Project TALA: Soldiers, cops in Soccsksargen tapped to fight ‘darkness’

KORONADAL CITY (MindaNews / 25 March) – Government troops have been employed to fight another battle in Soccsksargen region, as the “knights of light” for impoverished far-flung areas without electricity.

AFP and PNP personnel undergo training on installation of solar panels for Project TALA. Screengrab from the TESDA-Dose Facebook page

Rafael Abrogar II, director of Technical Education and Skills Development Authority in Region 12 (TESDA-12), said Thursday the agency trained several members of the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) and the Philippine National Police (PNP) for its Project TALA or “TESDA Alay ay Liwanag at Asenso.”

Project Tala is an initiative that seeks to install solar panel systems in impoverished, off-grid remote villages in the region.

He noted that the AFP and PNP personnel will become master trainers on the installation of solar panel systems in remote off-grid areas in the region after completing a three-day workshop by TESDA experts that began Tuesday.

“We are at war, but this is not the war of bullets and arms. This is a war against poverty and against missed opportunities in far-flung areas in the region,” Abrogar said in a statement.

The trained government troops will augment TESDA’s pool of trainers on solar power installation to reach 2,000 households in the region that wanted to avail of Project TALA, the official added.

The project was launched last year in remote Sitio Blit, Barangay Ned in Lake Sebu, South Cotabato, benefitting at least 600 households, data from TESDA-12 showed.

The beneficiaries were educated first on photovoltaic installation and maintenance before they were given the solar panel system by the agency.

Abrogar noted that before the AFP and PNP personnel underwent a three-day trainer’s training, they merely served as security escorts during TESDA-12’s Project TALA outreach.

Last January, TESDA Secretary Isidro Lapeña visited Sitio Blit and lauded the region’s initiative, which is aligned with his directive to bring the government closer to the people and to defeat the communist insurgency in the area.

Indigenous people solar panel beneficiaries of Project TALA in Alabel, Sarangani province. Photo from TESDA-Dose Facebook page

Sitio Blit, populated by the T’boli tribe, was lighted after seven decades of darkness.

Project TALA also benefited the Manobo tribe in Sitio Dalhag, Barangay Manobo in Magpet, North Cotabato.

Lapeña, also the designated Cabinet Officer for Regional Development and Security – Region 12, said the government must act fast against the Communist Party of the Philippines and its armed wing, the New People’s Army, by bringing basic services to people in far-flung areas.

Abrogar said that Project TALA is aligned with the “whole-of-nation” approach initiated by the National Task Force to End Local Communist Armed Conflict.

Soccsksargen or Region 12 straddles the provinces of South Cotabato, North Cotabato, Sultan Kudarat and Sarangani and the cities of General Santos, Koronadal, Tacurong and Kidapawan. (Bong S. Sarmiento / MindaNews)