THE Department of Public Works and Highways (DPWH) is seeking funding in the 2023 budget to begin taking overhead cables underground in the National Capital Region (NCR), the regional director in charge of Metro Manila public works said.
“We requested some P200 million for this project in the 2023 National Expenditure Program,” DPWH-NCR Regional Director Nomer Abel P. Canlas told BusinessWorld by phone on Thursday.
He said the funding will support both the feasibility study and infrastructure that will house the buried cables.
The DPWH is also hoping to “subsidize the transfer costs” for distribution companies that use overhead cable like Manila Electric Co. (Meralco) and telecommunications companies. Water utilities may also be supported in moving their above-ground transmission assets.
“If we can’t (get) funding from utility companies…, the government [can] initially take charge of the finances,” he said. “We have to start somewhere.”
Mr. Canlas also noted that the project could be revenue-positive for the government by making utility companies pay to use the infrastructure that will house the buried lines.
“If the utility companies use the infrastructure, I think it’s just proper, perhaps, to bill them in some way. That’s being considered,” he added.
The feasibility studies will be conducted along the Epifanio de los Santos Avenue (EDSA) and the Katipunan Avenue Extension. Mr. Canlas said the DPWH also wants to include the Radial Road 10 or R10.
Apart from the aesthetic advantages, underground cable minimizes accidents from electrocution as well as damage to utility poles during typhoons.
Among the benefits to utility companies is that they get to skip the step of acquiring road right-of-way for their posts, according to Mr. Canlas.
In a statement, the DPWH said that it recently studied Davao City’s implementation of an underground utility cable system.
“One of the suggestions raised is the imposition of ordinances requiring full participation of the concessionaires, and the creation of ‘Underground Utility Cabling Committee’ that will constantly coordinate and meet for developments and issues in the implementation,” it noted.
The government has been pressed to consider underground cable as part of its disaster resiliency strategy in order to minimize service outages during calamities.
Utility service providers have said they are willing to shift to an underground cable system if the government provides subsidies and if given adequate planning of the infrastructure.