Luntiang Pamayanan Bunga ng Inisyatibo at Aksyon ng Nagkakaisang Mamamayan ng San Luis: The Dimanayat Micro-Hydro Power Project
Most coastal barangays of San Luis, Aurora, hardly have electricity in their households. Far-flung coastal barangays are at least 9 kilometers away, making it impossible to connect them to the Aurora Electric Cooperative (AURELCO) grid. Realizing that these communities are near natural bodies of water, San Luis implemented Micro-Hydro Power Projects as alternative sources of power for its remote barangays.
The LGU of San Luis partnered with the Central Luzon State University Affiliate Non-Conventional Energy Center (CLSU-ANEC) for technical assistance in the construction of the plant. Initially, the micro-power project in Barangay Dimanayat was designed to provide electricity to 120 households in 2006 and has been expanded to serve 220 households. Earlier this year, a solar photovoltaic project was set up to serve the 220 households for their increased power consumption to perform their daytime activities.
For the Micro-Hydro Power Project in Sitio Alasanay, the municipality partnered with the Center for Micro Hydro Technology for Rural Electrification of De La Salle University for the fabrication of its turbine. It is currently providing electricity to 78 households. In addition, partnership with the Czech Republic and loan from the Land Bank of the Philippines enabled the LGU to develop a mini-hydro power plant in Barangay Ditumabo.
Communities were mobilized to provide “sweat equity” and the barangay provided land where the powerhouse and weir intake (dam) were erected. Community participation in the implementation and maintenance of the power projects further strengthened ownership.
After the completion of the project, it was turned over to the barangay cooperatives for operation and maintenance. They are currently part of the monitoring and evaluation of the project together with the technical personnel from the municipality. The Dimanayat Micro-Hydro Farmers’ Association is currently earning an average of PhP 6,000 monthly. The earnings are used for power plant operation and maintenance while the excess fund is for financial assistance to local farmers and fisherfolks. The barangay power cooperatives are independent and implement their own policies on the collection, operation and maintenance of the power plant.
From these alternative sources of electricity, Dimanayat households enjoy a monthly electricity bill of Php 127 compared to households from Central Aurora who pays double at Php 300 monthly. It is notable that these power plants are low-maintenance since it can last up to 50 years with only its generators needing replacement every three years. In 2015, AURELCO bought the mini-hydro plant in Barangay Ditumabo, bringing an income of PhP 4.96 million to the LGU.
Protection of the forest in the surrounding areas of the established micro-hydro power plants have been encouraged by the project through the introduction of alternative sources of income to prevent local communities from engaging in kaingin farming. Through livelihood projects, farmers’ incomes have increased from 20% to 30%. A farmer in Barangay Dimanayat, for instance, earns an additional net income of PhP 20,000 by planting 1,500 square meters of land with ampalaya.
Currently, Barangay Dimanayat has the largest plantation area of ampalaya in Aurora province, providing additional income to its residents. San Luis has also become the fruit basket of Aurora province, supplying 70% of the capital town Baler’s fruits and crops from their 1,560 hectares of orchards of lanzones, pomelo, rambutan, cacao, and other high-value crops. In addition, increased community participation was observed in other environmental initiatives of the municipality such as Linis sa Barangay, 3 o’clock Habit, waste segregation, and tree planting to name a few.
Fisherfolks also benefited from the project through the municipality’s promotion of “Palaisdaan sa Barangay” that distributed 55,000 tilapia and ulang fingerlings to 120 fishpond operators resulting in increased production and income from 3,451 kilograms to 4,250 kilograms per hectare. Furthermore, the municipality’s partnership with the Bureau of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources (BFAR) enabled the provision of shallow payaos allowing increased individual fish catch from 250 kilograms to 504 kilograms annually.
Establishing a renewable source of energy did not only bring power to the households in far-flung communities, but also empowered these communities with better sources of livelihood and income as well as improved the protection of watershed, forest management and fostered social responsibility among its constituents.