The Japan International Cooperation Agency (JICA) and the National Economic and Development Authority (NEDA) signed on Thursday a P340-million grant to boost and stabilize electricity supply in conflict areas in Mindanao.
The grant aid will fund the “Project for Improvement of Equipment for Power Distribution in Bangsamoro, “primarily to upgrade the power distribution equipment of six electric cooperatives (ECs).
Data from the cooperative show up to 26 percent on average is lost during transmission of electricity, because of aging equipment that has been built in the 70s.
JICA Chief Representative Susumu Ito said the project is part of Japan’s commitment to support peace and development in Mindanao.
“By helping resolve the power supply issues in conflict-affected areas, we aim to help the Philippines create more economic activities in the region,” he said.
At 36 percent, the electrification rate in the area is lower than the average rate of 74 percent in Mindanao, according to government data.
The JICA grant aid will help reduce energy distribution losses to about 7 percent and assure reliable, resilient energy supply to nearly 44,000 households.
The project will be implemented by the National Electrification Administration (NEA) of the Department of Energy (DOE).
“We will do what we can to support the people in Mindanao’s conflict-affected areas realize the dividends of peace in their lives and ensure a better future for the next generation,” Ito said.
NEDA Secretary Ernesto Pernia said the project will provide power distribution equipment such as transformers, poles, conductors and boom trucks.
It is expected to contribute to the long-term goal of bringing down system loss by 13 percent, raise in line capacity by 130 percent and improve of the power distribution equipment installation and maintenance work in the Bangsamoro Area.
Beyond addressing the basic need to improve power supply stability in that area of Mindanao where household electrification level stands only at 72.38 percent, NEDA sees the project building confidence, as well as a gesture of goodwill.
Government statistics also showed that the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao remains mired in poverty with a 53.4-percent poverty rate in 2015, higher than the national average of 21.1 percent.
Forty years of conflict have deprived this region of opportunities to access social services and quality investments and jobs, according to the NEDA.
“We look forward to further deepening our cooperation particularly at this time when our relationship as partner countries and friends is at its best given the exchange of visits between our leaders,” Pernia said.
“We would like to assure you that NEDA remains committed to working with you towards realizing our countries’ shared goals, and is always open to discussing with you on how our bilateral relations can further be strengthened,” he added.
WITH A REPORT FROM RAADEE S. SAUSA