ZAMBOANGA SIBUGAY, Philippines – A French renewable energy development company has signed a memorandum of cooperation with the provincial government of Zamboanga Sibugay to build solar power farms that would benefit more than 100,000 villagers in three towns on Olutanga Island.
During the signing of the agreement on Thursday, March 17, HDF Energy vice president for Asia Mathieu Geze said it would set up a system that would make use of a renewable energy technology derived from solar panels, multi-megawatt hydrogen fuel cells, and battery energy storage facilities.
The system would initially generate from three solar energy farms an additional five megawatts for the island.
Zamboanga Sibugay Governor Wilter Palma said he was optimistic that the planned renewable energy facility in the island would spur an “economic revolution” in the towns of Olutanga, Talusan, and Mabuhay.
Officials said the three municipalities have been left behind in terms of development due to lack of vital infrastructure and a stable power supply.
Its current supply of electricity is diesel-power generated by the Zamboanga del Sur Rural Electric Cooperative II (Zamsureco II). With the additional 5MW, officials said the island’s residents would have a sufficient supply of electricity.
All the towns on the island, with a population of slightly over 100,000, are categorized as fourth class municipalities.
The island, too, used to be a haven of extortionists, kidnappers, and pirates.
“Things are going to further change with the ongoing road improvement projects and the source of renewable energy,” Palma said.
During the signing of the agreement, Mindanao Development Authority (Minda) chairperson Maria Belen Sunga Acosta turned over the development master plan of Olutanga Island to the provincial government and the three town governments.
Acosta said the master plan, jointly developed by Minda and local officials, aims to “transform the three municipalities into a premier agro-fisheries and tourism destination in Zamboanga Peninsula.”
Acosta underscored the “crucial role of the local government units in achieving inclusive growth.”
She also cited the development alliance Olutanga-Talusa-Mabuhay, formed by the town governments, for seeing the island’s potentials, and agreeing to work in accelerating its development. – Rappler.com
Antonio Manaytay is a Mindanao-based journalist and a awardee of the Aries Rufo Journalism Fellowship