Senate energy committee chairman and re-electionist Sherwin Gatchalian is open to the suggestion of Vice President and presidential candidate Leni Robredo to place power lines underground, especially in storm-prone areas.
Gatchalian said, though, that while underground cabling is a good idea, it does come at a high price.
“I agree in principle dahil magastos ‘to. Hindi siya mura,” Gatchalian said when asked about Robredo’s idea in the latest episode of Power Podcast.
Nevertheless, Gatchalian agrees that underground cabling is something to look at. “In principle, I agree with the vice president na dapat tingnan na yung underground cabling. Sa kuryente, pwede na gawin underground.”
Should underground cabling become a reality, Gatchalian said he would prioritize the country’s the eastern seaboard – particularly Bicol, Samar, Leyte, and the Caraga region.
Caraga, especially Surigao Del Norte and Dinagat Islands, and Southern Leyte were badly hit by Typhoon Odette in December 2021. Odette went on to topple thousands of transmission and distribution facilities in Bohol, Cebu, Negros, and Palawan. A large part of Bohol remains without power nearly two months after the storm toppled the National Grid Corporation of the Philippines’ two special towers in the province.
Gatchalian, however, noted that if underground cabling projects would commence, the expenses would be passed on to consumers.
“Alam naman natin na sa industriya ng kuryente, kung anong gastos, ipapasa sa consumers ‘yan. So, kaya hindi yan ginagawa sa mahabang panahon,” Gatchalian said.
Nonetheless, he said that underground cabling can be considered for research under Republic Act 11039 or the Electric Cooperatives (ECs) Emergency Resiliency Fund Act. Under the said law, ECs are required to submit a Resiliency Compliance Plan, a list of projects and programs necessary to “protect and mitigate the disaster vulnerability of its infrastructure.”
In 2020, Bagong Henerasyon Partylist Rep. Bernadette Herrera-Dy filed House Bill 5845 or the proposed Nationwide Underground Cable System Act. The bill looks to require power, telephone, cable, and internet services to relocate their wiring and cabling system underground.
Meanwhile, Aboitiz Power Corporation SVP and COO Anton Perdices said in a BusinessWorld report that his company is also open to the idea of underground cabling, but needs “some sort of government subsidy.” Like Gatchalian, Perdices agrees that underground cabling is challenging and needs a lot of time for planning.
Perdices said AboitizPower’s distribution utilities Visayan Electric Company and Davao Light and Power Company have done underground cabling for certain areas in Metro Cebu and Metro Davao.