Sen. Sherwin Gatchalian files Anti-Obstruction of Power Lines Act
Paolo Romero (The Philippine Star) - November 24, 2018 - 12:00am

MANILA, Philippines — A mechanism that will allow for the responsive maintenance and rehabilitation of transmission, sub-transmission, and distribution lines to ensure the uninterrupted conveyance of electricity from power plants to consumers is being pushed at the Senate.

Sen. Sherwin Gatchalian, chairman of the committee on energy, sponsored on the floor last Wednesday, Senate Bill 2098 or the proposed the “Anti-Obstruction of Power Lines Act of 2018.”

The measure seeks to ensure the “power line corridor”— including the land beneath, the air spaces surrounding, and the area traversed by power lines, as well as its horizontal, vertical, and similar clearance requirements—will be, at all times, be kept clear and free from any obstructions, dangerous structures, hazardous activities, or any similar circumstances that impede the continuous flow of electricity.

Recognizing “the continuous conveyance of electricity as a matter of national security and as central to economic development, he said the measure “will ensure that the conveyance of electricity from the power generating plants all the way to the end users—the consumers, business, and the aforementioned vital installations in the country — will be uninterrupted.”

Citing data from the National Grid Corporation of the Philippines, Gatchalian pointed out the country has already experienced 168 instances or a total of 1,426.11 hours of power outages this year, due to right of way issues with the NGCP lines.

The power outage hours experienced this year is already thrice the duration of brownouts in 2017, when the country only registered 236 instances or 565.71 hours of power outages nationwide. In 2016, the NGCP reported a total of 205 brownouts or a total of just 396.11 hours.

There are also many instances that obstructions, such as plants, are the primary culprit behind the power outages in the country, according to Gatchalian, citing the power outage that crippled the Zamboanga peninsula in September 2016.

He recalled that “intentionally and maliciously planted banana trees” within the power line corridor caused a line-to-ground fault that tripped high voltage lines and led to a blackout across the entire Zamboanga peninsula, including areas served by distribution utilities Zamsureco I, Zamsureco II, Zaneco, Zamcelco, Moelci I, Moelci II, and parts of Laneco.

If passed, Gatchalian said, the measure would prohibit the planting of tall growing plants, the construction of hazardous improvements, and the conduct of any hazardous activities within the power line corridor.

The bill also outlines the duties and responsibilities of power line owners and operators in the prevention and removal of any disturbances or obstructions to the power lines, whether these be located on public or private property.

It also authorizes power line owners and operators to seek the assistance of local government officials, the Philippine National Police, and the Armed Forces in the discharge of their duties.

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