One Meralco Foundation, Project Liwanag PH bring solar electricity to Aeta communities
At least 1,000 residents belonging to the Aeta indigenous people’s group now have access to clean, renewable energy after Meralco’s corporate foundation, One Meralco Foundation (OMF), and an advocacy group called Project Liwanag PH installed solar photovoltaic (PV) systems in seven sitios in barangays Maruglu and Sta. Juliana, Capas, Tarlac.
OMF and Project Liwanag PH, with support from partners and donors, installed up to 2-kilowatt solar micro-grid systems in the upland sitios of Yangka, Bilad, Caoayan, Tarucan, Bulacan, Balatong and Manabayucan. These generate enough electricity to power basic household lights and street lamps in the said communities.
Communal structures were also installed with service outlets where community members can charge their portable lamps, radios and other electronic devices, among other uses.
“Elsewhere in the world, electricity has been improving lives and increasing the productivity of people with access to it. Because of electricity, we are able to take advantage of the latest technologies that make our work easier and our lives more convenient. We want the Aetas to also experience the same transformation, first by providing them with electricity and later on with access to potable water, and livelihood programs,” explained Victor Lorenzo Villalon, Project Liwanag PH Associate Director for External Affairs.
Project Liwanag PH was formed by young millennials who wanted to make a difference in the lives of indigenous peoples through community development programs.
Inspired by their immersion experience in the Aeta community back in college, the group put together their knowledge and limited resources to come up with viable ideas for addressing the residents’ fundamental needs such as access to electricity and potable water, and increased productivity of their farms.
One idea was to build a communal solar microgrid system that will produce, store and distribute electricity to every home in the community. After installation, elders elect stewards who will serve as the system’s caretakers. To ensure the sustainability and maintenance of the equipment, they also collect a fixed minimal fee from every household each month to save up for any repair or parts replacement that the system might require in the course of its operation.
Having learned of a similar solar-based electrification program implemented by OMF in remote schools, the group approached the foundation for technical advice and funding.
“We were moved by the group’s passion about helping the Aetas and we saw this as an opportunity to encourage millennials to use their talent, energy and experience with technology to help communities left behind to step up and move forward,” said Jeffrey O. Tarayao, President of One Meralco Foundation.
The foundation supported the two pilot electrification projects of Project Liwanag PH in 2015. These are in sitios Yangka and Bilad, which had about 500 residents.
The success of the pilot projects prodded OMF to continue to support the advocacy, energizing two sitios (Caoayan and Tarucan) in 2016 and three more (Balatong, Bulacan and Settler) in 2017.
The electrification of the seven sitios was funded primarily by donations from Meralco employees and the business partners of Meralco’s Corporate Business Group (CBG).
Three more Aeta communities are in the pipeline, two of which are scheduled for electrification this year.
Apart from the Aetas, One Meralco Foundation’s electrification programs have also benefited public schools in communities of the Mangyans in Oriental Mindoro, T’bolis in South Cotabato, B’laans in Sarangani Province and Bukidnons in Iloilo.