POWER FROM THE SUN. Officials inspect the 46-kilowatt “peak” centralized solar power system in Sitio New Baliwet, San Marcelino town in Zambales after its turnover on Thursday (July 27, 2019). The State Grid Corp. of China also supplied similar equipment to Old Baliwet last May. (PNA photo by Oliver Marquez)

MANILA -- At least a thousand members of two Aeta communities in San Marcelino town in Zambales province now enjoy the ease and comfort of having their own source of electric power.

Residents of New and Old Baliwet, who have been denied the benefits of modern civilization for so long, were recently illuminated, thanks to equipment and technical support supplied by a Chinese power firm.

In his speech at the formal transfer of solar-powered generators on Thursday, San Marcelino Mayor Elvis Soria expressed his gratitude to the State Grid Corp. of China for their kind gesture to the villagers of New and Old Baliwet.

"I would recall that all of the townsfolk relied on fire for the luxury of light and heat. Through time, we have improved and sought electricity but not all parts of the town experienced this convenience," Soria said, adding that the Chinese firm made it possible for the Aetas in this far-flung area to be at par with the rest of San Marcelino and the world.

The sitios of New and Old Baliwet is about an hour-and-a-half ride from the nearest paved road that connects the native people to the municipality's more progressive area.

Brighten Up project

The PHP31-million Brighten Up project was the first charitable project independently launched by a Chinese-funded enterprise in the Philippines. It uses solar micro-grid technology to provide centralized power supply with a power generation capacity of 76 kW, and a battery storage capacity of 414 kW hours.

This amount of power is reportedly sufficient for the needs of the 370 combined households and two educational institutions located in New and Old Baliwet.

In an interview, State Grid International Cooperation Development Executive Vice President Wang Zijan said they have been constantly in touch with the National Electrification Administration (NEA) and Department of Energy when scouting for areas that badly need power.

"The company seeks to prioritize those who are in far-flung areas, along poverty-level, places with issues of power shortage," Zijan said.

He also noted that they prefer to put up these projects in communities with great potential for economic development to further hasten progress.

The State Grid Corp. of China will also provide a two-year warranty and lifetime technical support for their power generation equipment. In addition to power coverage, Chinese telecom company, Huawei, will also provide the necessary equipment for mobile phone signals and Internet coverage for schools and nearby villages.

Fast-tracking the energy department’s goal

In a separate interview, NEA chief Edgardo Masongsong said that in December 2016 they targeted to energize more or less 1.5 million households scattered around the country. "As of April 2019, the number of energized households already totaled to about 13 million -- a million more of the data before we the new administration came in. We are 91 percent of the targeted 14 million households," he added.

He also said that their goal is to energize at least 50,000 more households each year until the end of President Rodrigo Duterte's term in 2022. "Private grants, such as these, help us achieve and even go beyond our target," he said.

Energy Undersecretary Benito Ranque also expressed his gratitude to the Chinese corporation for helping the government bring light to these unserved areas of the community.

"They are planning to add more beneficiaries and I suggested that they choose Indigenous Peoples’ areas, especially in Mindanao where most of them are," he said, citing the Aeta tribe in Talaingod town, Davao del Norte. (PNA)