E-community project gives free Wi-Fi to NegOr village

DUMAGUETE CITY – Residents of Barangay Puhagan in Valencia, Negros Oriental will now be enjoying free Wi-Fi following Monday’s switch-on ceremony for the country’s first off-grid, electronic (e-) community.

Renewable energy leader Energy Development Corporation (EDC), owned by First Gen Corporation, led the switch-on ceremony on site, which was also linked virtually via Zoom, together with its partners, the Department of Information and Communications Technology (DICT), Negros Oriental Chamber of Commerce and Industry (NOCCI), and the local government unit of Valencia.

Located in an off-grid mountainous area, Barangay Puhagan is one of EDC’s three partner barangays in the municipality.

EDC owns and operates the 222.5-megawatt geothermal power plants of the Southern Negros Geothermal Project (SNGP) in Valencia, and has continuously provided the host local government unit (LGU) with various programs and projects in order to bring progress and development to the town and its residents.

Governor Roel Degamo, Norreen G. Bautista, EDCs Corporate Social Responsibility head, Valencia Mayor Edgar Teves, Edward Du, former NOCCI president and now Central Visayas regional governor of the Philippine Chamber of Commerce, DICT regional director Frederick Amores, and other local and barangay officials, led the switch-on ceremony.

Bautista said in this time of the coronavirus disease 2019 (Covid-19) pandemic, having a good internet connection will “become essential for people to cope with their daily lives” and they no longer need to leave their mountain barangay to access the internet to communicate with their loved ones, she said.

Degamo, meanwhile, thanked the proponents “for your continued efforts in bringing this project to Barangay Puhagan.”

He told Puhagan officials, headed by village chief Leonarda Sarita, that it is important to have a strong and stable internet connection to be updated with what is happening in relation to the Covid-19 crisis.

The governor also noted that digital technology, specifically the internet, helps people to connect and communicate under the “new normal”.

Sarita thanked EDC for paving the way for the barangay council to upgrade the conduct of its virtual meetings and other events, while their students need not go any further for their online or distance learnings.

The free wifi facility is situated in the barangay hall of Puhagan, with DICT providing the procurement of the fixed wireless broadband network with a 40mbps bandwidth.

The town mayor and the LGU provided logistical and regulatory support, while NOCCI provided fixed wireless solar technology and a redundant broadband network design to ensure uninterrupted connectivity for the villagers.

EDC provided funds for the cost of labor and the purchase of necessary materials and equipment, Bautista said.

Meanwhile, Du lauded the “exemplary collaboration”, saying this should “serve as a model for private-public partnerships and a showcase for all LGUs in the country, especially during these trying times.”

He said there are students and even employees who go to the town gymnasium, bringing their gadgets for their online classes and work, respectively.

EDC assistant vice president for Corporate Social Responsibility and Public Relations, lawyer Allan Barcena, in his message via Zoom, said the project to set up an e-community was conceptualized in 2019 with Du, to allow residents to do research and even e-commerce.

“This e-communities project is our way of fulfilling EDC’s mission to forge collaborative pathways for a decarbonized and regenerative future--which is essentially about creating an exponential positive impact by elevating our environment and our stakeholders,” Barcena said.

“While we know that we have a long journey ahead of us in terms of duplicating this initiative in our other partner communities, today’s event is a victory that we should all celebrate. This switch-on ceremony is proof that no crisis can stop us from elevating our communities if we all work together to achieve it,” he added.

This pilot project of EDC, DICT, NOCCI, and Valencia LGU will soon be duplicated in EDC’s other partner barangays in the municipality to establish similar e-communities.

For almost 40 years, renewable energy leader EDC has been providing an uninterrupted source of clean 24/7 energy to Negros Island and other parts of the Luzon and Visayas regions from its geothermal facility in Valencia.

EDC’s over 1,480MW total installed capacity accounts for 20 percent of the country’s total installed renewable energy capacity.

The company’s almost 1,200MW geothermal portfolio comprises 62 percent of the country’s total installed geothermal capacity and has put the Philippines on the map as the 3rd largest geothermal producer in the world. (PNA)

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