MORE than 140 families belonging to the Aeta indigenous people in the town of Capas in the Philippines, now have access to electricity after the ICTSI Foundation installed solar photovoltaic systems.

Established in 2009, ICTSI Foundation is the corporate social responsibility arm of International Container Terminal Services, the parent company of the Victorian International Container Terminal in Melbourne.

In partnership with non-profit organisation Project Liwanag PH, two communal micro-grid structures were installed at a remote community in the mountains of Tarlac province, some 109km Manila.

“Access to power still remains a challenge to many Filipinos living in mountainous regions and far-flung areas, among them our Aeta brothers and sisters,” ICTSI global corporate head Christian R Gonzalez said.

“With these solar PV systems, it is our hope that we can improve their lives and make it more convenient.”

Under the supervision of Project Liwanag contractors, all able-bodied community members helped in setting-up the communal micro-grid panels.

Residents also personally installed the electrical wires from the panels to their homes. Community leaders were likewise taught the upkeep of the solar PV systems.

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Judy Balintay, among the beneficiaries of the project, said she was excited to have electricity in her small village. Living in the mountains, she and her neighbours live in small, bamboo-thatched houses where the only light source at night is said to be moonlight, firewood and kerosene lamps.

“I cried with joy when light came to our community. I ran back and forth to our house because we could see in the dark, finally,” she was quoted as saying.

“We could not believe that this day would come when electricity would reach us since we’re living in the mountains. This will definitely help us, most especially our children who are studying.”

The ICTSI Foundation has also implemented programs and projects to improve the lives of the Aetas, who live in the hinterlands of Subic Bay International Terminal, an ICTSI subsidiary.

ICTSI reported a good start to the year overall, albeit its Melbourne operation has acknowledged difficulties and indicated hard decisions may be required.

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