MANILA — At least 60,000 electric poles nationwide have been in the middle of the roads and caused obstruction since last year, which could potentially cause thousands of accidents, Sen. Sherwin Gatchalian said Thursday.
Poles ending up in the middle of roads were the result of road construction and widening projects.
Gatchalian, who defended the Department of Energy’s (DOE) budget in the Senate plenary, said it would cost some P3.7 billion to remove such impediments.
But the senator said there was a joint circular between DOE and the Department of Public Works and Highways (DPWH) in 2019 that specified compensation for electric cooperatives when they removed those poles.
The DPWH even allotted some P3 billion for removal, according to him.
“[The joint circular says that] by the end of 2019, Dec. 31, there should be no more obstruction on the road. We know it is the end of 2020 there are still 60,000 poles along the road,” he said.
“Interestingly, we also found out that in the work programs of those road widenings. . . The cost of removing those poles is embedded in those programs. It means that the government has been allocating funds to remove all those poles in all of the work programs.”
Senate Minority Leader Franklin Drilon, meanwhile, described the problem as of national importance.
“When you talk about 60,000 obstructions by reason of these poles, then you can imagine that the problem acquires or becomes a national problem,” Drilon said.
The removal of the poles was correlated with road networks’ safety, he said, and the widened roads would be rendered useless because of such obstructions.
“People think it is a small, trivial issue but 60,000 poles all over the country has a potential of creating 60,000 car accidents, this is not a small matter,” the senator said.
In October, the National Electrification Administration under the DOE was ordered by lawmakers to present an "actionable plan" to address the issue.
Senators noted that widened roads with electric poles were obstructing traffic and have become parking lots or vendor areas.
‘Lack of coordination’
Gatchalian said he has relayed the matter to the DPWH and the DOE to enforce the joint circular in 2019, adding he has given them until the first half of next year to remove the electric poles.
The problem, he said, was a lack of coordination between the two agencies.
“It is a simple lack of coordination . . . They should now implement those joint circulars because those specified how to execute this and I am requesting and mandating them that to finish the removal of the posts, by early part of next year because the funds are already there and all they have to do is sit down and work out a time table to remove it,” Gatchalian added.
The 121 electric cooperatives are “ready to go” since the funds have already been earmarked for the posts’ removal.