Residents of Cagbalete Island in Mauban, Quezon have been without access to electricity for years. Its geographical location makes it challenging to energize through a direct connection to the power grid.
The island is also dotted with white sand beaches and is relatively close to Metro Manila but local and foreign tourists are deterred by the lack of electricity. As a consequence, natives of the island could not capitalize on tourism and instead remain dependent on fishing as their primary source of livelihood which they can only rely on during half of the year when the sea is calm.
Despite their meager income, many residents save up to accord themselves the luxury of access to electricity at least for a few hours each day. Among them are Ricardo and Eva Ocampo, who used to pay at least PhP2,000 monthly to connect to a communal gasoline-fired generator for electricity access from 6 pm to 9 pm every day. At this rate, electricity was indeed a “luxury” for a family that subsists on a daily budget of PhP500.
But it shouldn’t be.
In July, Meralco inaugurated its solar microgrid in Cagbalete to provide round-the-clock electricity to 129 households. The Foundation helped residents comply with the initial requirements for electrification and provided additional funding for infrastructure requirements on the customer side.
Residents who are now connected to the microgrid are able to use electricity 24 hours a day, and are also able to use other appliances. In contrast, when they were dependent on generators, they could only connect a few light bulbs. They had to pay a premium if they insisted on using other devices such as television or an electric fan.
Ricardo and Eva are also now spending less for far more power. In their first month since electrification, they only paid PhP98 on electricity. A few months later, the family’s average monthly bill increased to PhP250 as their consumption increased. Still, this is only 13 percent of their electricity expense prior to OMF’s intervention. The resulting savings of around PhP1,700 is now used to augment their budget for food, education and health care.
The Ocampo family’s experience is a concrete example of how the lack of electricity access could make poor families even poorer. In urban communities, many poor families resort to sub-meter connections for which they spend up to twice as much as the average kilowatt-hour rate of Meralco.
This is why One Meralco Foundation continues to reach out to communities like these. In today’s digital world, electricity is a necessity, and those without it are left behind. It remains committed to bringing electricity access where none exists, so that communities left behind achieve sustainable development, and advance with the country and the rest of the world.
(Editor’s Note: This is an excerpt from the “Energy for Productivity” section of the 2019 OMF Annual Report.)