Del Carmen, Siargao Islands, Surigao del Norte- The World Wide Fund for Nature (WWF) Philippines formally launched a European Union (EU) funded 30-month project that aims to provide 24-hour access to renewable energy generated electricity to four remote island communities in Siargao and Dinagat.
The project was launched in collaboration with its partners, UP Asian Institute of Tourism (UP AIT), the Association of Isolated Electric Cooperatives (AIEC) thru its subsidiary, AIEC Missionary Green Energy Corporation (AIEC MGEC), Siargao Electric Cooperative (SIARELCO), and Dinagat Electric Cooperative (DIELCO)
This was made possible through the EU’s Access to Sustainable Energy Programme (ASEP) that aims to expand sustainable energy generation to meet the growing needs of the Philippine economy, and provide energy access to the poor and marginalized sector in accordance with the Philippine Development Plan.
A grant was awarded to WWF Philippines’ SolarBnb Microhotel & Island Livelihood Energizer (SMILE) Platform, which will provide sustainable electrification with livelihood and eco-tourism components to the islands of Cab-ilan, Kanihaan, Halian and Anajawan in the provinces of Dinagat and Siargao.
The SMILE Platform aims to establish a hybrid power plant in each island that also serves as an eco-friendly bed and breakfast micro-hotel.
This infrastructure will not only provide 24/7 sustainable energy to each community but will also offer a haven for visiting tourists.
Currently, these islands experience a maximum of four hours a day powered by fossil fuels, thus constraining their potential to develop and prosper. The SMILE Platform’s tourism and livelihood efforts will allow the communities to optimally benefit from the project through capacity building and trainings for the community on tourism and livelihood activities and participation in the community-focused tourism development plans, among others.
In addition to the EU grant, the SMILE Platform uniquely leverages private investment through the AIEC-MGEC’s joint venture partner, Island Light and Water (ILAW).
“The goal is to electrify the islands with clean energy as we are one with the European Union in the objective of increasing the share of renewables in the energy mix,” said WWF-President and CEO Joel Palma. “We are grateful to be given this opportunity to further our work in terms of advocating for renewables to ensure the sustainability of any development that will improve the lives of Filipinos.”
Aside from a lack of electricity, all four islands under the SMILE Platform have a poverty index above 60%. However, the blossoming tourist destination of Siargao in Surigao Del Norte, famous for the surfing destination known as Cloud 9, opens them up to business opportunities. Coupling tourism efforts with renewable electrification will allow these communities to take advantage of these opportunities, creating new livelihoods while assisting the islands in becoming more resilient to climate shocks.
“Assisting in initiatives to create sustainable livelihoods is one way by which UP exercises its function as a public service university”, states Dean Edieser Dela Santa of UP Asian Institute of Tourism. “We share the goals of our partners in pushing for social progress and transformation by studying how tourism destinations in Mindanao may develop sustainably,” he added.
The prospect of having four new tourist destinations is a win that the local government is looking forward to, as many will be empowered with jobs that can help augment their families’ incomes.
“The SMILE Project will no doubt establish a replicable process for power management, environmental action and tourism design for small island communities not only in the Philippines but around Pacific region. We look forward to the social transformation of the four islands from poverty to become islands of hope and a community of champions,” expressed Mayor Alfredo Coro of the Municipality of Del Carmen in the Siargao Islands.
SIARELCO and DIELCO General Manager Sergio Dagooc agrees with the Mayor as he reiterates the positive impacts of electrification and tourism for local communities. “SIARELCO and DIELCO have demonstrated that tourism and electrification can be mutually beneficial: tourism properly supported by electrification will result in great benefits to the island communities,” said Dagooc. “Our goal in this EU programme is to also ensure the sustainable development of our last untouched islands, not only in Siargao and Dinagat but in all the remaining unelectrified areas of our fellow AIEC electric cooperatives.”
With the SMILE Platform as a start, WWF-Philippines and its partners hope to establish renewable-powered tourism establishments in other areas across the country, augmenting and supporting the livelihoods of isolated communities for the sake of climate resilience.