The Philippine Long Distance Telephone (PLDT)-SMART’s wireless service is nearing full restoration after Odette’s rampage in Palawan damaged the province’s existing telecommunications infrastructure.
Cathy Yap-Yang, first vice president and group head of the PLDT-SMART corporate communications team, said Tuesday that PLDT has partially restored service in most areas in Puerto Princesa City.
Yang said about 82 percent of wireless connections have also been restored in Palawan, but added that problems of road access to their facilities and stable commercial power supply continue to hamper the full restoration of their services.
“Hangga’t hindi natin ma- clear ang access road patungo sa ating mga facility, nanatiling static tayo. Siguro nakapako na sa porsyentong nasabi ko, hindi tayo uusad patungong 100 percent,” she said.
The towns of Taytay, Aborlan, Quezon, San Vicente, Roxas, and Dumaran are also partially restored, while company technicians are still fixing the connectivity in Araceli.
Wireless connectivity covers prepaid, postpaid, and mobile broadband services.
“Importante na maka-restore tayo ng simplest connectivity na nakatawag tayo, maka-text kaya inuuna natin ang wireless,” Yang said.
According to Yang, the FIBR connection is still undergoing repairs. She also underscored their need for reliable power services.
“In order to power up our telco facility, we need electricity. Meron naman genset, ‘yon nga lang, mahirap magpadala ng krudo o fuel para i-refill ang mga genset. Dahil pakwayan ngayon, malaki rin ang pangangailangan ng iba’t ibang mga negosyo tulad ng hotels and resorts,” she said.
“Talagang hindi pa stable, nag-fluctuate, malaki ang pangangailangan ng genset. Hindi naman siya nabubuhay ng walang krudo, ang hirap talaga, very challenging mag-procure,” she added.
PLDT has already procured 100,000 liters of fuel for Cebu and will also check the situation in Palawan for another shipment.
“We are in coordination with the oil companies already sa pag-procure on a daily basis dahil kung magtagal ang ating commercial power supply problem, kakailanganin natin mag-genset. Kapag naubos ang krudo, mawawala ang signal natin,” she said.
Connectivity in Coron
Mobile signals from 2G to 5G are dependent on the Palawan backbone, which was lost as the typhoon hit Palawan. However, PLDT learned that Coron remained connected even while its base stations of 2G and 3G were affected.
It is because Coron is connected to Iloilo and not to the Palawan backbone. Voice over LTE or VOLTE-enabled phones can also make voice calls, which serves as an alternative while systems are down.
“Nagtaka kami bakit up pa siya kahit natumba na ‘yong base station natin ng 2G, 3G. Bakit pa sya up? Iyan ay dahil naka-home sa Iloilo ang ating system sa Northern Coron — kung nasa Coron ka noong mga panahon na ‘yon, magagamit mo ‘yon (LTE) para makapag-SMS at mag-fulfill ng online transaction kasi gumagana siya,” she said.
“Iyon parang kababalaghan na naganap, we have to weigh that the uniqueness of the system in Palawan that we can’t find anywhere else in the Philippines,” she added.
Napsan, Simpocan, and Bagong Bayan connection
Aside from Coron’s case, PLDT was also surprised that three remote villages located on the west coast of Puerto Princesa City remained connected with 3G signal.
Yang said that these areas-Barangays Bagong Bayan, Simpocan, and Napsan – may have been able to tap into the signal in Cagayancillo or Coron, some 300 kilometers away, or even the Kalayaan Islands, some 500 kilometers away.
“Idiniin ng ating mga engineer na may mga bundok na humaharang o gumigitna sa Cagayancillo at Coron, on the one side. At Napsan, Bagong Bayan, at Simpocan on the other. Naiisip nila na medyo may hadlang sa aspeto ng telco connectivity,” she said.
“Naghanap pa sila ng ibang rason. Maliban dito, meron pa tayong site sa Kalayaan island, 500 kilometers ang layo (from three barangays). Sa Kalayaan kasi ay via VSat na tinatawag na ‘di rin naapektuhan ni Odette. Medyo malayo-layo pero meron tayong cases na ang signal ay nakakabiyahe malayo mula sa karagatan.
“Posibleng ito ang rason maliban sa nasabi ko kanina na umabot sya kahit may hadlang na bundok— It is not unthinkable. Kung iisipin kasi natin, parang line of sight, it’s far pero walang hadlang, karagatan. Posibleng ‘yon ang naganap, ‘yon ang assessment ng ating engineers,” she added.
As soon as news of the active connection in Napsan reached the city, many residents flocked to the remote barangay to access 3G services.
“Nakakatuwa rin malaman na naganap ito at a very critical time. Kapaskuhan nga, ang mahal natin sa buhay kailangan malaman na ligtas at mababati natin,” Yang said.