By Riza T. Olchondra
Philippine Daily Inquirer

MANILA, Philippines—The Department of Energy (DOE) said it was on track to meet the Dec. 24 target to restore electricity in Yolanda-hit areas and to light up major city and town centers as promised by the country’s energy chief.

“As of Saturday, there were still 40 towns out of 258 that were unenergized,” Energy Secretary Jericho Petilla said via text. “We are on track but it’s still eight days to go. I could still lose my job.”

Earlier this month, Petilla vowed to quit his post if city and town centers weren’t lit by Dec. 24. He later said he made the “bet” so that people would have something to hope for and not resort to further looting and disorder, as reported in media.

The National Grid Corp. of the Philippines (NGCP), which operates the country’s transmission superhighway, said that as of Dec. 15, only the Leyte Electric Cooperative (Leyeco) III had not been reconnected to the grid among the cooperatives/distribution utilities in Eastern Visayas.

Joseph Ferdinand M. Dechavez, special assistant to NGCP president Henry Sy Jr., said the Milagro-Lemon-Biliran 69kV line was energized on Dec. 15 and the Biliran Electric Cooperative (Bileco), which serves the island of Biliran, had been reconnected.

“Eastern Samar Electric Cooperative (Esamelco), Don Orestes Romuladez Electric Cooperative (Dorelco) and Leyeco V are partially connected. Transmission lines serving the rest of the cooperatives and utilities in Eastern Visayas are fully operational,” said NGCP spokesperson Cynthia Alabanza.

The cost of restoring the power transmission and distribution lines in typhoon-hit areas of the Visayas was estimated to reach P6.5 billion. This excludes expenses for the deployment of generator sets.

According to the DOE, around 50 percent of power supply and distribution facilities had been restored as of Dec. 3.
Petilla said Tacloban City might have power services restored by Dec. 24 while other parts of Leyte as well as Eastern Samar might have to wait longer for transmission and distribution facilities to get back online.

“If it’s possible we want the restoration to be even earlier than Dec. 24 because historically Eastern Visayas gets struck with typhoons every December,” Petilla said.

The fuel supply has likewise improved, Petilla said, as more gasoline stations had opened. “More than 70 percent of gasoline stations in the Visayas are back in operation,” he said.

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