CORON, Palawan – The United States Agency for International Development (USAID) and a renewable energy (RE) joint venture have collaborated to provide reliable ocean transportation while ensuring energy security to residents of this island community using solar energy.
On Wednesday, USAID, through its Energy Secure Philippines (ESP) Project, and Oceantera Energy Corporation, in partnership with the municipal government here, launched a RE-powered “banca” (indigenous-style boat) to answer the transportation needs of Coron town’s population.
USAID’s environmental officer Paul Brown told reporters that the boat was funded under a USD34-million grant aimed at expanding the local community’s access to resilient yet clean energy.
The US government official described the RE-powered banca as an inventive remedy to address a range of challenges that people are encountering in the contemporary world, especially in Coron, an island town where there are hard to reach communities.
"[One] other thing the pandemic made us realize is the need to improve transport in the archipelago. It has been a challenge to transport vaccines, perishable goods and even people to and from the islands, especially the very remotest ones," Brown said.
Prior to its formal introduction, a trial operation was carried out to evaluate the effectiveness of the marine transport.
The project pioneers the development of solar-based maritime transportation, incorporating a cold storage cargo compartment for transporting critical supplies among the islands, transporting passengers and offering water taxi services to address the increasing requirements of remote island communities.
Present during the boat’s launching were USAID contracting officer Howard Weston, officers of the Philippine Coast Guard, Coron local government officials and representatives of the Bureau of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources, Palawan State University, Palawan Council for Sustainable Development, Calamianes Resilience Network, Calamianes Marine Protected Area Network, Coron Tourism Network and BPI Coron.
Coron is a 689-square kilometer island town located in Northern Palawan, with a population of almost 66,000 individuals as of a 2020 census.
Oceantera, a project development company registered in Singapore and the Philippines, is a joint venture between Singapore-based OceanPixel and UK-based Aquatera. (PNA)