Telcos restore partial services in Tacloban City
Tacloban City is reduced to vast wasteland after the onslaught of super typhoon “Yolanda.” Video by INQUIRER.net’s Ryan Leagogo
MANILA, Philippines — The country’s largest telecommunications companies have restored partial services to Tacloban City, one of the areas hardest hit by typhoon Yolanda (international name Haiyan).
Commercial carriers, too, are planning relief efforts to affected areas, although reaching Tacloban City via its airport, where the passenger terminal was reportedly destroyed, has not yet been cleared for large jets, according to the air safety regulator.
Yolanda, one of the world’s strongest typhoons on record and likely one of its deadliest, struck the Philippines early Friday, knocking out power and communication lines in several parts of Visayas.
But in a statement Sunday, Globe Telecom said it had set up one temporary cell site to serve local government units and agencies involved in disaster response.
Around 26 sites from Calbayog, Samar to northern Samar have also been repaired and brought back to operations, the telco, controlled by the Zobel family said.
While cell sites themselves were intact, Yolanda’s strong winds knocked down electric and communication poles where Globe’s fiber cables were placed, causing transmission links to fail, a Globe spokesperson said.
“Of the total sites affected including those in southern Luzon and Mindanao, 471 sites, or 30 percent of total affected sites have already been restored. In the Visayas region, close to 20 percent of all 2G/3G sites affected have been restored,” Globe said in the statement.
Smart Communications, a unit of Philippine Long Distance Telephone Co., said Sunday that while restoration of network facilities has been going on, the company has started its so-called Libreng Tawag satellite services in partnership with Telecoms Sans Frontieres.
“Tacloban is one of the most devastated areas in the Visayas with power and regular communication lines still down. Smart, as part of the Emergency Communications Cluster helping the government, flew in twice on Sunday, satellite and other telco equipment.” said Ramon Isberto, Smart public affairs group head.
“We’re doing our best to normalize operations in most areas. Lack of commercial electricity still remains a big challenge,” he added.
Budget airline AirAsia Zest, which is partly owned by Malaysia’s AirAsia Bhd., on Sunday said it conducted a humanitarian flight at 8 a.m. to Kalibo airport and has been trying to get a permit to fly relief goods to personnel to Tacloban.
Flag carrier Philippine Airlines and Cebu Pacific Air, the country’s biggest budget airline, have been planning to lend support in terms of relief efforts, their respective spokespersons said.
In a text message, San Miguel Corp. president Ramon S. Ang said the group, including Philippine Airlines and Petron Corp., have pledged “100 percent support” for Yolanda’s victims.
Civil Aviation Authority of the Philippines deputy director general John Andrews said that Tacloban Airport’s operations, as of Sunday, were still limited.
C-130s have landed but larger jet planes, like those used by commercial carriers, are still not allowed “for safety purposes,” according to Andrews.
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