The regional office of the science and technology department in MIMAROPA recently installed three-kilowatt off-grid solar energy systems (SES) in the towns of Calintaan and Rizal in Occidental Mindoro to provide residents with power, particularly during man-made and natural catastrophic events.

They were installed in the evacuation centers and isolation areas of the two municipalities to be used in the event that power lines are toppled or power supplies are interrupted. The structures serve as temporary shelters for displaced families during typhoons and other natural calamities.

“Our emergency response teams cannot immediately provide rescue during these times”, according to Mayor Sonny Pablo of the municipal government of Rizal. “Most of the power lines are cut. Although communications can be through cellphones, some people’s phone cannot sustain a long battery life, and because we have lost our electricity, we resort on using a two-way radio for communication to check for status updates with the barangay officials.”

Calintaan Mayor Eric Labrador also noted that towns are becoming increasingly isolated during catastrophes due to the difficulty of responders reaching those in need and the need to contact the local administration.

When telco signals go down, two-way radios are the only method to communicate with community leaders, he said.

The Department of Science and Technology (DOST) stated that the SES can create carbon-free, solar-powered electricity while the power grid is being restored. The backup power provided by SES can be utilized to power lights, electric fans, radios, and mobile device chargers, thereby reducing the pain faced by affected communities.

Since 2018, the SES has been used for fast reaction, notably when there are typhoons.

The DOT said residents, community leaders, and government maintain communication before and during catastrophes to ensure that any bad effects do not worsen and that fast responses are provided.

As Typhoon Rolly hit Occidental Mindoro in 2020, families from Rizal were accommodated in evacuation shelters due to the potential of tsunami and storm surges in coastal areas. The LGU’s Rizal Evacuation Center, which was powered by the SES, assisted more than five families and 26 persons.

During the pandemic, the SES also performed its role, as evacuation centers doubled as isolation units. The SES provided illumination and ventilation to over 180 families or 900 people infected with COVID-19.

“Masaya po kami dahil kahit walang bagyo o kalamidad ang SES project ay malaking tulong din sa amin tuwing nagkakaroon ng malawakang power interuption sa aming lugar,” said Joven N. Gequiñana of the Municipal Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Office (MDRRMO) of Calintaan.

Aside from easing the pressure during calamities, the solar energy system also helps with the persistent problem of power outages in Calintaan and Rizal, which leave the towns without power for days at a time.

Representatives from the two towns also received a Training on Operation and Maintenance from DOST-MIMAROPA to give them a thorough understanding of the technology and its operation and prevention of system failure.

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