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Solar Energy Brings Benefits to Remote Philippine Village


Electricity has yet to reach hundreds of villages in the Philippines. The Philippine government is tapping innovative technology to light up some villages, but in this report by producer Prospero Laput from Zamboanga del Norte in the Philippines, poor villagers complain electricity remains out of their reach. VOA's Heda Bayron has more.

The sun powers the remote village of Patagan in the Philippines' poorest province, Zamboanga del Norte.

The only road to the village is not passable when it rains. Power lines simply cannot reach the area.

Residents here thought themselves lucky in 2004 to receive a solar-powered electricity system, part of a nationwide project by the Philippine and Spanish governments.

Joelita Limbaga, a government officer who monitors the project, says children now study more, livelihood has improved and villagers can do some work at night.

Cells in this panel absorb sunlight and convert it into electricity. The panels are reliable and can last up to 25 years.

Village chief Benjamin Baynosa says they needed electric lamps.

He says they were happy to have the solar-powered light because it cannot be put out by strong winds, unlike the small kerosene lamps they had before.

Patagan villagers say the solar panels changed their lives. But their poverty makes it hard to maintain the panels. Most of the villagers are farmers. They earn about a dollar a day, mostly from selling coconut products.

Users have to pay $3.70 a month to maintain the solar panels -- more costly than kerosene for lamps. Villagers say it is too expensive.

One villager says it is difficult to keep up with the monthly payments. She says many families have given up and transferred the panels to their neighbors.

There is potential for solar power in the Philippines. But the poorest villages cannot afford to take full advantage of even this source of light and power.

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