Despite the continuing rise in COVID-19 infections in the Philippines, One Meralco Foundation (OMF), the corporate foundation of electric distributor Manila Electric Company (Meralco), has resumed its electrification of off-grid public schools to help teachers in far-flung communities implement blended learning.

The previous year was definitely a very tough year for any community and business mainly due to the various impacts of coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) pandemic, coupled with the eruption of the Taal Volcano and Typhoons Quinta, Rolly, and Ulysses.

As the country’s largest private electric distribution utility company, the Manila Electric Company, more known as Meralco, recognizes how challenging it has been to constantly deliver power to stakeholders amid a public health crisis.

Nevertheless, as Meralco Chairman Manuel V Pangilinan and President and Chief Executive Officer Ray C. Espinosa stated in the firm’s latest annual report, Meralco has become determined to “keeping the lights on” while it remains committed to delivering power to the center of the country’s commerce, industry, and government.

“Our message at that time: this situation calls for the light within each one of us to be a beacon of reliability and hope,” Messrs. Pangilinan and Espinosa stated in their message in Meralco’s 2020 Annual Report.

Aside from its efforts in empowering and protecting its employees as well as relieving the financial burdens of its customers, Meralco actively participated in helping the country fight against COVID-19 and address other issues that apparently were further stressed by the pandemic.

“We partnered with the government and other private institutions to scale up COVID-19 initiatives in the country and supported national efforts for public safety and well-being. And our people responded with a multitude of small acts of heroism, adding up to show Meralco’s heart for this country and the medical frontliners fighting the pandemic,” Messrs. Pangilinan and Espinosa noted.

Meralco’s initiatives with the government and the private sector in responding to COVID-19 include energizing more than 90 essential facilities, which include the 525-bed Solaire-PAGCOR Mega Quarantine Center at Bagong Nayong Pilipino in Paranaque City; the 300-bed Mega Quarantine Center at the Philippine Arena Complex in Bocaue, Bulacan; and the 112-bed temporary COVID-19 Health Facility at Ninoy Aquino Stadium in Manila.

Meralco also installed additional facilities to energize mortuary freezers of East Avenue Medical Center, Loyola Memorial Chapels & Crematorium and Arlington Memorial Chapels, both in Quezon City. The firm also energized the government’s partner in manufacturing ventilators for COVID-19 patients, Kinpo Electronics Philippines Inc., in Sto. Tomas, Batangas.

Meralco also participated in conducting inspection, clearing, and testing of electric distribution facilities serving vital institutions, including temporary treatment centers such as the World Trade Center, Philippine International Convention Center, Quezon Institute, Philippine Sports Complex, and Rizal Memorial Coliseum, among others.

In partnership with South Luzon Thermal Energy Corporation and San Miguel Corporation Global Power Foundation, Meralco sponsored the electricity bills of three mega quarantine centers in Metro Manila namely, the World Trade Center, Philippine International Convention Center (PICC), and the Ninoy Aquino Stadium.

Through its corporate social responsibility arm One Meralco Foundation (OMF), Meralco donated the distribution component of the electricity bills of three lodging facilities in Pasig City.

In addition, last June, Meralco started supplying energy to the Manila Mega Field Hospital at Rizal Park in Ermita, Manila.

The annual report also stressed that the firm refocused its advocacy programs to aid those who were most vulnerable to the impact of the pandemic, namely medical frontliners and marginalized members of society.

Among Meralco’s initiatives to these sectors include the donation of personal protective equipment to more than 6,000 medical frontliners; the dispatching of electric jeepneys to 76,364 frontliners through its eSakay initiative; the housing of 32 frontliners from The Medical City, Pasig in the Meralco Compound; and the distribution of 7,856 food packages to street dwellers and low-income families in 31 municipalities.

Meanwhile, in its continuing drive towards full electrification through the Meralco Electrification Program, the firm reported that 99.94% of households in its franchise area are energized as of last year.

In bringing power to off-grid communities, Meralco continued its electrification efforts in Cagbalete Island, Quezon with the construction of an additional 1.4 MWdc solar photovoltaic with 2 MWh battery storage microgrid system, enough to power the whole island once it comes online this year.

Through OMF, the report added, Meralco pursued the electrification of low-income communities in the franchise area, resulting in 6,999 low-income households in informal settlements and relocation sites getting connected to the grid last year.

With sustainability established at the core of its strategy and operations, Meralco also commits to expanding its green portfolio when it announced last May its plans to draw on renewable energy sources for 1,500 megawatts of its power needs in the next five years.

The firm also has its sustainable reforestation program, called “One for Trees”, which continues to provide sustainable livelihood to tree caretakers through agroforestry.

Albeit the program’s implementation being hampered by the quarantines last year, with the help of Meralco’s reforestation partner, GreenEarth Heritage Foundation, the beneficiary farmers were able to harvest the leaves of the moringa (malunggay) trees they planted in 2019 and sell them as powdered tea. — Adrian Paul B. Conoza