National Grid Corp. of the Philippines on Thursday raised concerns over the delays on the completion of critical projects aimed at improving the power grid amid travel restrictions to prevent the entry of the new COVID-19 strain.
NGCP said in a statement the submarine cable laying activity in the Mindanao-Visayas Interconnection Project was facing delays, with the vessel carrying the transmission equipment unable to enter the country because of the travel ban.
NGCP said it sought the government’s consideration to allow suppliers and the shipments of essential transmission equipment to enter the country, while observing all safety protocols and strict compliance to health standards.
“NGCP understands the need to control the virus and prevent the new strain from affecting our people, but there must also be creative ways in place to balance health concerns with the need to keep the economy afloat,” the company said.
“NGCP’s critical projects cannot face any further delays as this may have an implication on the stability and reliability of power transmission services, especially with the growing demand for power. We hope this will also be taken into consideration,” said NGCP.
NGCP asked for government support as it faced numerous hurdles in ramping up construction activities of vital transmission projects affected by the quarantine restrictions in several parts of the country.
It earlier assured stakeholders it was exerting all efforts to push vital projects forward “and avert all avoidable delays.”
“We are again asking for further support, especially as regards the entry of foreign consultants and the rationalization of quarantine restrictions for critical personnel, to further mitigate delays,” NGCP said.
It said that despite being declared part of essential services, it continued to encounter issues including testing and quarantine variations among local government units, 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.
The company said the staggered relaxation of quarantine regulations, even those related to essential industries and construction, had not yet allowed the company to fully “return to work” for construction projects. It said the restrictions were eased, but not fully removed.
NGCP said construction works did not resume in full because of 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 is eager to finish its critical projects as close to the original timelines as possible. We are also fully cognizant of the need to restrict movement and activities to help stem the spread of the virus. We are constantly trying to balance public health interests by fully equipping our team with complete PPEs and establishing stringent safety protocols in all workplaces, with the economic need to complete these critical activities,” NGCP said.
NGCP said project schedules were being reassessed as varying degrees of community quarantines remained in effect and with the limitations on travel and manpower restricted to 50 percent of the workplace capacity.
It said a work completed in a single ‘pre-COVID-19 month’ was taking longer now with projected completion within two to four ‘quarantine months.’
NGCP said that if a project was set to be completed within four months from March (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,” the company said.
NGCP said it was constrained to temporarily suspend construction projects at the height of the nationwide Enhanced Community Quarantine to ensure compliance with health and safety regulations.
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.