Echague, Isabela – One afternoon in October, Efren Santiago, the barangay chairman of San Miguel in Echague, was earnestly planting seeds on soil bags. These seeds would then bring fruition to livelihood opportunities to empower the community of Barangay San Miguel.
Santiago led the planting of 36,550 seeds of plant species recently under the community development program of renewable energy developer Rio Norte Hydropower Corp.
Leading the planting group, Santiago was joined by RNHC’s forest management partner and community individuals, including a blind man who expressed his gratitude to work on a project that would benefit the people through livelihood opportunities.
Lhyzar Edrosolano, the new project manager of RNHC, said the seed planting activity is rooted from RNHC’s community development program, which is a benefit of the company’s 19.7-megawatt run-of-river hydropower plant along Ilaguen River in Echague.
The program seeks to cultivate the vegetation in the area and empower the communities.
“This forest management activity, which is a part of our community development program, is all for empowering the people of Barangay San Miguel. We want to make sure that our project, the 19.7-MW run-of-river hydropower project, will not only provide power but will also help curb the poverty in the area by enabling the community to improve their livelihood through these programs,” Edrosolano said.
“We aim to have a positive impact on the environment of Barangay San Miguel and Echague, as well as to uplift the economic situation of our stakeholders,” he said.
Edrosolano said the program involves mobilizing the group as a cooperative which will plant the seeds. In turn, the harvest from the seeds will benefit the community through livelihood and income generation.
These benefits will enable the families to have enough resources to sustain their way of living and send their children to schools, he said.
The recent seed planting activity generated income for 15 individuals in Barangay San Miguel. Aton said this is only the first phase of the greening program, adding that future programs will orbit around livelihood-related initiatives.
RNHC signed memoranda of agreement with the municipality of Echague and the province of Isabela to implement vital infrastructure and community development programs for the far-flung barangays in Echague, including Barangay San Miguel.
RNHC will construct two access roads about 45-kilometers long and implement a holistic community development program which are benefits from the company’s upcoming hydropower project.
These programs intend to strengthen the communities, improve trade and access to basic services, promote eco-tourism and create a sustainable livelihood.
The run-of-river hydropower project is expected to bring down the cost of power generation in Isabela and bring forth various corporate social responsibility programs for the communities before, during and after the development of the hydropower facility.