TWO years after the devastating impact of Typhoon Odette (Rai), most of the commercial and industrial enterprises in Cebu have bounced back and learned the importance of investing in disaster-resistant structures, said a Cebu business leader.
However, Charles Kenneth Co, president of the Cebu Chamber of Commerce and Industry (CCCI), told SunStar Cebu via text message on Thursday, Dec. 14, that certain businesses, especially in the agriculture and aquaculture sectors, are still recovering from the losses they incurred during the calamity two years ago.
The Central Visayas economy grew 7.6 percent in 2022, faster than its 5.4 percent growth in 2021, according to the Philippine Statistics Authority 7.
And for the first half of 2023, Central Visayas grew over six percent, National Economic and Development Authority Undersecretary for Investment Programming Group Joseph Capuno said last August. Central Visayas groups Cebu, Bohol, Negros Oriental and Siquijor provinces.
Typhoon Odette battered some areas in the Visayas and Mindanao on Dec. 16, 2021 when it made eight landfalls, damaging crops, interrupting road access, and felling utility poles, leading to power, water and food supply, and communication problems for several weeks—in the middle of the Covid-19 pandemic.
On Jan. 13, 2022, the National Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Council reported that the typhoon caused agricultural losses totaling P11.4 billion in several regions including Calabarzon, Mimaropa, Bicol, Western Visayas, Central Visayas, Eastern Visayas, Northern Mindanao, the Davao Region, Soccsksargen and Caraga.
The destruction to infrastructure in several regions (Mimaropa, Central Visayas, Eastern Visayas, Northern Mindanao, Soccsksargen, Caraga and the Bangsamoro Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao) amounted to about P17.7 billion, the report added.
In Central Visayas, the typhoon killed 291 people, 109 of them in Bohol, 105 in Cebu and 77 in Negros Oriental, according to the Office of the Presidential Assistant for the Visayas (Opav). In its Jan. 4, 2022 report, the Opav also said Odette damaged 474,970 houses and destroyed 172,154 houses in Central Visayas.
The power and Internet outage affected the functioning of commercial entities, including curtailing banking and business processing outsourcing operations.
In a statement sent to SunStar Cebu Friday, Dec. 15, Visayan Electric reported that Typhoon Odette resulted in a complete power outage across its franchise area.
“It destroyed poles, overhead wires, distribution transformers, meters and other line equipment. It also damaged substations, including the Visayan Electric main office,” Visayan Electric said in a statement.
The utility company spent more than three months restoring power to its affected customers, ultimately achieving a 99.9 percent restoration rate.
Visayan Electric supplied temporary poles to energize homes and businesses that were among the last 0.1 percent unable to be powered due to complete damage.
“Majority of the temporary units were replaced with standard construction by October 2022,” the firm added.
Visayan Electric serves the cities of Cebu, Mandaue, Talisay and Naga and the towns of Liloan, Consolacion, Minglanilla and San Fernando.
Odette brought maximum sustained winds of 175 kilometers per hour and gusts of up to 240 kilometers per hour when it hit Cebu, toppling power poles and lines of Visayan Electric in mideastern Cebu, Cebu 1 Electric Cooperative Inc. (Cebeco 1) in the worst-hit southern Cebu, Cebeco 3 in midwestern Cebu, and Mactan Electric Company on Mactan Island.
Cebeco 2, serving northern Cebu, suffered the least damage as the north was not badly hit. It was able to restore power to 97 percent of its customers by Jan. 5, 2022, or three weeks after the storm.
To prevent similar destruction in the future, Visayan Electric has strengthened its infrastructure by using sturdy poles and adopting advanced methods for managing vegetation, including the use of tree wires.
“These efforts, however, will take time to fully implement given the extent of the Visayan Electric franchise. Also, with the unpredictable nature of typhoons, the reinforcement of our infrastructure is not an assurance that there will be no issues with the network, especially when it comes to higher typhoon signals,” it added.
The company emphasized the importance of digital advancements such as mobile apps and platforms to speed up the monitoring of typhoon recovery efforts. This will make it easier to gather and share information with the public about the progress of restoration and rehabilitation.
The significance of working with local government units and other agencies was also emphasized for the quick approval and issuance of permits. Additionally, seeking assistance in addressing telecommunication infrastructure challenges by complying with relevant rules and regulations was highlighted.
Co said the business community learned the importance of having disaster-resistant structures capable of withstanding typhoons and earthquakes, despite the associated costs.
They emphasized that the necessity outweighs the significance of the expense, based on the lessons learned from Typhoon Odette.
He also underscored the prioritization of the water infrastructure that ensures a steady source of clean and potable water after calamities.
There must be investment in underground cabling of power and telecommunication lines to ensure business continuity, he said.
“Our business organization should also have a disaster plan so in case of a breakdown in communication people know where to go and what to do to keep their business running,” Co said.