The continued roll-out of the national broadband network in Mindanao is being threatened by rats.

During the 126th Regional Development Council-X Full Council Meeting held virtually on 24 June 2021 via Zoom, Parasat Cable TV President and CEO Elpidio M. Paras reported that rat bites have been delaying the rollout of the broadband network between Cagayan de Oro to Davao.

Parasat is one of several telecommunications and Internet Service Provider (ISP) firms currently renting the utility poles of BUSECO and FIBECO to securing their fiber optic lines and equipment which are a vital infrastructure for the country’s ICT network.

 “We are under contract with the Department of Information and Communications Technology (DICT) Region X in building, maintaining and monitoring their internet access equipment which are now providing FreeWifi services to many municipalities, hospitals and State Colleges and Universities in Bukidnon. The fiber optic lines are our main cables which carry high speed internet connectivity to several sites in Bukidnon province,” Paras explained.

 “Since last year, we have had several instances where our fiber optic lines were chewed, cut and affected by rodents (rats) which use the palm oil branches for access. In fact, late last year, we had to replace a 20 kilometer stretch of very expensive fiber optic cable which the rodents chewed on in at least 30 locations in Impasug-ong municipality alone,” he added.

Initially, Parasat were able to get permission to trim palm tree branches which in contact with the power and telecommunications lines. Estimated costs for repair and downtime every instance the lines were cut have now grown to millions of pesos.

However, Paras said within a week’s time last March, two events of rat bites on the 96F Fiber Mainline between Cagayan de Oro and Davao were again experienced.

Rats chewed a portion of the 96 Fiber core cable of the Maramag-Davao link on March 20, 2021 at Brgy. Loriga, Kitaotao, Bukidnon causing subscribers at Uptown Cagayan de Oro to lose their signals for two days.

 “Our Maramag-Davao link went down on March 20, 2021 around 9:30 PM. Our response team traced the fault line at Brgy. Loriga, Kitaotao, Bukidnon beside Phoenix Gas Station and Seagull Resort. It is 117 meters from Enclosure 23 going to Maramag where rats chewed a portion of 96 Fiber core cable,” he reported. “It took the company 46 hours to replace the cable and enclosure to restore the link at an estimated cost of P350,000.”

Barely a week later, the Davao Monitoring Hub reported that the Cagayan de Oro to Davao line was down around 5 AM. The response team found damaged fiber cores at crossing going thru the National Highway at Impasug-ong, Bukidnon. This time, the damage was repaired after 9.5 hours at a total cost of P320,000.

Rat bites on the CDO-Davao line at crossing Mt Kitanglad, Imasug-ong, Bukidnon on March 26, 2021 caused a fiber break causing Parasat subscribers to lose their signal for a day.

“In summary, the latest downtime cost our company P670,000.00 in  less than a week,” Paras said. “Such a high incidence of fiber cuts due to rodent infestation is now becoming a major problem just for our operations between the Cagayan de Oro-Davao leg.”

In the latest reported incidents on July 21, two fiber cut incidents were observed on  CDO -Gingoog  and CDO to Davao main fiber transport lines. One was caused by people cutting overgrown bamboo trees on the CDO- Butuan highway, and the other was caused by rodents chewing thru the 96 core fiber cable near Quezon, Bukidnon.

Fiber break caused by rodents chewing through the 96 core fiber cable near Quezon , Bukidnon.
 

“If the four other telco players which also have pole mounted cables are affected, around P3-million a month worth of repair and maintenance costs are estimated.  In a year’s time, P36-million in damages caused by rodents which gain access via trees and other vegetation under power/telecommunication lines is possible,” he stressed.

Parasat has requested Impasug-ong Mayor Anthony A. Uy for assistance and permission to remove palm oil trees and other vegetation currently growing underneath the power and telecommunications poles, cables and equipment along the National Highway in the municipality of Impasug-ong.

During its 126th RDC-X Full Council Meeting on June 24, 2021, the council endorsed for approval to the Presidential Office the “Policy Brief on Strengthening the Resiliency of Information and Communications Technology Fiber Optic Networks” presented by Karma Yasmin B. Ortiz, Economic Development Specialist II, ICT Sub-Sector Coordinator, NEDA-X, InfraCom-X Secretariat.

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