16 Mar 2016

President Aquino inaugurates P5.7-billion Solar Farm in Batangas
(CALATAGAN, Batangas) President Benigno S. Aquino III on Wednesday led the inauguration of the P5.7-billion Calatagan Solar Farm, the biggest solar farm in Luzon.

The President was joined by Energy Undersecretary Donato Marcos and Solar Philippines Chief Executive Officer Leandro Leviste during the switch-on ceremony that signalled the opening of the solar farm, which supplies enough power for the entire western Batangas.

The Calatagan Solar Farm has 200,000 panels on a 160-hectare property in Barangay Paraiso. Over three decades, it will offset more than 1 million tons of carbon dioxide, which is equivalent to planting some 5 million trees.

The farm was developed, constructed and financed by Solar Philippines with funding assistance from the Philippine Business Bank (PBB), Banco de Oro, China Bank, and Bank of Commerce.

The Calatagan Solar Farm began operation weeks before the Department of Energy’s (DOE) Feed-in-Tariff deadline set on March 15, 2016. This program is part of the Renewable Energy Law, which was finally implemented under the Aquino administration.

“Solar has just begun to realize its potential. It will soon not only be cleaner, but cheaper and more reliable than coal, and in a matter of years, supply the majority of our country’s energy needs,” said Leviste.

From less than 2 megawatts (MW) at the start of the Aquino administration, the country’s installed solar capacity has exceeded the 500 MW target set by the DOE.

President Aquino also inaugurated the 1.5-MW SM North EDSA solar carpark, also developed by Solar Philippines, back in 2014.

Solar Philippines is eyeing to complete 500 MW of solar capacity by 2017 with projects in Luzon and Mindanao.

Also present at the inauguration were Interior and Local Government Secretary Mel Senen Sarmiento, Customs Commissioner Bert Lina, PBB Chairman Emeritus Ambassador Fred Yao, former Calatagan Mayor Peter Palacio representing wife and current Mayor Sophia Palacio, Environment and Natural Resources Region 4 Director Reynulfo Juan, and mayors Charito Apacible (Nasugbu), Michael Montenegro (Taal), and Jose Cerrafo (Tuy). PND (jm)

President Aquino graces Agriculture Center’s 30th foundation anniversary
(BAY, Laguna) President Benigno S. Aquino III on Wednesday attended the 30th anniversary of the Center for Agriculture and Rural Development Mutually Reinforcing Institutions (CARD MRI), a social development organization that helps the government eradicate poverty.

In his speech during the event here, the President recalled that his mother, the late president Corazon Aquino, strongly advocated people empowerment through microfinance and cooperative-based activities.

He said that following his mother’s guiding principle, his administration is likewise pushing for inclusive growth for all Filipinos.

“At ‘yan nga po mismo ang ginagawa natin ngayon. Alam po ninyo, marami tayong mga kababayan na masipag, may magandang plano, ambisyon, pero hindi makapagsimula ng negosyo dahil walang puhunan,” the President said.

He noted that in 2013, micro-, small and medium enterprises (MSMEs) comprised more than 99 percent of business establishments in the country, helping create 63.7 percent of jobs in the Philippines that year.

“Kung hindi nga po matutugunan ang pangangailangan, masasayang lang ang potensyal nilang umasenso, pati ang kakayahan nitong magbukas pa ng maraming pagkakataon sa ating mga kababayan,” he said.

The President commended the CARD MRI for helping the government extend financial support to less privileged Filipinos.

Through the leadership of the Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas (BSP), he said, more local government units now have access to microfinance, microenterprise loans, and microinsurance.

The BSP also offers the Economic and Financial Learning Program and Financial Empowerment Sessions that train borrowers how to manage funds, he said, adding that last year, the National Strategy for Financial Inclusion was launched to ensure that everyone, including indigenous people and women, are covered by the financial system.

The Chief Executive further said that he has signed the Microfinance NGOs Act that strengthens the ability of non-governmental organizations to offer microfinance services and other assistance to those who want to start a business but lack capital.

“Kakapasa lang rin natin ng Credit Surety Fund Cooperative Act, na tutulungan ang ating mga MSMEs, NGOs, at mga kooperatibang makakuha ng loan na siya namang magagamit nilang kapital,” he added.

The President also shared the good news that because of these initiatives, the Philippines was recognized by the Economic Intelligence Unit as the number one country in Asia and number three in the world in terms of promoting financial inclusion in 2014 and 2015.

However, he said, for these reform measures to continue, the people need to support the administration’s candidates come election time in May.
Beginning with a mere P20 capital and a typewriter, the CARD MRI has grown into a group of 14 development organizations fueled by its dedication to fight poverty in the country.

From an NGO that provided microfinance services to women microentrepreneurs in 1986, the CARD MRI has evolved into a center that has established rural and thrift banks, microfinance providers, a mutual benefit association, a foundation, an IT company, leasing and financing corporations, a training center, and a college.

It was the first NGO to obtain a license in 1997 from the BSP as a microfinance-oriented rural bank, which is now the CARD Bank Inc. The CARD MRI has more than 3 million clients at present.

In 2008, the center received the Ramon Magsaysay Award for Public Service.

With its dedication to help poor Filipino families, the CARD MRI has provided microfinance to almost 16.5 percent of the country’s total population, through its CARD Mutual Benefit Association Inc. (CARD MBA).

It has also rolled out its ambitious 5-8-40 strategy, targeting within five years to reach 8 million clients. Expecting a multiplier effect from its strategy, the organization hopes to extend community development programs, such as insurance, health services, and education, to 40 million individuals over that period. PND (as)