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Streams of Light: A Project for Change
May 12, 2016
Joel Marfil's family used to pay P6,000 a month for their electric bill.But he doesn't receive an actual electric bill from the Visayan Electric Company (VECO). Instead, he directly pays to a friend and neighbor, who allowed them to connect electricity from their residence.He shares the fee with his son who also has a family of his own. They have an air conditioning unit, television set and light bulbs.“My salary is just consumed by my electricity bill," Joel says in Cebuano.
For more than 16 years, he had to shoulder the big amount every month. A building permit is required for one to get a legal electricity connection from VECO. A lot of them in the community don’t have that.He said that he and his other neighbors have tried to apply for a VECO connection before through a fixer but they were only duped. The fixer ran away with the money.According to Joel, the connection fees depend on the rates and assessment of owners of residences who have legal electric meters from VECO. A connection usually runs from P3,000 to P5,000. This excludes the P20,000 that he had to shell out for the wiring materials and electrician before.But VECO has now introduced the Streams of Light program in Talisay City where Joel lives. This is similar to the Cebu City government's "Let There Be Light" project wherein informal settlers are aided by the local government unit to help them get a legal electrical permit through support from the city’s building official."Now that VECO’s Streams of Light program has come, we are really happy. We didn’t have a VECO connection. We just tapped electricity from our neighbors. We begged them so we can have electricity," he says.Marissa, Joel's wife, showed their first VECO electric bill of P1,300."It is no longer very heavy to bear," Marissa adds in Cebuano.
Joel says the project has helped him and his other neighbors go for a legal connection. At first, they were hesitant to believe in the project.“There were already a lot of fixers who came here and it has been a long time since we had an electric connection. We can’t blame them if they won’t immediately believe it. Even if they have seen electric posts being placed here, they still did not believe it. They really didn’t believe until they saw our house with electricity," Joel explains in Cebuano. A lot of people in their community didn’t believe the news of having their own VECO electric meter outside their house until they saw it with their own eyes."This project has greatly helped us. Now that we have our own electric meter, we no longer have to worry about the high electric bill and we are also safe from fires," Joel says.
Faulty wirings are often the cause of fires and electrocutions especially in densely populated and closely-knit areas.Joel, who works as a job order employee under the Talisay City government's Local Housing Board, says there are now a total of 100 houses that have legal electric connection with VECO. Others are still applying for one, including his son.Joel, along with the other residents of UP lot in Barangay Lawaan I, Talisay City, are the first beneficiaries of the Streams of Light project in the city.