PCSD is looking forward to issue a special permit for the chainsaw of PALECO Task Force for their clearing and tree-cutting operations (File photo courtesy of PALECO)

As part of its long-term solution to minimize power interruptions, Palawan Electric Cooperative (PALECO) is planning to insulate conductors in thickly vegetated areas in the province.

Engr. Nelson Lalas, PALECO project supervisor and acting general manager, said Wednesday that they started to put insulated wires along the distribution lines to protect them from branches that are starting to grow three-to-four months after trimming.

“Long-term [solution] namin ‘yong sa thickly vegetated area i-insulate yung conductor and that is now ongoing. In fact, kahapon, I signed again ‘yong two kilometers of conductor na insulated. We prioritize certain areas na sasabihin natin na i-insulate namin ‘yong conductor na sa primary line. Dito makikita na bare wires kaya if we can insulate that possibly we can minimize distribution line faults,” Lalas said.

He said that they are only allowed by the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) to trim branches instead of cutting upper tree parts which they also see as a problem in dealing with bare wires.

“If we can only request the DENR na putulin talaga ‘yong above, ang problem, we are only authorized to trimming lang, ‘yong branch lang, even three meters lang but sometimes kapag humangin, bumagsak ‘yan talagang magkakaroon ng power interruption,” he pointed out.

PALECO board chairman Jeffrey Tan-Endriga echoed the statement of Lalas.

Endriga said that they started insulating the conductors last year but it was not finished because of the length of electrical lines of PALECO.

“’Yong nabanggit natin na insulated wires ongoing na ito, last year pa. Sa haba ng mga linya natin ay hindi natin agad-agad magagawa ito dahil hindi lang tayo naka-focus dyan. Yong ratio ng manpower natin sa technical team… limited din ang manpower kasi very strict din naman ‘yong labor sa pag-hire,” Endriga said.

Engr. Ricardo Adajao, Technical Services Department (TSD) manager, said out of 4,000 kilometers of electrical lines, only eight kilometers have been insulated or less than one percent so far.

“Less than one percent ‘yong accomplishment kasi ang total length ng linya is 4,000 kilometer versus 8 kilometers, unti-unti lang kasi ‘yan ‘yong plan so selected lang ‘yon sa mga vegetated talaga na area na mahirap mag-conduct ng clearing, so continuous ‘yan,” Adajao said.

Endriga is optimistic that if the Anti-Power Line Disturbance Act will become a law, it could help in dealing with vegetation problems.

“Medyo harsh ‘yong sagot natin na kailangan putulin, kailangan natin magsakripisyo, ‘no? Ano ba ang priority natin? Serbisyo na maidaloy nang maayos ang kuryente sa bawat member-customer owner o ‘yong hindi natin mapuputol dahil iniingatan natin ang kapakanan ng mga puno na ma-preserve natin,” Endriga also said.

The problem has been there for a long time, he said adding that electric cooperatives are always get no help from the national and local governments.

“Sad to say na ito ang reality. Hindi natin kaya solusyonan ng isang gabi lang ito… itong mga problema na ito ay matagal na, ang solusyon dito ay batas na dapat ipatupad na kung saan ay hindi temporary. Nakikiusap tayo sa DENR na kung pwede ay i-trim dahil kung gagawa tayo ng dokumento, region pa ang nag-a-approve nito and it will take time so napakahirap ‘yong bureaucratic process natin sa bansa at nabi-blame lagi ay ang kooperatiba,” Endriga added.

PALECO is still relying on its capital expenditure (Capex) as a solution to upgrade its distribution lines.

Its Capex was only approved by the Energy Regulatory Commission (ERC) in December 2018 and PALECO is still seeking the approval of its loan from the Rural Electrification Financial Financing Corporation (REFFC), he said.

He said that PALECO proposed P1.161 billion for its 2017 to 2021 Capex, but the ERC only approved P1.082 billion.

From the Capex, PALECO plans to purchase a P40 million Supervisory Control and Data Acquisition (SCADA), which is an industrial control systems software that gathers and analyzes real-time data to speed up electricity resumption during outages.

“If we install the SCADA system, nasa opisina lang tayo para i-switch on ito. Magkaroon man tayo ng interruption ay hindi ganito kahaba at katagal na kung saan ito ang kinaiinisan ng ating MCOs (member-consumer owners),” Endriga added.

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is one of the senior reporters of Palawan News. She covers agriculture, business, and different feature stories. Her interests are collecting empty bottles, aesthetic earrings, and anything that is color yellow.