The Highways office and the city’s two major utilities, the Benguet Electric Cooperative and Baguio Water District, took a step to improve their working relations by agreeing on a protocol on how to implement their respective job orders without conflict.
Alexander Castañeda, city district engineer of the Department of Public Works and Highways met Beneco and BWD officials on Oct. 15 and agreed to conduct a joint inspection on current projects to avoid conflict of schedules and unnecessary diggings.
The agencies also agreed to hold pre-construction conferences before any major DPWH road repair or expansion will be commenced.
The meeting at the City Engineering Office eased the tension between local Highways officials and Beneco who have long clashed over their respective legal claims on the use of road right-of-way.
The DPWH has repeatedly assailed Beneco’s condition that the utility will only relocate their poles if the DPWH or the contractors will shoulder the labor cost of the relocation, saying that the electric cooperative has no right to simply put up poles on the road sides.
Beneco has remained firm on its stand that PD 269, the law that allowed the creation of electric cooperatives, gave distribution utilities the right to use ROWs. It added that under, the revised National Electrification Administration Law, the DPWH must compensate distribution utilities when it asks them to transfer their poles to give way to road widening.
The DPWH, however, insisted that distribution utilities must first seek the consent of the DPWH before they can put up their poles, which is also required under the highways law.
But Castañeda said the legal issue is better left to the national offices concerned, referring to the NEA, Department of Energy, and the DPWH. “We are here not to argue our legal positions but to discuss acceptable measures on how to proceed with road repairs without necessarily asking Beneco to relocate their poles.”
Rocky Pallogan, manager of Beneco’s Operations and Maintenance Department, welcomed the move and agreed to adopt means to protect the poles without delaying or obstructing road projects.
The DPWH said there are six major road widening projects in the city that would require the relocation of the electric poles. He cited three project areas along Irisan that could not be completed because of the presence of Beneco’s poles.
Pallogan said Beneco will join DPWH engineers in inspecting the sites and find out how the poles could be braced to allow the road canals to proceed without necessarily uprooting the pole. He also agreed to recalculate the cost of labor so that the DPWH contractor can shoulder the payment should relocation be the only remedy.
For the BWD, the DPWH said it will provide the water utility the list of its projects in advance so that BWD can map out their own schedule for their pipe laying projects and avoid unnecessary diggings.