Poles prove power project progress for Ati tribe

Power project progress for Ati tribe means these polls on the ground will soon be taking electricity to Ati homes.

Last Updated on June 8, 2023 by Ellen

After weeks of waiting, I’m thrilled to share real progress on the second community improvement project we have undertaken with the disadvantaged indigenous Ati tribe here in the Philippines: electric power.

Power poles have been delivered by the local power company – Aklan Electric Cooperative (AKELCO).

Installation is next.

Power project progress

The photos here show two of the steel poles dropped off in the last few days. 

Poles delivered by the electric company lay on the ground waiting for connections to give the upper Ati tribe in Malay Municipality electric service.

One pole has already been carried more than a mile up into the jungle hills to the Ati village where 18 households are set to become new AKELCO customers.

The second pole is at the bottom of the long steep footpath to the village – where current electric service ends. It will be outfitted with a transformer to properly boost the current for the village above.

At least two more poles are expected to be delivered and erected in the coming week. I’ve been assured by the power company, the new line work is imminent.

The current progress comes after many weeks of bureaucratic delays; customer applications, barangay (precinct) verifications and payments, company reviews, engineering consults, an orientation/safety seminar.

Indigenous Ati tribe members with the wires and connections inside their homes back in June 2020 show the power project progress has been months in the making.

Months in the making

Of course, this whole effort has been months in the making.

In fact, it was in early June – soon after we had started working with the Ati on rebuilding their typhoon-destroyed hen house – when the tribe strung more than a kilometer of ‘main line’ electric cable up to the hilltop.

Then in July, with the support of our generous overseas donors, we purchased the remainder of the required main line cable and the basic electrical components (breaker, outlet, switch, socket) to wire the interior of each of the small Ati nipa hut homes (and the hen house).

By early-August, as the egg-laying hens settled into their new coop, we began the new customer application and certification processes.

Outdoor picture of Akelco office in Caticlan on the left; an indoor picture of the Akelco office on the right.

Finally, this week, all the pieces – and paperwork – seemed to be in place.

I twice visited the AKELCO service offices here in Malay, Aklan on the Philippine island of Panay. Each time I brought cash to satisfy the last requirement; a fee of 360 Philippine pesos ($7.20) for each of the new Ati customers ($130 total).

It doesn’t sound like much, but in a place where the daily labor wage is $5 – not considering coronavirus job losses – such a cost can be unmanageable. Earth Vagabonds and friends are happy to help with the fee.

Imminent connections…

Unfortunately, the customer service manager – who was very pleasant – declined to take the money at this time because of an AKELCO policy that states once a customer pays, the company must turn on power within 48 hours. And apparently, failure brings a negative ‘audit’ procedure.

Obviously, with the poles still being delivered and days of work yet to be done, there was no way the crews could comply with the 48-hour policy. 

Thus, with AKELCO confident of payment, I was asked to return with the funds next week – once the poles are in place and individual household connections are being made. 

Be assured, I’ll be there – and eager to see our months-long efforts come to fruition.

With any luck, within the next week to 10 days AKELCO will have completed all the connection work and the hilltop Ati will have electric service. 

Further, power will also enable the next phase of our Ati assistance efforts — a major water system improvement.

Stay tuned for ongoing updates on all fronts.

As always, be thankful and generous, happy trails & more beer.

Life is NOW!

Thanks for reading, “Poles prove power project progress for Ati tribe.”

Earth Vagabonds have been in the Philippines since November 2019. Tedly’s mom Diane came to visit for the winter, but remained well into 2020 because of the pandemic. Tedly, Diane, and Ellen decided to rebuild the Ati chicken coop, get electricity to the upper village, and work on water supply improvements to help the tribe while they are on a pandemic travel pause. None of it would have been possible without the generosity of overseas donors.

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