Sibutu, Tawi-Tawi (29 February 2024) — In a bid to improve residents’ access to reliable renewable energy sources and boost the island-province’s economy, top national, provincial and donor agency officials launched on Thursday, February 28, two solar PV diesel hybrid power plant projects in the coastal communities of Sibutu and Sitangkai.

The launching ceremony was led by the Mindanao Development Authority (MinDA), United Nations Industrial Development Organization (UNIDO), Provincial Government of Tawi-Tawi, Department of Energy, and the Office of the Presidential Adviser on Peace, Reconciliation and Unity (OPAPRU).

The two hybrid power plants are under the Renewable Energy Technology for seaweeds value added in Tawi-Tawi (RETS) Project, which aims to provide 1.65 megawatts of renewable energy to village folk in the project’s target areas.

The power facilities are expected to provide reliable electricity to 2000-5,000 households, including community and health centers in the municipalities of Sibutu and Sitangkai, as well as neighboring island-communities.

Socioeconomic impact

During the launching ceremony Tawi-Tawi Governor Yshmael Sali emphasized the significance of the RETS Project to the province, particularly how it will help uplift the lives of people in the beneficiary communities by creating more sustainable economic opportunities.

“This project has a generational impact. In remote areas of the island municipalities. Electricity is a luxury. With the electricity generated by the RETS Project, children can study and do their homeworks at night under the bright lights,” Sibutu Vice Mayor Alshefa J. Pajiji noted.

“This will inspire more economic activity in our municipality, providing more comfort and convenience to us, encouraging more local trade and tourism for us,” Pajiji added.

Presidential Peace Adviser Sec. Carlito Carlito G. Galvez, Jr. who took part in the unveiling ceremony, underscored the socioeconomic benefits the project will provide to the people who, for many years, have dreamed of having access to a stable power supply.

“The RETS Project provides a very good opportunity to transform the lives of residents, particularly seaweed farmers, by improving their access to energy and expanding prospects for better livelihood and higher incomes,” Galvez said.

RETS Project

Through the RETS Project, two water supply feasibility studies were conducted to help the Provincial Government of Tawi-Tawi and the Bangsamoro Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (BARMM) develop a reliable water supply system. Electricity and water are valuable components in seaweed production.

The project also conducted a value-chain analysis on Tawi-Tawi seaweed products to further enhance the province’s seaweed industry, and consequently, improve socioeconomic conditions in the communities.

Aquaculture is among the primary sources of livelihood of Tawi-Tawi’s residents. However the limited energy supply in most of the province’s municipalities has been a perennial challenge faced by seaweed farmers, which has limited their capacity to produce high-quality products to meet market demands.

The RETS Project, which is being facilitated by MinDA and supported by the European Union and the United Nations Development Organization, seeks to benefit around 3,500 seaweed farmers in Tawi-Tawi.

The project is also being implemented in collaboration with the Mindanao State University Tawi-Tawi College of Technology and Oceanography, Tawi-Tawi Electric Cooperative, and the Association of Island Electric Cooperatives-Island Light and Water Development Corporation (AIEC-ILAW).

According to Asec. Romeo Montenegro, MinDA deputy director, their journey towards the implementation of the RETS project has been “six years in the making.”

Montenegro emphasized that the project is designed to “not only to improve electrification in the BARMM, particularly in Tawi-Tawi, but also to support the government’s move towards the peace process.”

“Definitely that’s one major justification in our proposal in terms of its impact to Tawi-Tawi and the overall goals of the government towards achieving harmony in Mindanao, particularly in the BARMM,” he added.

Commitment of support

“This is a testament of what UNIDO believes all along that industrialization need not be done at the expense of the environment. And it is indeed possible to harness the potential of industries and economic sectors through innovation to bring about progress, prosperity, and the better way of life for peoples around the world,” said UNIDO country representative Ted Monroy.”

“By providing seaweed producing communities in Tawi-Tawi access to a reliable, clean source of energy, they are empowered to engage in value-added activities that can increase their earning capacity and their ability to take advantage of opportunities offered by the international markets such as those provided by the BIMP-EAGA markets,” Monroy added.

He also reaffirmed UNIDO’s commitment to support the EU and MinDA in helping to provide renewable energy and implementing innovative programs in Tawi-Tawi and the rest of the Bangsamoro region.

Engr. Mohajirin Ali, Bangsamoro Planning and Development Authority (BPDA) director-general and Support to Bangsamoro Transition (SUBATRA) project director, said that the BARMM government is doing its best to address the power and water needs of the people of Tawi-Tawi.

Ali bared that the Bangsamoro government is now working closely with MinDA in order to find ways on how to enhance local seaweed production ventures in Tawi-Tawi.

He also commended the “game-changing projects” that are being implemented in Tawi-Tawi and the rest of the BARMM, as he called on the security sector to continue ensuring the peace and security in the Island-province.

DOE Usec. Giovanni Bacordio commended the BGen. Jun Narra, 3rd Marine Brigade commander, for “maintaining and sustaining the peace” in Tawi-Tawi that has made the completion of the solar power plants possible.

“This brings us closer to the government’s target of 35% renewable energy in the power generation mix by 2030 and 50% by 2040. This also brings us closer to this administration’s target of 100% electrification by 2028,” Bacordio said.

EU Ambassador to the Philippines Luc Veron, shared that visiting Tawi-Tawi is a dream come true, being the first EU Ambassador to visit the island province, as also commended all stakeholders for the successful completion of the project.

“The energy sector in the Philippines remains a key priority of our partnership between the European Union and the Philippines…We are very proud to support the Government of the Philippines in reaching its electrification objectives and promoting sustainable energy,” Veron said.

“The EU will continue to invest in the island provinces of the Philippines and the BARMM,” assuring that “there are other value chain infrastructure projects in the way,” he added.

“We will not leave you behind,” Galvez said, referring to Tawi-Tawi’s journey towards sustainable development and energy security contributing to the stability of peace and security in the Island province.

Galvez also urged the residents of Sibutu and its local government “to nurture the vast potential of the province for high-value aquaculture, and harness it towards creating more inclusive development opportunities.”

Sec. Maria Belen S. Acosta, MinDa chairperson, reaffirmed her agency’s commitment to continue carrying out initiatives to accelerate the development, as well as bring greater peace and security in Mindanao.

Acosta also committed to support Tawi-Tawi’s goal of becoming the “Tawi-Tawi to the World,” emphasizing that the RETS Project is just the start of effort to bring Tawi-Tawi’s value-added aquaculture to markets in East Asia and the rest of the global community.

“We, at MinDa, firmly believe that peace and development come together…if we converge and bring together our ideas, our efforts, our resources, our data or information and our dedication marami pong magagawa dito sa Mindanao,” Acosta said. ###