NGCP eyes legislative option to resolve ROW conflicts

by Lenie Lectura – November 23, 2015

from Business Mirror

The National Grid Corp. of the Philippines (NGCP) wants lawmakers to pass legislation that would criminalize the construction of permanent structures underneath the transmission lines and towers.

“We do hope that Congress would support us on this so as to prevent any untoward incidents,” NGCP Spokesman Cynthia Alabanza said during a briefing on Monday afternoon. “We hope there’s legislation on this matter prohibiting the planting of trees, building of high-rise structures, and burning of waste and other materials.”

The NGCP is the country’s grid operator. It legally holds the right-of-way (ROW) in the areas near and around the towers and posts. The assets are still government-owned.

NGCP Operations and Assets Head Lambert Gacuya said that violations of ROW have already claimed the lives of two people in the past. He said the NGCP has not been remiss in its duties to regularly inform the public, particularly squatter dwellers, about the safety issues when building structures along the high-voltage lines.

The NGCP also coordinates with local government units (LGUs) to discuss the need for local officials to remind their constituents about the effects of violating ROW. These include outage of line resulting in power interruption, hasten deterioration of structures and lines, and compromise safety of people and properties that breached the safe clearance.

Despite efforts to discourage violators, many still build structures, including a barangay hall and basketball court, underneath the tower and transmission lines. The walls of the structures built by the informal settlers, added the officials, are already attached to the steel bars of the towers.

Among the transmission lines affected by the ROW issues in north of Metro Manila include the Quezon-San Jose lines; Quezon-Mexico; Quezon-Duhat; Quezon-San Rafael, San Jose Hermosa; and Taytay-Malaya. The said transmission lines covers the cities of Caloocan, Valenzuela and Quezon.

In the south, the NGCP has identified the problematic transmission lines. These are the Biñan-Sucat; Sucat-Araneta; Dasmariñas-Amadeo; and Dasmariñas-Zapote.

Some LGUs have enacted ordinances that criminalize the planting of trees and building of structures. Elements of the Armed Forces of the Philippines are also currently assisting NGCP in entering the properties of the uncooperative landowners to expedite restoration. But the NGCP officials said that more should be done.

“ROW issues hound both urban and rural areas. Worse case that could happen is the incident in Mindanao,” said Alabanza, who was referring to the loss of power supply from the Agus 1 hydroelectric power plant due to ROW issues.

NGCP reported an uncooperative landowner, Mitmug Dimaampao, who refused to allow the grid operator to conduct line maintenance and repair activities within the property. Dimaampao is the same landowner who previously barred NGCP linemen from entering the property to cut trees which obstruct the transmission lines.

There were also 10 bombing incidents in Mindanao that resulted in toppled towers and posts.

In Manila, Alabanza said, power outage could still be avoided should ROW violations escalate. However, what can’t be avoided is the possible spike in generation charge due to “re-dispatch of power plant.”

NGCP reiterates its appeal for the public’s cooperation and warns that ROW violations along transmission lines compromise not just the safety of the people, but also the security of the power grid.

The Department of Energy, for its part, said that it is enjoining all stakeholders to render support and assistance in safeguarding power facilities from any obstructions that would affect the continuous supply of electricity to all households and establishments.

“We appeal particularly to the local government units and land owners to cooperate with the NGCP, the concessionaire of the national transmission lines, in resolving the transmission issues on right of way and easements,” Energy Secretary Zenaida Y. Monsada said.