$7 (350 Philippine pesos) doesn’t seem like much money. But that amount has been causing serious angst.
I wrote two days ago about the progress in plans for basic electric service to be provided to a number of indigenous Ati tribal homes here in Malay, Aklan on Panay Island, Philippines.
The cluster of about 20 small, native nipa huts is located more than a mile up into the jungle hills above the seaside road and rice fields and our current rental apartment.
We have met and are assisting the Ati with several community sustainability projects, including the electric installation, while we wait out the coronavirus pandemic shutdown.
But now, the unexpected $7 ‘new customer’ service charge has left some Ati wary of the the pending lifestyle “improvement”.
Background and requirements
Over a month ago, the Ati themselves hung a donated electric ‘main line’ through the rolling jungle terrain and requested connection by the local power company, AKELCO (Aklan Electric Company).
An AKELCO representative inspected the line and gave tentative approval to prepare the homes for service. But when we asked for clarification of several issues, AKELCO assigned company ‘engineers’ to review the whole plan.
Fortunately, after inspecting the main line and visiting with the Ati at their homes, the engineers again determined the project could move forward.
Further, all remaining questions were answered and the Ati informed of various stipulations: each house needs to be made ‘hook-up ready’, individual household electric meters are assured, 30 meters of free ‘connection line’ offered per home, a compulsory safety seminar will be held for all new customers, AND a 350 Peso ($7) ‘new customer’ fee must be paid in advance.
When visiting with Ati leaders yesterday, I learned that the fee was causing some of the hopeful new power customers serious concern. Bottom line, many of them just don’t have the money. For people who make $5 per day for day labor – and are struggling due to the COVID-19 lockdown – a $7 charge is substantial.
I was happy to assure the Ati that we would pay all the ‘new customer’ fees as part of our previous commitment to make the houses ready for electricity. That includes buying and installing a basic breaker/fuse, outlet, light socket, switch, and low consumption LED bulb.
We are able do all of it with the help of donations by family, friends, and readers of this blog.
To be honest, when I heard of the anxiety caused by the fee — and witnessed the relief when I said we would pay — I was nearly overwhelmed with emotion. I literally had to step away to ‘process’ the difference $7 can make in the lives of others. Thanks to all who contributed and care.
It also did occur to me that if $7 is a hardship, paying a monthly electric bill might too be difficult. And I did make clear to the Ati that they will be solely responsible for their individual bills. Presumably, one LED light bulb and perhaps a fan or small appliance should yield a very low bill.
Further, I made clear that anyone can ‘opt out’. We are not trying to force progress, change, or electricity upon anyone. The message seemed to be understood and appreciated. We’ll see what happens. That’s all we can do.
I do know that many of the Ati are excited at the prospect of finally having electric power. And they have thanked us profusely for our support and sponsorship of the electric initiative and others.
After being delayed last week, we can now purchase and install the basic electric components required in each of the participating homes. AKELCO will then be asked to schedule the safety seminar, meter installation, and connection work — AND we gladly will pay the ‘new customer’ service fees.
As always, be thankful and generous, happy trails & more beer.
Life is NOW!
Thanks for reading, “$7 new customer fee for electricity to Ati village causes angst.”
More information about the Ati on Panay Island:
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