Philippine villagers get to watch, play basketball thanks to Chinese-funded power project

Residents in Baliwet can now make use of solar energy after a Chinese-funded project called "Brighten Up" provided solar stations to the community. The project aims to promote equality in terms of receiving both intellectual and physical education for Baliwet students. 

MANILA, June 9 (Xinhua) -- Jaderick Castillo, a 12-year-old Filipino boy from a mountain village in northern Philippines Zambales province, can finally get to watch his idols play basketball live on TV, thanks to a Chinese-funded solar electrification project that brought solar power to this far-flung village.

Castillo's remote impoverished village has been without electricity for decades until this month when the Chinese company State Grid Corporation of China (SGCC) donated solar stations to the community. The poverty alleviation project, called "Brighten Up", provides electricity to nearly 400 houses owned by approximately 1,000 villagers, allowing them to make use of solar energy to light up their houses and power the appliances in the village.

Castillo knows lots of basketball superstars like Micheal Jordan, Tim Duncan, Stephen Curry of the National Basketball Association (NBA), and Asi Taulava of the Philippine Basketball Association (PBA), popular names that he heard from his Physical Education (PE) teacher Dennis Asencio at Baliwet Elementary School.

Castillo has never watched his favorite superstars playing a game on TV.
"We only have four battery-operated TV sets in the whole village. The batteries are expensive so we only turn on the TV to watch major events," Baliwet village chief Elsie Esteban told Xinhua in an interview.

Asencio said the students are into sports like basketball, soccer and badminton. "Sports are the only recreational activity that the children can participate in the village without electricity," he said.
However, he said the mud-and ash-covered playground is unsafe and inconvenient to the children during their PE class. "What's more, the playground turned into swamps during rainy seasons. All children have to stay in the classroom," Asencio added.

With the "Brighten Up" project, change has come to the village.

As part of the closer ties between both countries, SGCC on last January signed a memorandum of agreement with the Philippine National Electrification Administration (NEA) and the Zambales II Electric Cooperative (Zameco II) for the solar project.

The project broke the ground in January 2019 and will be officially finished by the end of June.
"The power supply project uses solar micro-grid to provide centralized power with a power generation capacity of 76kw and a battery storage capacity of 390kwh. It basically meets the needs of some 1,000 villagers and 108 students in two schools," said Liu Ming, deputy chief representative of SGCC Philippine Office.

He added that the village will enjoy solar power supply all day, which will give the villagers a bright future.

The SGCC and its local partners also built two new standard basketball courts in the two elementary schools in the village, allowing the students to practice the basketball skills they see on TV.

"They (the students) can watch basketball live at any time after school, and also have PE class under any weather," said Michelle Beltran, deputy headmaster of the Baliwet Elementary School.

Beltran said that according to the school's curriculum, there are two PE classes in a week. "But the children now are eager to have PE classes each day," she added.

"The Philippines new school year started this June, and that's why we targeted to finish the project in this month," Liu said, adding that the "Brighten Up" project also aims to promote equality.

"We hope every student in the Philippines could receive an equal education, that is both intellectual and physical," he said.