By JUNE S. BLANCO
JANUARY 7, 2017 will forever be etched in the minds of the over 700 households in the three-barangay island of Mahanay off Getafe and Talibon towns.
This was when Rep. Erico Aristotle Aumentado (Bohol, 2nd District) powered on the ceremonial switch for the P30-million energization project for the island. Engr. Eugene Tan, manager of the Bohol II Electric Cooperative Inc. (Boheco II) assisted him.
Not resting on his laurels, Aumentado recently sought updates from former Camarines Sur congressman and now Energy Undersecretary for Power, Renewable Energy, and Media Affairs Felix William “Wimpy” Fuentebella.
An island will remain under-developed without the necessary basic infrastructure support.
To note, in his switch-on message, Aumentado waxed sentimental as he declared the fulfillment of the promise his namesake father and immediate congressional predecessor, former Gov. Erico Boyles Aumentado, had made to the islanders.
Patterned after the Leyte-Bohol Interconnection project, Mahanay taps power from mainland Bohol through submarine cables.
The National Electrification Administration (NEA) through then Administrator Edita Bueno downloaded the amount to Boheco II that undertook the bidding process for the cable and installed it, along with the electric poles, power main and lateral lines. Boheco II manages the power distribution to the households as well.
The elder Aumentado had broached the energization plan for the 2nd District’s 35 islands and islets to Bueno. With the technology already available, it did not take him long to convince her. However, death overtook him on Christmas Day of 2012.
Aumentado, the son, picked up the pieces where his father left off. In 2015, during his own first term as congressman, he brought to Mahanay the members of the board of Boheco II to answer questions on the technical side from the islanders.
“I promised them that I will give my best to bring in more hope in life by giving the light that will improve the standard of living of my constituents in the island,” he said.
Now that the Mahanay islanders have finally experienced the “normal life” enjoyed and even taken for granted by mainland residents – lights at night, ice cold water and beverages, television, electric fan, and above all, refrigerators and ice to keep their fish catch fresh, he wants the other islands and islets to follow.
NEA has inventoried the still powerless islands. Those not yet up for submarine-overhead cables mix or solar power like Pandanon island will be enrolled in the Small Power Utilities Group (SPUG) that will provide a generator that will run for limited periods, like four to six hours only, each night.
Islanders without electricity have to sell their catch cheap. With no cold storage, refrigerators or at least ice, their fish are vulnerable to spoilage. Cooking them all in one batch is impractical. The only other option is salting and/or drying them – which cannot be done in rainy, even stormy weather.
With cold storage, however, the islanders can freeze their catch, and release when they cannot go out to sea due to bad weather. This way, they can also assist in normalizing fish market prices.