Meralco, PLDT mull putting underground cables after storms

Manila Electric Co. (Meralco) and Philippine Long Distance Telephone Co. (PLDT) Chairman Manuel V. Pangilinan said they are “seriously” mulling on putting electricity wires and telecommunication cables underground after typhoon Glenda recently caused power outages and network disconnection across Luzon, which had suspended businesses in Metro Manila. Although PLDT has already commenced its multimillion project to install climate-resilient cables underground, Pangilinan said Meralco’s power distribution lines are still overhead, which makes power outages a usual scenario during calamities. “The fiber optic backbone of PLDT is mostly underground nationwide but it’s the (last mile we’re worried about) because the electricity and cable TV wires are strung over electric posts,” he told reporters in a forum last Friday. Pangilinan said putting Meralco’s wires underground would “require more capital expenditure and need rights of way from the government,” but admitted that it is necessary. “In light of what has happened recently with Typhoon Yolanda and Glenda, we should seriously look at starting to put the wires underground. If a typhoon like Yolanda hits Manila, I can’t imagine the chaos,” he said. To recall, Typhoon Glenda’s strong winds have damaged power lines along its path from Bicol to Metro Manila last week. Power outages had caused disconnection of mobile network services as well as suspended operations of mass transits systems in Manila that are run by electricity, virtually paralyzing commerce in the capital. Given the strength of typhoons that had hit the country recently, Pangilinan said “we should coordinate and spend money to put these wires underground gradually in the next years because we cannot accomplish this in one year.” In an advisory last Friday, the PLDT Group said 93 percent of network coverage of Smart Communications, Inc. (Smart) and Sun Cellular in Southern Luzon and Bicol region has been restored while majority of PLDT's fixed line networks have been restored. Intermittent mobile internet signal and degradation of voice calls for Smart, Sun Cellular and Globe Telecom persist due to remaining optimization work and limited network coverage caused by prolonged power outages. On the other hand, PLDT said it is focusing its efforts on assessing and addressing last mile cabling issues to offices and homes of subscribers. (KB)