GENERAL SANTOS CITY (MindaNews / 11 Sept) – The national government has allocated an additional P137 million for the electrification of more remote communities in South Cotabato province within the next four months.
Santiago Tudio, South Cotabato I Electric Cooperative (Socoteco I) general manager, said Wednesday the funds were specifically set aside for the installation of additional distribution lines and related structures that will facilitate the connection of 137 sitios to the province’s main power grid.
He said the National Electrification Administration (NEA) recently gave its go-signal to the cooperative to start with the implementation of the projects through the national government’s Sitio Electrification Program (SEP).
The agency initially allotted P127 million for the SEP’s implementation in 127 sitios in the province but later approved another P10 million to cover 10 more areas, he said.
“Each project has a budget of P1 million and the implementation phase was set from September to December,” he said in a media forum.
Tudio said the identified projects areas are located within Koronadal City and in seven other municipalities of South Cotabato, which comprise Socoteco I’s service or franchise area.
But he said most of the projects will be implemented in the province’s upper valley area, specifically in the upland areas of T’boli and Lake Sebu towns.
The national government had tapped local electric cooperatives as the main implementers of SEP, with the Department of Energy (DOE) and the NEA as supervising agencies.
The DOE and NEA initially targeted the energization of 6,000 sitios this year but has increased it to 10,000 on instructions from President Benigno S. Aquino III.
The President earlier committed a total funding of P33 billion for the program, which will be implemented until 2015.
Meantime, Tudio said they are targeting to start the implementation before the end of the year of the proposed P99 million electrification program for Barangay Ned of Lake Sebu.
He said they are presently waiting for the final approval by Malacañang of the project’s funding and implementation.
Tudio said South Cotabato second district Rep. Ferdinand Hernandez endorsed the project to the Office of the President last month after the NEA turned down its inclusion into the SEP.
“Barangay Ned did not qualify for the SEP since its budget ceiling is only P1 million per sitio,” he said.
Ned, which is the remotest and biggest barangay of Lake Sebu, has a total of 44 sitios and around 4,000 households.
The area, which hosts several coal mining projects and agribusiness plantation areas, is located near the tri-boundaries of South Cotabato, Sultan Kudarat and Sarangani provinces.
“Ned is a special case because while it only has 44 sitios, it is largely inaccessible and quite far from our transmission lines. So the funding requirement for its electrification is much higher also,” Tudio added.