EDC, partners switch on first off-grid e-community in the country

The residents of Barangay Puhagan, Valencia, Negros Oriental will no longer have to travel for at least 40 minutes to Dumaguete City to get free wifi, thanks to the wireless internet connection that First Gen-owned Energy Development Corporation (EDC) has provided with its partners Department of Information and Communications Technology, Negros Oriental Chamber of Commerce & Industry, and the local government of Valencia, Negros Oriental.

Yesterday’s combined on-site and Zoom event for the switch-on ceremony for the country’s first off-grid e-community was symbolic of the new normal way of holding meetings, gatherings, and even connecting with family and friends since the COVID-19 pandemic started last year.

Little did we know that a good internet connection will become essential for people to cope with their daily lives as students, employees, even as priests and other religious people, for companies to actually do business, and most of all, for all of us to emotionally connect with our loved ones both near and far. Having an internet connection has become a must for all of us to live,” said Atty. Allan V. Barcena, head of EDC’s Corporate Social Responsibility and Public Relations Division in his message during the switch on ceremony.

For almost 40 years, renewable energy leader EDC has been providing an uninterrupted source of clean 24/7 energy to Negros Island and other parts of the Luzon and Visayas regions from its 222.5MW geothermal facility in Valencia, Negros Oriental. Located in an off-grid or geographically isolated mountainous area, Barangay Puhagan is one of EDC’s three partner barangays in the municipality that also include Barangays Caidiocan and Malaunay.

Negros Oriental Governor Roel R. Degamo; Norreen G. Bautista, head EDC’s Corporate Social Responsibility team in Negros; former NOCCI president and now Central Visayas regional governor of the Philippine Chamber of Commerce Edward C. Du; DICT regional director Frederick Amores; and other local and barangay officials led the switch-on ceremony.

Brgy Puhagan in Valencia, Negros Oriental is now connected to the digital world. Norreen Bautista, head of EDC’s CSR team in Negros; Negros Oriental Roel Degamo; DICT Regional Director 7 OIC Frederick Amores; PCCI Region 7 Governor Ed Du; Brgy Captain Leonarda Sarita; DICT Provincial Director Aurelio Tinapay; and NTC Provincial Director Engr Felipe Gumalo led the switch on ceremony for EDC’s pilot e-community project in the province.

Through this e-community project of EDC and its partners, Brgy. Puhagan now has a free wifi facility in its barangay hall. DICT provided the procurement of the fixed wireless broadband network with a 40mbps bandwidth, Valencia Mayor Edgar Y. Teves and his LGU provided logistical and regulatory support, while NOCCI generously provided fixed wireless solar technology and a redundant broadband network design to ensure uninterrupted connectivity for the residents of Barangay Puhagan. EDC provided cash donation for the cost of labor and the purchase of necessary materials and equipment.

This initiative is part of our mission to forge collaborative pathways for a decarbonized and regenerative future-which is essentially about creating exponential positive impact by elevating our environment and our stakeholders,” added Barcena.

Degamon thanked NOCCI, DICT family, and EDC for their continued efforts in bringing this project to Barangay Puhagan. “Having a strong and stable internet connection is very important especially during this pandemic for us to always be aware of the latest information to address COVID-19,” he added.

Barangay Puhagan Chair Leonarda Sarita wholeheartedly accepted this project and said: “It is my pride to accept this free public wifi service for and on behalf of the people of Brgy. Puhagan as we look forward to more fruitful and mutually beneficial engagements with EDC and all our partners who worked behind this project. Thank you very much! We didn’t expect that this free WiFi program would reach our barangay.”

Du likewise lauded this strong synergy that should serve as a model and showcase for all LGUs in the country especially during these trying times. “This is the first in the country and hopefully this will be a model [project] nationwide for isolated areas like Puhagan. In fact, there are students right now at the Barangay Gym who are connecting to the free WiFi for their classes, and there are residents who are working from home.”

This pilot project of EDC, DICT, NOCCI and Valencia LGU will soon be duplicated in EDC’s other partner barangays in the municipality to establish similar e-communities. A virtual platform for their residents to learn and exchange best practices in governance, health and safety especially during this pandemic, and environmental protection will eventually be put up for them.

“This DICT program aims to improve internet access for all Filipinos in order for them to join our digital economy wherever they are in the country,” said DICT Secretary Gregorio “Gringo” Honasan II in his recorded message for the event.

EDC’s over 1,480MW total installed capacity accounts for 20 percent of the country’s total installed renewable energy capacity. Its almost 1,200MW geothermal portfolio comprises 62 percent of the country’s total installed geothermal capacity and has put the Philippines on the map as the 3rd largest geothermal producer in the world.

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