Solar power lights 100 more Mindanao villages

Barangay Kulimpang here forms part of the MILF’s Camp Abubakar which fell into government hands in July 2000, four months after the Estrada administration declared an “all-out-war” against the MILF.

Last year, the Alliance for Mindanao Off-Grid Renewable Energy (AMORE) program gave villagers solar panel systems that allow the beneficiaries to now watch television programs of rival networks ABS-CBN and GMA-7.

“Our children can study better at night with these solar-powered systems. Also, I can do household chores at night,” said Bai Dido Macatambog, who has been following GMA-7’s evening telenovela, “Marimar.”

On Monday, Kulimpang residents and others in about 400 villages across Mindanao simultaneously switched their lights for the second Lights Festival.

The activity coincided with the Muslims’ Lailatul Qadr (night of honor and dignity), one of the holiest and blessed nights among Muslims occurring in one of the odd nights on the last 10 days of Ramadan.

The Islamic faithful believe that it was the night in which the first divine revelation came to Prophet Mohammad when he was in prayer in the cave of Hira.

The 2nd Lights Festival aims to foster awareness about the value of light to peace and progress in Mindanao.

In her message, US Ambassador Kristie Kenney said the AMORE project will have more beneficiaries as she noted that at least 400 remote villages in the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao have availed of electricity since the United States launched the project five years ago.

"We hope to add light to a hundred more barangays. As light ushers enlightenment and blessings during Lailatul Qadar, the American people will continue to work with you to bring light to remote communities, to assure peace and development," she said.

"I am so happy to see the light that comes to these communities, to see it provide livelihood opportunity for women, to see children be able to study longer at night, to see households more productive,” she added.

Tetchi Cruz-Capellan, AMORE chief of party, said more than rekindling the beneficiaries’ hopes, the solar-generated electricity has lit up their passion for self-help and self-determination.

At least 11,305 households in 396 villages around the ARMM have benefited from the project, she added.

Capellan said the electrification of 100 more villages would cost around P80 million, and is expected to be completed in December 2008, with the Department of Energy shouldering at least P30 million.

Mirant Philippines released some P50 million to the project through Winrock International.