Face-to-face with dangerous poles

‘With a budget of nearly P4.5 billion, there is no reason for the DPWH to dilly-dally unless it se es the dangerous eyesores as road ‘attractions.’

Road safety means no accidents. But what about if the roads which are meant to facilitate the mobility of people and goods have electric posts still standing in the middle of their widened paths?

On 9 November, a policeman, on his way to work, died after his motorcycle hit an electric post that has not been moved since road-widening activities were done along a primary highway in Sta. Fe, Leyte. Admitting that there have been many reports of road accidents due to unremoved electric posts, the Philippine National Police said the motorcycle hit the pole because of the lack of warning signs.

The Leyte incident is just among the innumerable road mishaps caused by ignored electric posts after road-widening projects that are normally carried out when the road is inadequate for the traffic using it, or when extra lanes are needed.

Road widening, which is one of the viable solutions to enduring traffic problems, is supposed to improve traffic safety and capacity rather than pose a hazard to motorists and commuters.

According to the World Health Organization, the lives of approximately 1.3 million people are cut short globally each year due to road traffic accidents for varied reasons, including electric posts.

Between 20 and 50 million more people suffer non-fatal injuries, with many incurring disabilities as a result of their injuries, the 20 June 2022 report said.

It was aptly timed that Senator Win Gatchalian sought an update from the Department of Public Works and Highways on the relocation of obstructive electric posts left untouched during the road widening and expansion projects.

Gatchalian, during the deliberations on the proposed DPWH budget on 15 November, said there are approximately 50,000 remaining poles that need to be relocated despite an allocation of close to P4 billion in recent years. The amount is said to be enough to relocate the poles.

“Obviously, Mr. President, the relocation is not catching up with the schedule given to us in the past,” Gatchalian was quoted as saying.

On top of the P4 billion, an additional P467 million will be allocated for the said relocation of 50,000 poles all over the country in 2023.

With a budget of nearly P4.5 billion, there is no reason for the DPWH to dilly-dally unless it sees the dangerous eyesores as road “attractions.”

Back in 2020, senators were already dismayed over utility poles in the middle of widened roads, saying they defeat the purpose of DPWH’s road widening project and even pose danger to motorists.

Makes many wonder what happened to the implementation of the Department of Energy–DPWH Joint Circular 1 signed in 2017 that prescribed the uniform guidelines and procedures for the relocation of electric cooperatives’ distribution/sub-transmission lines, and the proper payment of the costs.

JC 1 also provides that “within one year from the effectivity of this joint circular, the National Electrification Administration and Electric Cooperative shall cause the removal and relocation of any improperly located facility in the government’s right-of-way, subject to payment of compensation provided in the circular.”

Joint Circular 2 was then adopted by the DoE and DPWH to extend the period of relocation of obstructing facilities provided in Section 13 of JC1, up to 31 December 2019.

The deadline provided in JC2 lapsed while a significant number of poles remained in the government’s right-of-way which raised public safety concerns.

ECs and DPWH regional offices, however, lamented the snail-paced release of funds over the past four years.

Besides, it is incomprehensible why the DPWH and its contractors widened the roads with the electric poles still there when, in fact, funds for the relocation of electric posts were already included in the new road widening projects that started in 2020.

Equally unfathomable is why it takes eons to download funds despite regular follow-ups with the DPWH Central office.

With an existing JC 3 in effect since 9 March 2021, expediting the completion of clearing widened roads of electric posts is an urgent concern because action is the antidote to despair.

May coming face-to-face with an electric utility pole still standing on a new road lane be a thing of the past.

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