NEGROS OCCIDENTAL โ€“ The Department of Energy (DOE), in partnership with the European Union-supported Access to Sustainable Energy Program (EU-ASEP) and its private sector partner, TeaM Energy Foundation, Inc. (TEFI), inaugurated last Friday, 6 August 2021, the fourth pilot renewable energy-based post-harvest project that will benefit the pineapple farmers of Don Salvador Benedicto, Negros Occidental.
Designed to increase the income of farmers and boost local economy, the Productive Use of Renewable Energy (PURE) pilot project features a 4-kiloWatt solar photovoltaic system that powers a decorticating machine to produce high-quality, export-ready pineapple fiber.
Piรฑa fiber is made out of pineapple leaves and is highly sought in the international textile market because it can be used for clothing materials or is a good alternative to leather. Don Salvador Benedicto, as the main source of pineapple fruits in Central Visayas, has over 2,000 hectares of pineapple fields. Prior to the introduction of the PURE project, farmers would discard the pineapple leaves as waste or process some of it as animal feed.
The ceremony was attended by the DOE-Visayas Field Office officials, Don Salvador Benedicto LGU led by Mayor Marxlen Laurence Dela Cruz, TEFI Vice President Ma. Teresa Lopez, and representatives from the Provincial Government of Negros Occidental, 1st District House Representative Gerardo P. Valmayor, Abang Linkod Representative Joseph Steven S. Paduano, Department of Agriculture, Department of Trade and Industry, Department of Labor and Employment and Community Environment and Natural Resources Office, the project was turned over to its direct beneficiaries through the Central Negros Electric Cooperative and the Bago Integrated Solar Farmers Association.
In his Keynote Address, DOE Undersecretary Emmanuel Juaneza said the PURE project is a timely intervention that will help far-flung communities recover from the effects of the pandemic. โ€œThe productive use of renewable energy or PURE project was conceptualized as a supplemental project to the DOEโ€™s rural RE electrification program such as the Household Electrification Project (HEP). PURE was created to provide other sources of income for farmers through the use of renewable energy technologies, thus enhancing their capacity to pay for the monthly operation and maintenance expenses to sustain their household energy use,โ€ he said.
European Union Delegation to the Philippines Head of Cooperation, Mr. Christoph Wagner said, โ€œThe EU is proud to support this pilot project as part of our partnership with the Philippines on renewable and sustainable energy. This intervention will support the community in making use of pineapple leaves which were thrown away in the past. Now, they can be used as high-value natural fiber, which will generate income and might become an export commodity of the Philippines. This project is therefore a small contribution towards a more circular and green economy in the Philippines. I hope that this project will serve as a model for other similar projects in the future.
For her part, Ms. Lopez, TEFI Vice President, personally thanked all partners for working together to pursue a common goal of helping far-flung communities through better access to basic services such as electricity and livelihood.
*Government and Private sector collaboration*
The project showcases how the government and the private sector can work together in bringing vital social and economic services to far-flung communities. The DOE and EU-ASEP provided technical assistance in the preparation of a feasibility study for the project, including the technical design, business model and social preparation activities. Early coordination with the local government were undertaken starting February 2021 to ensure that project implementation followed all health and safety protocols. TEFI provided grant funds amounting to Php 3.5 million to procure the solar PV system, and decorticating machine and the powerhouse and PURE center located in Sitio Alindahawan, Barangay Bago.
TEFI also provided a solar-powered refrigerator for vaccines and medical supplies for the barangay health center of Barangay Pinowayan, the farthest barangay in Don Salvador Benedicto. The refrigerator is Department of Health-accredited and can store vaccines and medicines requiring negative 5 degrees Celsius temperature.
DOE which provided solar home systems in the community years back, assessed this need together with the Municipal Health Office while EU-ASEP provided technical assistance. According to the Pinowayan barangay health worker Raquilyn Managaytay, they used to travel 15 to 20 kilometers through treacherous road to bring life-saving medicines and vaccines such as tetanus toxoid, anti-rabies vaccine, antibiotics and insulin to their patients in the barangay. With the vaccine refrigerator, these vaccines and medicines will now be readily available for the people of Pinowayan and nearby upland communities.
*Role of CENECO and LGU*
During the August 6 program, Usec. Juaneza also thanked the CENECO and the LGU of Don Salvador Benedicto for the support to the Pure project. In a memorandum of agreement signed among the project partners, CENECO accepted the role as project owner that will assign and monitor the use of the decorticating machine to the pineapple farmers through the Bisfa.
The LGU, which also provided a cash counterpart in the completion of the Pure building, will assist in monitoring and building the capacity of Bisfa.
Mayor Dela Cruz also said they are interested in replicating the project in other far-flung areas.
Representatives from the DOLE and DTI pledged to support Bisfa by giving them access to current funding programs, including the provision of additional post-harvest equipment as well as cash grant.
The pineapple fiber that will be produced by Bisfa already has a ready market through Ananas-anam, an international textile company that specializes in the production of piรฑa felt.
CENECO General Manager Atty. Danny Pondevilla and CENECO Board President Jojit Yap both thanked the DOE, EU-ASEP and TEFI for choosing CENECO to manage and sustain the project. CENECO will conduct monthly technical monitoring of the solar PV system as well as the vaccine ref to ensure its sustainability.