AMORE Alliance Celebrates the Coming of Light to Remote Parts of Mindanao

Oct 24th, 2009 | By John Waller | Category: South Asia, Top Story, US Government
US Ambassador Kristie Kenney gives 12-year old Saima Badule at a gift in celebration of the AMORE project. Saima’s elementary school in the village of Kabuling in Pandag, Maguindanao was one of the over 200 that were electrified.

US Ambassador Kristie Kenney gives 12-year old Saima Badule at a gift in celebration of the AMORE project. Saima’s elementary school in the village of Kabuling in Pandag, Maguindanao was one of the over 200 that were electrified.

On 10 June 2009, the coming of light to over 8,000 households in more than 270 rural villages in Mindanao was celebrated by the Alliance for Mindanao Off-grid Renewable Energy (AMORE) Program. Members of the alliance – led by United States Ambassador Kristie Kenney and Department of Energy officials – and program partners in the private sector were one as they talked about the successes of the rural electrification mission in Mindanao. Giving witness to the benefits of light to their respective villages were 54-year old Pablito Peñafil from the village of Kuya in South Upi, Maguindanao, and incoming grade 5 student Saima Badule from Pandag, Maguindanao. Peñafil’s home was one of the more than 8,000 households in over 270 rural villages in Mindanao, energized by AMORE since the program’s second phase started in 2004. In the said gathering which was also attended by representatives from private energy companies, development agencies and charitable foundations, Ambassador Kenney called on everyone to participate in the ongoing mission of bringing electricity to the poorest, remotest regions in Mindanao.

The alliance – which began energizing off-grid villages and households using solar home and microhydro systems in 2002 – has found cause to celebrate its achievements.

Electricity is an often taken for granted commodity for many of us in the cities, but for rural communities in Mindanao, it is a very precious, scarce resource. Often villagers speak of tremendous benefits the 20- or 50-watt peak solar home system brings them: not having to endure the noxious smell of kerosene lamp at night; huge savings on their lighting needs expenditure; being able to watch television, sometimes, for the first time in their lives; a sense of security at night when not everything is enveloped in darkness and having more productive hours into the night.

It was in the second quarter of 2007 when Barangay Kuya in the town of South Upi in Maguindanao – where Pablito Peñafil has lived all 54 years of his life – began to have electricity. He remembers the day solar panels were erected on the roofs of 30 nipa huts in the mountain village like it was yesterday.

The case of Barangay Kuya is but one success story in the tale of rural electrification in the Philippines. Thousands of villages in the remotest rural areas of the country have been energized since the Philippine government embarked on an expanded rural electrification mission in 2003. Especially challenging were the case of off-grid, sparsely-populated areas in which no electric cooperative would dare enter for fear of tremendous financial loss. Rural Mindanao was an even more peculiar case owing to its fragile peace situation.

He vividly recalls the initial resistance the community members showed against the Alliance for Mindanao Off-grid Renewable Energy or AMORE Program’s proposal to energize their small village using solar home systems (SHS). The community had been promised twice before solar-powered electricity; and twice they had been disappointed. The leadership of the community’s undertaking fell to Pablito as nobody else wanted to take up the cudgels. Now, after two years, the farming village boasts a total of 37 solar home systems, the last seven of which they had purchased using funds from pooled subscription and monthly fees contributed by the initial system recipients.

For 12-year old Saima Badule, the arrival of electricity in her village of Kabuling in Pandag in the province of Maguindanao meant getting help on her education. Since a solar home system was installed on the small elementary village school in mid-2005, she, together with over a hundred other students, have been able to watch educational television programs that are a significant sensory aid to her learning. So much so that the incoming fifth-grader won for the past two consecutive years, the top prizes at both the district and division levels of the schools’ quiz bee competition in Science and Math.

Since 2004, the AMORE Program has given access to distance education to over 30,000 students by energizing more than 220 rural schools in Mindanao, bringing the total renewable energy-powered schools by AMORE to 300 since 2002.

Despite the successes of rural electrification in Mindanao, the region remains the least energized in the country, with 454 of its villages still without access to electricity as of March 2009, according to the Department of Energy. Electrification levels are lowest in the Autonomous Region of Muslim Mindanao: 271 of its villages remain unenergized as of March 2009.

For more on the AMORE project, visit there site here: http://www.amore.org.ph/html/wn/wn_57.html

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