227 Mindanao villages get electricity for first time
SHARIFF AGUAK, Maguindanao (22 October) -- Farmer Soliven Kamsa of Barangay Sepaka in Datu Paglas town was ecstatic as the fluorescent lamp inside his house started to flicker and finally lit up the night on Friday.
"Thank God, we can now work even at night, unlike before when we were just depending on kerosene lamp that we have to retire early after dinner," Kamsa said.
For housewife Amina Laki of this town, the arrival of electricity in her village means watching the family's favorite stars.
"Our plan is to save so we can have a TV set and watch our favorite stars," she said.
On Friday evening, some 6,810 households in at least 227 villages in the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (ARMM) were formally energized following the simultaneous switching on of solar- and microhydro-powered facilities in time for the observance of Lailatul Qadr or the Night of Power in Islam.
Lailatul Qadr, which is one of the holiest and blessed nights among Muslims, occurs on one of the last 10 days of Ramadan. It was on this night when Prophet Muhammad received the first of the Divine Revelations.
ARMM Governor Zaldy Ampatuan, who led the activity at Shariff Aguak, Maguindanao, said the US$18 million electrification project was made possible through the Alliance for Mindanao Off-grid Renewable Energy Program (Amore), a partnership among the United States Agency for International Development (USAID), the Department of Energy (DOE), Mirant Philippines Foundation, Inc. and Winrock International.
Cecile Rodriguez, Amore senior coordinator, said the occasion coincided with the region-wide holding of the First Mindanao Light Festival to create awareness on the importance of light to peace and progress in the Mindanao.
"With the use of a reliable and affordable ‘stand-alone renewable energy system’ sourced from the rays of the sun and small hydro-charged power generation for some areas, the project has provided electricity to barangays of Basilan, Maguindanao, Sulu and Tawi-Tawi," Rodriguez said.
Ampatuan said the Amore program augurs well for the autonomous government's commitment to be closer to its constituents by bringing basic services to the remotest villages.
Meanwhile, Ampatuan announced that residents of the ARMM would enjoy two successive holidays to mark the end of the fasting month.
Ampatuan said he officially declared October 23 a "special non-working holiday" all over the region for the Eid'l Fitr celebrations. Earlier, Malacañang declared October 24 a holiday for the same reason.
Ampatuan explained that his proclamation was meant for the "brothers and sisters in faith" who will end their 30-day fast on October 23 and 24.
Customarily, there have been two sets of fasting Muslims in the Philippines during Ramadhan as they differ in some aspects of viewing the new moon as their starting point. "These are the early birds and those that follow the day after," said Islamic scholar Abhoud Syed Lingga.
The Eid'l Fitr celebrations will highlight thanksgiving, sharing of food and congregational prayer in mosques and open fields to accommodate large crowds of worshippers. (PIA) [top]