MINERVA BC NEWMAN
CEBU CITY – The National Grid Corporation of the Philippines (NGCP), the country’s power grid operator has ramped up its construction activities of all vital transmission projects which were affected by the quarantine restrictions imposed in various parts of the country and is asking for further government support especially the entry of foreign consultants and the rationalization of quarantine restrictions for critical personnel to further mitigate delays in its project timelines.
NGCP, in a press statement said that due to the nationwide Enhanced Community Quarantine (ECQ), the company suspended its construction projects to ensure compliance with health and safety regulations although grid management and critical maintenance activities and various operations which were critical to the provision of power continued despite strict lockdowns.
Despite being declared part of essential services, NGCP said it continues to encounter issues including testing and quarantine variations among LGUs; contractor and supplier delivery problems; inability of foreign experts to conduct necessary inspections due to travel clearance requirements; slowdown of manufacturing of equipment and materials from other COVID-19 affected countries; and other limitations.
NGCP added that among the most challenging compliances were the RT-PCR COVID testing of its critical project personnel, and securing the COVID test results of the contractors, as well as facilitating the permits to enter of key personnel to and from hotbed areas.
The lifting of the ECQ on May 16 and the easing of cross municipal border restrictions allowed NGCP to gradually resume construction work especially on critical projects as early as May 26 even if the country was still in MECQ status, NGCP added.
Construction works did not resume in full due to health and safety protocols, and new normal standards, including COVID-19 testing of all manpower, access to transport and mobility issues, and government-mandated manpower limitations.
NGCP said that it continuously assesses the impact of the global health crisis to transmission projects, particularly to the Mindanao-Visayas Interconnection Project (MVIP), Western Luzon Backbone project, and San Jose-Quezon 230kiloVolt (kV) Line 3 project, among others.
According to NGCP that project schedules are continually being reassessed as varying degrees of community quarantine remain in effect. The time lost is not a simple 1 is to 1 conversion. With the limitations on travel and manpower restricted to 50 percent of the workplace capacity, construction activities have not resumed to 100-percent of their pre-quarantine pace.
NGCP explained that work completed in a single ‘pre-COVID-19 month’ is now projected for completion within at least 2 up to 4 ‘quarantine months.’ This means that if a project was set to be completed within 4 months from March 2020 (beginning of quarantine measures), the new estimated time of completion would be moved 8 to 16 months from the original completion target.
“These targets continue to move as we remain bound by health and safety considerations. We assure our stakeholders that NGCP is exerting all efforts to push these vital projects forward and avert all avoidable delays,” NGCP stated.
NGCP is a Filipino-led, privately owned company in charge of operating, maintaining, and developing the country’s power grid, led by majority shareholders and Vice Chairman of the Board Henry Sy, Jr. and Co-Vice Chairman Robert Coyiuto, Jr.