USC students vie in national tilt on renewable energy solutions
(The Philippine Star) - January 26, 2016 - 9:00am

CEBU, Philippines - A group of students from the University of San Carlos is representing Cebu in the country’s first inter-university competition on the use of renewable energy sources.

In their pitch video, engineering students Jan Dave Campañera, John Carlos Matiga, Neil John Perez, Bonifacio Saut, Franklin Tating Jr. and Jon Paulo Siglos want to establish solar panels in Malapascua Island that will harness power to treat brackish water to potable water.

This after the group, calling themselves USC Team Kahayag, found out during an on-site survey that only one of the island’s nine sitios is capable of providing safe water for locals.

Malapascua, one of Cebu’s famed tourist destinations for diving, is an island situated about seven kilometers from mainland Cebu’s northernmost tip. Administratively, it is part of Barangay Logon in Daanbantayan town.

Owing to its location, residents have to cross to the mainland to buy cheaper water that is safe for human consumption.

One of the group’s advisers, Christine Marie Ilagan, shared that during their situational analysis, they found out that potable water is being sold in the island at P60 per five gallons or thrice the cost when bought from the mainland.

“Not all of the sitios have atabay (well). There is only one sitio that provides potable water but even then, it’s a challenge for the rest of the sitios because it’s quite far,” Ilagan told The FREEMAN. “The other eight sitios have wells but these supply brackish or slightly salty water.”

Aside from putting up an efficient water treatment facility, the group also intends to use solar energy to operate a machine that will improve productivity in the local dry fishing industry. As an island, most of Malapascua’s residents depend on fishing and fish drying as their main sources of livelihood.

“We want the program to be holistic. We don’t want to focus on just providing an alternative source of electricity. More than that, there should be an improvement in their lives,” said Ilagan.

The group’s pitch made it to the Top 12 cut in the ongoing Sikat Solar Design Challenge of the Sikat Solar Challenge Foundation Inc., an organization that aims to undertake viable programs for the study application of renewable energy sources in the Philippines.

This week, organizers will choose the best three pitches to qualify for the next round on February 2 where participants will be required to present their initiatives before a panel.

The winning group will receive seed money of P250,000 from the foundation which can then be used to implement the project in its chosen community.

But win or lose, Ilagan assured they will carry out the program in Malapascua as planned.

“Our joining, this is just a triggering factor…to show to people that there are alternative sources of energy waiting to be harnessed. This is just a springboard. Modaog or dili, we will really implement the project,” said Ilagan, adding that they have already received various pledges from alumni and other benefactors.

The Malapascua initiative is not the first time the Carolinian team took part in projects related to renewable energy.

At the wake of Typhoon Ruby in December 2014, the students, along with faculty member Engineer Philip Wong-Marcon, were involved in the installation of 50-watt solar panel system in public hospitals and barangays in Samar in coordination with Project EnKindle.

One of the members had also joined in the installation of a five-kilowatt solar panel system in the Yolanda-ravaged town of San Remigio in northern Cebu, in collaboration with another non-government group. — (FREEMAN)

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