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Directory Of Year 2020, Issue 405
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KEEPING STEAM DURING COVID-19

Year:2020 Issue:0405

Column: UNITED FRONT

Author: By Lu Yi, Zhang Jiaodong

Release Date:2020-04-10

Page: 20,21

Full Text:  

On March 26, 2020, construction was in full force on a coal-offloading wharf for the largest coal-fired power station in the Philippines on Manila Bay. The project was contracted by the Company of China Communications Construction (CCCC) Third Harbor Engineering Co., Ltd.

Jeff Aricila, a Philippine technician from Bataan Province on Luzon Island, was working in the control room of the P16 pile driving barge. On a 17-inch screen, he closely followed progress of underwater installation of a 1,500-meter-long high-density polyethylene (HDPE) drainage pipeline, a critical step of the project.

When the last bolt was tightened 20 meters underwater, cheer erupted from the barge. Because of the COVID-19 outbreak, the workers were all wearing face masks. They patted each other on the back to celebrate the occasion.

Epidemic Interruption

The coal-offloading wharf project is based in Bataan Province on Luzon Island. Construction of the project, with a contract price of 500 million yuan (US$78 million), began in December 2016, and is expected to be completed by June 2020. According to schedule, the underwater drainage pipeline was to be installed during the Spring Festival around late January.

However, just as everyone was preparing for the critical step, the outbreak of COVID-19 interrupted the process. On January 30, the first confirmed case was reported in the Philippines. On February 2, the first fatality was reported. The Philippine authority issued a travel ban for all passengers from China, which prevented six Chinese administrative staff members, who had been in China on holiday at the time, from returning to their posts.

“The underwater drainage pipeline had to be installed before the end of March so the foundation trench could be refilled to protect the pipeline before monsoon season at the end of April,” explained project manager Shi Jingang at a briefing in which he laid out a clear timeline. If installation of the pipeline and the refilling could not be completed in time, previous desilting would be wasted. Everything would have to be repeated, which would delay the project an entire year.

“Since our staff members cannot return on time, we’ll have to replace them with local technicians to keep things moving,” suggested chief engineer Sun Fei. A decision was made to involve more Philippine technicians in key posts. Thanks to conscientious training, the project has cultivated outstanding local technicians into its backbone.

Construction Continues amid Prevention Measures

On March 13, the Philippine government issued a stay-at-home order for the residents of Luzon Island.

“We were employing 24 locals at the time,” recalled Shi. “It would have been tremendously risky for them to commute to and from work every day.” Shi and other administrators decided to shut down the entire construction area at noon on March 14.

To help local employees understand and accept the prevention measures, administrators organized a meeting. They elaborated on the advantages of a shutdown for epidemic containment. To cut off the spread of the coronavirus, certain measures would be taken such as social distancing, masks, temperature checks and disinfection.

Aricila had been working with the project for three years. Under the guidance of chief equipment manager Jiang Jinzhong, he has become a skilled mechanic. Since Jiang was stranded in China, Aricila became the ideal person to take his post.

Aricila was a little hesitant because his family was worried about him. After learning about the prevention measures, he became committed to joining his Chinese colleagues in continuing construction. He showed prevention measures in the construction area to his wife through video chat.

“It will be better for you to continue working there than staying at home,” admitted his wife. “We can live with that.”

Aricila and nine fellow Philippine workers are still working to this day. They sleep in single rooms and receive a generous food allowance every day.

During this extraordinary period, Aricila is busier than ever with the maintenance and repair of generators, cranes, loaders and other equipment. Early each morning, he arrives to the construction site to prepare everything for the day. His outstanding performance has been widely acknowledged, which adds extra spring to his step.

“Aricila and other colleagues, thank you so much for your extraordinary contributions to the successful installation of the drainage pipeline,” said Shi at a summary meeting.

“We are happy to have played a part,” replied Aricila, often hesitant to speak publicly. “Completion of the wharf will lay a good foundation for our largest coal-fired power plant which will provide sufficient power for the future.”

Overcoming Difficulties Together

The epidemic outbreak caused some problems for Chinese overseas projects and investment. The State-Owned Assets Supervision and Administration Commission (SASAC), a functional department of the State Council, provided guidance for centrally-administered state-owned enterprises on resuming work and production while carrying out epidemic prevention and control. It also implemented a series of targeted measures to help promote overseas projects.

The Philippines Office of Power Construction Corporation of China (POWERCHINA) has strengthened safety education and care for its staff and their families during the epidemic. It has invested in epidemic prevention and control and compiled a contingency plan for offices and construction sites.

The Mindanao-Visayas Interconnection DC Transmission Project in the Philippines is the first international general contracting project of China Southern Power Grid (CSG). On its construction sites, epidemic prevention was continuously enhanced with involvement of local doctors. To ease the concerns of the locals, the project administration actively coordinated with the local government to strengthen sterilization and disinfection around its isolation rooms.

China Energy Engineering Group Jiangsu Power Design Institute Co., Ltd. has equipped its local employees with epidemic prevention supplies such as masks. Temperature checks and health monitoring are daily routine activities. All construction workers must wear masks before entering the construction sites, and all the construction sites are fully sterilized at least twice a week.

During this extraordinary period, Chinese and Philippine workers have overcome myriad difficulties together to carry on several cooperative projects.

Arthur Tugade, Minister of Transport of the Philippines, declared, “We should maintain the momentum of pragmatic cooperation between the Philippines and China and minimize the negative impact of the epidemic on our bilateral economic cooperation.”

Bird’s eye view of the coal-offloading wharf for the largest coal-fired power plant in the Philippines.

Bird’s eye view of the coal-offloading wharf for the largest coal-fired power plant in the Philippines.

Daily temperature checks for employees at the construction site of CCCC Third Harbor Engineering Co., Ltd.

Daily temperature checks for employees at the construction site of CCCC Third Harbor Engineering Co., Ltd.

Jeff Aricila (right) poses in front of the nearly completed coal-offloading wharf.

Jeff Aricila (right) poses in front of the nearly completed coal-offloading wharf.

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