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Vivant Foundation pioneers solar power curriculum in Bantayan, donates equipment

Through photos and imagination. That was how Electrical Installation and Maintenance (EIM) students of Bantayan National High School learned some of their lessons, said Grade 12 student Mc Jemart Martinez.

Not anymore. The students will soon start working with actual wires, pliers, and other electrical equipment after the Vivant Foundation, the corporate social responsibility arm of Vivant Corporation, donated equipment to the school last Saturday.

The donation includes materials and equipment for EIM and the new solar power component that Vivant Foundation formulated with the Technical Education and Skills Development Authority (TESDA) and the Department of Education (DEPED).

EXTRA ADVANTAGE. Vivant Foundation Executive Director Shem Garcia said the pioneering solar power track of the Electrical Installation and Management course in Bantayan National High School will give its students “that extra advantage that’s needed for the future.” Also shown in the photo are the equipment that the foundation donated to the school last Saturday.

Electrical course with solar component

“No school in the Philippines offers EIM with the solar component and we found that it was time that somebody did, especially considering that renewable energies are playing a bigger part of our power distribution and generation,” said Vivant Foundation Executive Director Shem Garcia. “Tomorrow’s electricians need to know how to handle solar power so together with TESDA and DEPED, we created a new curriculum that would be taught for the first time in the entire country here in Bantayan National High School.”

Garcia said that for Bantayan National High School, they are donating equipment listed by TESDA as requirements for teaching the EIM course. Before the donation, the school had to make do with the scant materials that were available, said teacher John Ray Tejero Tapales.

Tapales and Martinez said they were excited to be able to work with the equipment in their EIM classes. The school has 36 Grade 12 EIM students and only 15 Grade 11 EIM pupils. Tapales said sign-ups to the course dropped after students realized there were no equipment.

Training for teacher

During the summer break, Tapales will be going to Cebu City for training on the solar component, said Garcia. Vivant Foundation also donated solar panels, inverters, and batteries so they will learn to set the system up, he said.

“We’re not the first group to do solar panel electrification for off-grid areas like in mountain schools in Luzon and Mindanao and island schools in the Visayas,” Garcia said in an interview. “But what we have that’s unique is incorporating the idea of having a larger high school that offers EIM and updating their course to include solar. In exchange for them getting the equipment and the training, they’re gonna check in on the island school that’s being electrified to make sure that it’s maintained.”

Garcia said maintenance is important when it comes to solar power. Solar panels are designed to last up to 25 years but installations that are not maintained break down after just a few years.

The students who will be trained will be the ones to maintain the solar power rooftop installation that Vivant Foundation is donating to nearby Hilotongan Integrated School. The rooftop installation will power the school’s lighting and the batch of 100 computers that arrived last year but haven’t been turned on for lack of power, said Garcia.

TRAINING. Raji Roullo (left), planning and design engineer of Vivant, explains how solar panels work to a group of Electrical Installation and Maintenance students of Bantayan National High School.

Cheaper in the long run

The foundation will be spending P3.3 million for the solar power system and more in logistics cost to power the school in Hilotongan.

“It sounds like a lot but it comes out cheaper in the long run than paying fuel for the generator. And also, consider that their generator only did their light bulbs and their electric fans and they had a hundred computers that they couldn’t even turn on,” Garcia said. “The hundred computers arrived towards the end of last year but they haven’t put it on yet because they don’t have electricity.”

The system will be installed in Hilotongan from March to May, in time for the opening of the new school year.

After Tapales is trained, he will then handle the solar power component for the 2nd year of the EIM course.

Garcia said the instructor and the top students can then make quarterly trips to Hilotongan to check on the solar power setup. They will also be the ones to handle repair requests. This partnership will also give the students the needed hours of on-the-job training for their certification.

This training on solar, he said, will give students “that extra advantage that’s needed for the future.”

The students will have a lot of opportunities in a growing industry, said Provincial Board Member Horacio Franco.

AGREEMENT. Vivant Foundation Executive Director Shem Garcia signs the agreement that covers the donation and program. Seated at right is Provincial Board Member Horacio Franco. The donation was held last Saturday at the Bantayan National High School.

Increasing interest

Garcia said that with solar “getting cheaper” every year, they hope to encourage adoption in areas like Bantayan Island.

With heightened awareness on eco-tourism and environmental issues, “there would be increasing interest in solar and especially if businesses know that there are people who can do the maintenance and repair,” he said.

Garcia said their foundation decided to focus on technology and K to 12 education after going around the different communities in the Philippines to study the needs that they could address.

“At the same time, I also went to a symposium by PhilDev and USAID where they were talking about how we needed to increase our innovation in our country because we actually lag behind our other ASEAN neighbors in science education,” he said.

They started with donating science labs and equipment as well as training teachers in Palawan, where they have a power plants.

The Bantayan Island project, he said, is “a big part of our next step.” He said they intend to make it nationwide and would be assessing its impact, particularly of the solar power curriculum, for the needed improvements.

Self-sustaining program

He said the students in Bantayan who will be trained on solar power can potentially serve the community, including five other islet schools.

“That’s basically the idea – that it would be self-sustaining on the education side. It creates people that are skilled at jobs that are growing in demand. Solar is getting cheaper every year, so the demand has been increasing every year. And we think places like this are ideal to have people educated in solar because it is known for the beautiful beaches, the beautiful water,” Garcia said.

When Hilotongan Integrated School is energized with solar power, Garcia said they could do other side projects like putting up an adult learning program on computers during weekends, when there are no regular classes.




Philex Foundation Enables ‘Knowledge Transfer’ Among Coffee Farmers

Olo-an (middle) demonstrating to fellow farmer-beneficiaries how to rejuvenate an old coffee shrub

A farmer picks some fruits from her organic strawberry garden

Sabelo (middle, with baseball cap) conducting a preliminary workshop on organic farming to fellow farmer-beneficiaries

TUBA, Benguet – Philex Group Foundation, Inc. (PGFI), the corporate social responsibility arm of Philex Mining Corp., has enabled the “knowledge transfer” between its farmer-beneficiaries engaged in organic-coffee farming, helping the latter improve their production capacity as well as saving funds for the company.

“Our country needs more coffee growers to sustain the coffee industry and coffee lovers,” Paul Buenconsejo, executive director of PGFI, told the 11 farmers who gathered Wednesday, Feb. 21, at a workshop in this town’s Sitio Ligay, Brgy. Camp 1. “That’s why we’re here to share the knowledge and skills of our two farmer-trainers.”

Stressing the foundation’s successful program on transferring of knowledge from one part of the organization to another, or what is known as knowledge transfer in organizational theory, he added, “Trainers are no longer hired consultants—which costs us so much—as there are already capacitated farmers in the community who can train those who are interested to engage in coffee production, with organic-vegetable farming as cash crops.”

Funded by the Metrobank Foundation, Inc., the workshop, dubbed “On-site Training on Coffee Farm Rehabilitation and Processing,” was facilitated by Osmundo Sabelo and Charwel Olo-an, who are farmer-beneficiaries themselves and had earlier trained and learned from the organic-farming experts hired by PGFI.

“This training is one of the missions that PGFI wants to implement—which is to build local capacities who will train their interested neighbors in coffee farming and organic-vegetable farming,” Buenconsejo said in a speech during the workshop.

With an average of 1,500 shrubs of Arabica coffee that each of the 11 farmers in Sitio Ligay own and tend to, the PGFI now has a total of 22,500 plants of Arabica coffee as its source, including the 6,000 plants belonging to coffee growers in Tuba’s Sitio Torre, Brgy. Camp 3, and in Itogon town’s Sitio Sta. Fe, Brgy. Ampucao.

“Going into organic farming was a difficult decision for me to sustain, but my willingness to help our planet and also to realize my dream of producing healthy crops pushed me to continue improving our organic farm,” said Olo-an, a 28-year-old agroforestry graduate and synthetic farmer-turned-organic farming enthusiast, who tends a family farm together with his father.

He and Sabelo taught their fellow farmers, among other things, the wet-process technique, which requires the use of specific equipment and substantial quantities of water in taking care of their coffee plants. This also requires the berries to first be sorted out by immersion in water—as against drying them under the sun right after harvest—where bad or unripe fruit will float and the good ones will sink. The initial process also includes a machine removing the skin of a berry by pressing it in water through a screen.

The trainers also taught the 11 farmers some other tips on how to rejuvenate their plants—the proper ways of pruning, trimming, and nourishing—and how to make organic fertilizer, so they can harvest more coffee berries.

“We are thankful for Philex Foundation for extending their program here in our community, as this was timely and informative,” Romana Nalibsan, 71, who participated in the workshop, said in an interview after the event. Speaking in her dialect, she added, “We can apply the techniques you taught us as early as tomorrow in our gardens. We can also teach our children and grandchildren on the proper way of coffee farming and the great benefits of producing organic crops.”

The 43-year-old chayote farmer, Elvie Cul-lao, said, “With this training, I can now prune and rejuvenate our old coffee plants which my grandfather had planted. I am also inspired with the traditional preparation of fertilizers, which, actually, are free and found locally.”

Buenconsejo said the foundation is looking to expand into areas where coffee beans can be produced according to taste. In Sitio Torre, for instance, there is a brand named Torre Coffee, which, he revealed, tastes “fruity,” while the one found in Sitio Sta. Fe tastes “chocolate-y.” But he added, “The produce of these two areas are very minimal, it cannot sustain the demand of our buyers.”

He said his team is prepared to look for more distributors once its farmer-beneficiaries increase their yield. PGFI now has 10 major distributors of its roasted and ground coffee beans, as compared to eight in 2016, the latest addition of which are the Ideal Space Foundation and the Ryokudo Eco-Services and Trading, Inc. It wants to improve on the number of its distributors of organic vegetables, however, as it has seven only now as compared to eight in 2016.

Tasked to establish livelihood programs for Philex Mining beneficiaries in the host and neighboring villages of its gold-and-copper operations in Benguet, the PGFI, which was incorporated in September 2010, is confident it could increase its yield of vegetables and coffee this year, citing an increasing number of farmer-beneficiaries going into organic farming.

In 2017, the PGFI sold 817 kilogram of organic Arabica coffee (roasted and ground) as compared to 755 kg a year earlier, while it sold 5,020 kg and 3,800 kg of organic vegetables for the same period. The foundation also produces organic strawberries and vegetables, including lettuce (romaine, baby red romaine, and iceberg), red sugar beet, French bean, radish, potato, carrot, spinach, wombok (Chinese cabbage), and flowering pechay (cabbage).


PTC-CSJ Reports 2017 Accomplishments to DepEd-Muntinlupa

PTC-CSJ Foundation, through its Executive Director, Ms. Flory Tabio, had its annual meeting with DepEd-Muntinlupa Schools Division Superintendent (SDS) Dr. Mauro C. de Gulan last January 24 to present the Foundation’s 2017 Accomplishments and 2018 Plans.

The highlights of the Foundation’s 2017 education accomplishments in Muntinlupa included:

  1. The replication of its flagship Growing Good to Great Kids or 3G Program in a fourth school, i.e., Muntinlupa Elementary School, effective SY 2017-2018;
  2. The successful implementation of Reading Camp Year 2 (a remedial reading and feeding intervention during summer vacation) which showed an average percentage increase in Mean Percentage Score from 36% to 83% among 462 slow and non-readers in four schools;
  3. The Foundation’s first Math training for 83 Math teachers on Teaching interventions in Math for Non-Numerates;
  4. The pilot implementation of Adopt-A-Ship Project which introduced shipping and its benefits to 4,540 Grades 4-6 pupils through weekly email exchanges between 19 Captains and 20 teachers; and
  5. Financial Literacy Seminars that benefitted 355 students of Muntinlupa Alternative Learning System (ALS).

Ms. Tabio was joined at the meeting by PTC-CSJ’s partners, specifically: Synergeia Foundation’s Ms. Chingkel Juan, and the Principals of PTC-CSJ’s four adopted schools in Muntinlupa: Bayanan Elementary School Main (BESM)’s Dr. Shella Navarro, Lakeview Integrated School (LIS)’ Dr. Ador Querubin, Sucat ES (SES)-Main’s Mr. Antonio Gagala, and Muntinlupa Elementary School (MES)’ Ms. Marissa Andanza.



Water Relief For Albayanos Continues

Thousands of families affected by the aggressive volcanic activities of Mount Mayon in the municipalities of Guinobatan and Camalig, and the city of Legazpi received water relief through joint efforts of private and public organizations. More than 3,800 units of 5-gallon potable water were initially deployed by Manila Water Foundation (MWF), the social responsibility arm of the Manila Water group of companies in the Philippines, via its ‘Agapay Para Sa Barangay’ (APSB) program.

On January 13, 2018, Mayon Volcano ended the day with an explosion which resulted in a 2.5km high ash plume, which triggered the immediate evacuation of at least 16 barangays. Due to the danger posed by the imminent eruption of the volcano, over 67,000 individuals were temporarily housed in public schools and other public facilities.

Since residents who live near the volcano only source their everyday drinking water from wells and springs situated in their communities, potable water became scarce. This also resulted in cases of diarrhea among children who currently reside in evacuation centers where access to proper sanitation is also poor.

Through MWF’s partnership with the Office of the Vice President, Department of Environment and Natural Resources – Environment Management Bureau, local government units, Team Albay Youth Organizations, Adventist Development and Relief Agency, and Manila Water Philippine Ventures, seamless coordination, transportation, and distribution of the clean and safe drinking water were made possible.

Among the beneficiaries of the water relief is Marita Mostera, a resident of Brgy. Anoling in Camalig, Albay, who shared her ordeal related to potable water supply. Knowing that the other evacuees are also in need, she and her family of eight must conserve their daily water allocation. Because of this, she was thankful to MWF for providing additional clean and safe drinking water to her family and the other displaced families.

The local government unit of Guinobatan also expressed their appreciation for MWF’s prompt response.

“Thank you very much sa Manila Water Foundation, na-appreciate talaga namin. Imagine, all the way from Manila, dumating sa amin [ang] tatlong 10-wheeler [trucks] ng tubig. Talagang grabe po ang pasalamat ng LGU [ng] Guinobatan, at siyempre po ng mga evacuees na nag-benefit sa potable water na binigay ninyo,” Guinobatan Mayor Ann Ongjoco shared.

(Thank you very much, Manila Water Foundation. We really appreciate it. Imagine, all the way from Manila, three 10-wheeler trucks arrived here carrying potable water. The LGU of Guinobatan, especially the evacuees who benefitted from the potable water, are very grateful.)

MWF is set to deploy additional 2,400 units of 5-gallon potable water for the remaining evacuees.

Manila Water Foundation continues to send water relief to the families affected by the Mayon Volcano eruption. To date, more than 3,800 units of 5-gallon potable water have been sent out to the thousands of families residing in evacuation areas in the municipalities of Guinobatan and Camalig, and the city of Legazpi. Additional 2,400 units will be deployed for the remaining evacuees.


CLAFI leads multi-year reforestation and watershed protection project

The Watershed Protection Project will focus reforesting within the Siguil Watershed to help restore and ensure the flow of water to the three (3) major tributaries of the Watershed from the southern side.

Conrado & Ladislawa Alcantara Foundation, Inc. (CLAFI), with funding from Sarangani Energy Corporation (SEC), implements a multi-year reforestation and watershed protection project that will reforest 4,200 hectares within the Maasim Watershed. In January 2018, SEC tapped CLAFI, the corporate social responsibility arm of the Alcantara Group, to facilitate the implementation of the project in 10 years.

The project’s approach is forest restoration using indigenous species for biodiversity and ecosystem resiliency focusing in Siguil Watershed. On choosing indigenous species, Mr. Richlie Lyndon Magtulis, Executive Director of CLAFI explained, “Native species can survive against various local pests and diseases. They also have different shapes, structures, and capacities to cope with harsh environmental and human disturbances.”

Planting indigenous species is also an additional source of income for the local farmers. Native species can provide non-timber forest products like resin or essential oils. They can also thrive well in tropical rainforest ecosystems thus producing optimum environmental goods such as water, including services such as carbon storage and soil nutrients that are important to local businesses,” added Mr. Magtulis. CLAFI will also plant agro-forestry species such as Falcata, Calliandra, Arabica and Robusta coffee as an additionl income- generating avenue for the local farmers.

The 10-year project would require 640,000 seedlings annually. “The project has an existing nursery of 120,000 seedlings of Arabica coffee ready to be planted in 75 hectares in the next months. We have also propagated around 180,000 seedlings of various seeds such as other varieties of Arabica Coffee, Falcatta, Caliandra, Mosizi tree, and Tuliptree. “We will continue to source for seedlings in partnership with various non-government organizations to ensure continuous planting in the next 10 years,” said Mr. Magtulis. All these efforts will help restore and ensure the flow of water from three (3) major creeks: Gumehe/Mehe, Alkilan and Salvoyan. These are the major tributaries of the Siguil River from the southern (lower) side.

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