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After Typhoon Haiyan: Solar lamps to bring light to communities in Visayas

It could take six months to restore damaged electricity network

Gulf News

Manila: Volunteers at a livelihood skills development agency are rushing the assembly of solar-powered lamps that will provide lighting to communities in the dark in the Visayas as a result of Typhoon Haiyan’s onslaught.

“These lights can help bring a sense of normalcy to families, who lost every material possession, and some, even their loved ones,” Secretary Joel Villanueva, director general of the government Technical Skills and Development Agency (TESTA), said.

Eastern and Western Visayas, particularly the islands of Leyte, Samar and portions of Negros and Capiz had been without power since November 8 when one of the most powerful tyhoons in the country, Haiyan struck. Along with destroying houses and taking the lives of some 5,211 people. The severe weather disturbance left tens of thousands of households in the dark and without electricity.

The Department of Energy said it could take several more weeks or even up to six months to fully restore the damaged electricity distribution network to its normalcy.

In the meantime, affected communities bear with being in the dark, compounding the misery of losing loved ones from the typhoon and living in debris-strewn dwellings that used to be their houses.

Villanueva said technical-vocational graduates, trainers and volunteers are all aiming to initially produce as many as 1,300 units of the solar lights under a joint project of the Technical Education and Skills Development Authority (TESDA) and the locally-based My Shelter Foundation.

Most of the assembled lamps, primarily composed of a solar panel and low power consuming light-emitting diode (LED) will be sent to Tacloban City in Leyte, which was among the hardest hit by the typhoon. The remaining units will be distributed to other heavily-affected areas.

An initial 50 units had been given to TESDA employees affected by the typhoon.

Villanueva said the solar-powered devices are practical and safe as it does not use kerosene like typical lamps. As it stands, the typhoon devastated provinces are also experiencing shortages in petrol and oil derived products such as kerosene or paraffin.

My Shelter Foundation is headed by Ilac Diaz, the same group that promotes the use of “solar bulbs” improvised from empty clear plastic softdrink bottles are filled with water, a pinch of bleach, and pieces of materials that reflect light.

The original solar bulbs, which can only be used during the day time, captures ambient light and magnifies them to light up park portions of the house — thus cutting down on electricity bills.

But My Shelter Foundation and TESDA took the idea one step further. The original solar bulb had been “retrofitted” with solar-powered LED with a very simple design using locally available materials that can be easily fabricated and repaired. The light uses solar energy to power the lamp that will illuminate the bottle at night.

The US Embassy gave the initial funding of $10,000 for the project, which was augmented by funds from TESDA.

According to Villanueva, he hopes the agency could secure more funding to produce more solar lights for the typhoon victims.

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