A Batak woman making a basket
A Batak woman making bugyas (basket) in support of their livelihood

Promoting the value of sustainable energy, SINAG benefits small off-grid communities composed of rural households with no immediate prospects of being connected to any electricity grids over the next 5-10 years.

Under the SINAG programme is the Access to Energy (A2E) project, primarily benefitting indigenous people communities, especially since they are located in Shell impact zones. The electricity provided through renewable energy sources helps in the growth of their community enterprise, development of livelihood, improvement of basic health services, and enhancement of education.

On September 23, 2015, in cooperation with the National Commission on Indigenous Peoples (NCIP), Shell’s A2E pilot project was launched in the home of the Batak ethnic group – Sitio Kalakwasan, Brgy. Tanabag, Puerto Princesa City, Palawan. A hybrid power system (using solar and hydro energy) was set up, providing electricity to 42 households, a school building, a community church, as well as a livelihood centre. Following the energy needs assessment, it took two months and over 20 people to finish the project.

The inauguration started with the unveiling of the bronze marker at the entrance of the Kalakwasan village, followed by a short tour to their home-food production area, organic vegetable garden, and livelihood centre, which also serves as an exhibit area of Batak products; these projects are being supported by PSFI.

Sankie Simbulan, SPEX Social Performance Manager, initiated the ceremonial activation of the pico hydro turbine. “To have a stable supply of electricity is a dream come true for this off-grid village. It can now foster development even in the simplest form. This is what Shell wants, to have more communities in the country have better access to energy,” remarked Simbulan.

Activation of the pico hydro turbine
The Shell team activating the pico hydro turbine

Kalakwasan Tribal Chieftain Dionisio Saavedra expressed his gratitude by saying how Shell made it possible for them to have light, a necessity that has enabled them to extend working hours and earn additional income to support their families. “Through this project, we now have a means to support the full schooling of our children. It has also opened the door for us to learn how to communicate. The buyers of our forest products now easily check our available supply through text messaging. Thus, enabling us to save time and effort going back and forth to the city,” added Saavedra.

The hybrid power system, which generates around three-kilowatt electricity, is able to help Kalakwasan residents extend their productivity during the night because their homes have been equipped with LED lamps; these lamps also aid students in finishing their homework and other school tasks.

Puerto Princesa Vice Mayor Luis Marcaida III said, "This A2E pilot project hopes to serve as a model of a self-sustaining community with increased productivity and better standard of living.”

Celebrating the success of the project, the Bataks showcased their talents in a musical performance. There was also a back-to-back medical mission spearheaded by the Western Command and the Palawan Health Office, assisted by PSFI staff.

Bataks playing music
Bataks giving a musical performance

Palawan as the pilot site

Shell has chosen Palawan as A2E’s pilot site due to its growing demand for energy, being an island isolated from the main grid suppliers in Luzon and with populations scattered in hard-to-reach areas. Because of the high cost of electricity in the province, there is a great need to provide an affordable and low-maintenance power system in remote villages.

Promoting access to energy as a theme within its global social investment portfolio, Shell hopes to continue what it started in Puerto Princesa to other parts of Palawan.

Watch the A2E pilot project video here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8NWLKuXLPj8

By Rachael Nathanielsz and Mitchell Gimena

Article published on PSFI news magazine October 2016 issue