disaster-hit areas.

Gatchalian, who chairs the Committee on Energy, said he is confident that Senate Bill no. 1253 or the Electric Cooperatives Disaster Management Fund Act will be passed.

“We’re going to form a technical working group since there are no major oppositions. The schedule we’re targeting is by budget season, which is second quarter of this year, so we’ll have funding for 2018,” he said after a committee hearing on his proposed bill yesterday.

Under the bill, P750 million in funds will be allocated to help electric cooperatives in their effort to restore their power facilities after natural disasters. The funding can also be used for disaster vulnerability risk assessment and in creating an emergency response plan.

“Our electric cooperatives play a significant role in the electrification of our country, and that is why this committee is trying to address this: because anything can happen, anytime,” Gatchalian said.

However, he expressed dismay over the Department of Energy’s (DOE) lack of disaster response protocol in helping ECs recover from typhoons despite an average of 20 typhoons hitting the country every year.

DOE director Cesar dela Fuente during the hearing admitted that they do not have a protocol for disaster mitigation and preparedness.

Dela Fuente said the agency has released a circular during the end of 2016 that tackles the guidelines for disaster preparation, management, and rehabilitation in the sector.

The circular is currently under review by the DOE’s legal unit.

“The DOE is the overall guardian of the energy sector, and yet you are doing nothing to help electric cooperatives prepare for and respond to calamities,” Gatchalian said.

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  1. Elmer B. Sambo

    Senator Gachalian should focus more on initiating a “Planning for Disaster Program” for LGUs and electric cooperatives. This program should rely on extensive pre-planning, the ability to communicate internally and externally immediately after a storm or other calamities, effective execution of disaster recovery plans (including receiving significant help from external and internal resources), and the capturing of lessons learned to prepare for the next storm response. The LGUs and electric cooperatives should maintain detailed disaster recovery plans with specific responses and actions identified for each. Every year before the start of typhoon season, storm training is provided for employees, whose assignments differ from their regular jobs. Training is designed to ensure that everyone involved understands every aspect of the recovery plan.
    As it does with any major typhoon, electric cooperatives should take a proactive approach to disaster preparation and recovery. The company has to have a detailed, flexible, “scalable” disaster procedure that has been developed over many years and should be applicable to a variety of disaster types, such as typhoons, thunderstorms, and straight-line winds. Cooperatives should critiques its performance after every storm and update its procedures based on lessons learned both from its own experiences and the experiences of other utilities. All employees have storm assignments, frequently different from their day-to-day jobs. Storm assignments include functions related to system restoration, such as disaster coordination, manpower coordination, responsibility for specific geographic areas, acting as crew guides, tending to the needs of outside personnel (such as lodging and meals), and tracking restoration efforts. Without a concrete program and the participation of the LGUs the PHP15 million budget requested by Senator Gachalian will be just another poorly spent taxpayer’s money.

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