Lawyer Mario Andres, Transco regional legal counsel, told reporters they are intensifying the drive to prevent Mindanao's power transmission lines from being easily toppled down.
He said they do not want a repeat of what happened to 147 transmission towers that collapsed during the super typhoons Milenyo and Reming last year because some parts of the towers were pilfered. He pointed out that it will take the government hundreds of millions of pesos to restore the fallen towers
He said they are working with the junk shops to dissuade them from buying metal parts from the transmission lines.
He said they wanted to maximize prevention efforts by talking directly with the sector, who he said are the main buyers of stolen power line parts.
Transco identified 15 metal parts including bolts, wires, lattices, light weight tower, screws, steel arms, clamps, insulators, and dampers.
Andres, who gave no statistics, said the highest number of cases of pilferages is in Lanao and Cotabato area.
He said there are fewer cases of pilferages in the North Central and Southeastern Mindanao districts.
Andres denied the theft is done by terrorists and stressed an organized group or groups are behind it.
Andres said two thieves from Zamboanga were convicted recently and Transco has filed at least 13 other cases for violation of the Anti Pilferage Act or Republic Act 7832. Those convicted will be required to pay a penalty of P50,000 to P100,000 or an imprisonment with a maximum of 20 years.
Transco organized Bantay Linya task forces in villages around power transmission lines to address the need for advocacy in the rural areas.
Mere possession of the metal parts stolen from the towers could already send one to prison, Andres said.
He said junk shop owners have been cooperative. Transco is scheduled to meet with them in Tagum City on Feb. 23 after holding meetings with groups in Lanao del Norte, Cagayan de Oro, and Marawi City.
Transco has six districts in Mindanao, namely, Northwestern Mindanao (Zamboanga peninsula), Lanao area, North Central Mindanao, North Eastern Mindanao (Caraga), Southeastern Mindanao (Davao) and Southwestern Mindanao (Cotabato).