‘Odette’ hampers telco services

Slow communication, particularly internet speed, continue to hound Ilonggo consumers in the aftermath of super typhoon “Odette.” (F.A. Angelo photo)

By Jennifer P. Rendon 

Super Typhoon Odette’s devastation in Cebu can be felt even in Iloilo City, particularly in the telecommunication services.

No less than Mayor Jerry Treñas was peeved by the intermittent signal of telecommunication companies to the point that he called out Smart Communications, Inc. and Globe Telecom, Inc. over their poor signal via social media on Monday.

“I am asking Smart and Globe to go to my office and explain to my satisfaction the problem of the weak signal and no internet connection. Calls are also dropped because of the weak signal,” Treñas said.

As consumers, the mayor said the people deserve better.

Treñas’s indignation was a far cry from the praises he heaped on MORE Power, the city’s sole electricity distributor, and Metro Iloilo Water District and its private sector project Metro Pacific Water for securing stable services at the height of the typhoon.

“MORE Power worked beyond the call of duty to ensure continuous electric power while Metro Pacific Water and MIWD made all things possible to provide potable water to everyone. Globe and Smart have up to 12:00 PM to report to my office,” Treñas said.

On Monday afternoon, the mayor said the two telcos explained their predicaments.

Treñas said representatives from Globe came to his office to explain that intermittent signal is due to the damage of their facilities in Cebu which is the node of their services in Visayas.

“I have also sent a complaint to the President of Globe Telecom to share our situation earlier. Executives from Globe also went to have a Zoom meeting with me. They sent their apologies and explained the challenges they experienced. They have deployed 100% of their personnel but they are yet unsure of the timeline for the restoration of the connection since their main tower is in Cebu,” he added.

The mayor said he requested a written report and “I want to be closely updated on the progress of these issues.”

“I understand the gravity of the typhoon, but as a Telco operating in the city under my jurisdiction, I have the authority to know what is the real score since I was never been updated on what is happening and was totally in the dark. Globe had been a great partner of the city, but in times like this, the people of Iloilo City have the right to know what is happening. I am still waiting for the arrival of other Telcos today.”

Smart also reached out to the mayor and offered the same explanation for the slow signal.

“They are unfortunately dependent on Cebu towers thus, I am hoping and requesting that we should have our own since our residents also need to be connected to their loved ones. We have to make sure that service is uninterrupted here. Just like Globe, I also requested them to update me all the time so that I and the Ilonggos are updated especially during difficult times,” Treñas said.

Earlier, MORE Power basked on praises for the fast restoration of electricity supply after the typhoon.

At the onslaught of Odette (international name Rai), tropical cyclone wind signal number 3 was hoisted over the southern portion of Iloilo, including Iloilo City.

Howling winds lashed at the metropolis, toppling trees and utility poles.

MORE Power had to manually shutdown all feeders due to strong winds.

But in less than 24 hours, MORE Power was able to fully restore energy supply.

As early as 12 p.m. Saturday, MORE Power declared its operations to be back to normal after sub-transmission, feeders, primary and majority of the secondary lines and laterals were cleared, according to company president Roel Castro.

“Inuna natin ang sub-transmission because these are the lines that feed to the substations. After na clear yun, ang substations natin–nag cooperate walang problema. From the substations we go to the feeder that is why may restoration na kaagad of operation. After feeder, we go to the primary lines and from the primary to the secondary because yan na ang papunta talaga sa consumers,” Castro said recalling on how they strategized on their fast restoration.

As of the weekend, the remaining works are mostly on the secondary lines connecting to the consumers’ residential lines.

Iloilo City Mayor Jerry Treñas could not help but be proud of MORE Power. He specifically commended Castro and his team for the extra mile effort.

“In so far as Iloilo City is concerned, the performance of MORE Power as a distribution utility company is totally unprecedented. I am very grateful on behalf of the great people of Iloilo City,” the mayor said in a press statement.

Treñas noted that during the past calamities under the previous distribution utility, it takes several weeks or months for areas of the city to be energized after any typhoon.

Castro, meantime, was humbled by Treñas statement.

He dedicated those commendation most especially to their people in the field whom he described as “really dedicated and very professional in carrying out the job.”

“Although we always work as a team but because of the professionalism ng mga tao natin and their dedication to work kaya na-achieve natin itong ganitong performance,” Castro said.

He emphasized that the speedy and successful restoration works was a product of preparations and contingency plans made by MORE Power even before Odette hit the city.

He said it was during the preparation stage when they already identified the possible weak points in the system.

He said the simulation exercises that identified possible weak points played a great role in their preparations.

Castro said prepositioning of logistics and materials needed in the recovery and restoration efforts also contributed to the smooth flow of their operations as well as the shifting of duties of its personnel for them to be given enough time to rest to improve work efficiency.

He also attributed the success of their operation to MORE Power engineers who provided the leadership during the recovery works.

Other distribution utilities in the region covering areas which are badly hit by Typhoon Odette are still struggling to restore their electric supply to their consumers.

Relatedly, President Rodrigo Duterte has directed the Department of Energy (DOE) for the speedy revival of the electricity supply in areas ravaged by Typhoon Odette, Cabinet Secretary Karlo Nograles said on Sunday.

Nograles announced that some areas, particularly Dinagat Islands, still do not have electricity, as of presstime.

“Number one, ipa-address agad sa Department of Energy (DOE) ang problema sa kuryente nu’ng mga walang kuryente,” Nograles said in an interview over Super Radyo dzBB, when asked about Duterte’s directive following the latter’s visit in Bohol wherein he urged the Energy Department to prioritize in addressing the power supply problem in areas badly hit by the typhoon.