THE Sarangani Energy Corporation (SEC) marked its first year of commercial operation in Maasim town in Sarangani last month with a series of civic-oriented programs as a way of giving back to the community that hosts its power plant.
Dubbed as "Agapay sa Kapitbahay," the activities included feeding programs, distribution of slippers, medical assistance and free checkups, as well as registration and releasing of birth, marriage and death certificates to impoverished areas in Maasim.
One of the host communities identified was Purok 7, in Tinoto village, a few kilometers from the power plant gate.
Purok 7 or commonly known as Linao is a community of more-or-less 300 people, located in the mangrove covered shores of Sarangani Bay.
The area straddles the coast and land with houses built on stilts connected by a flimsy network of footbridges.
Community leader, chairman Aripin Hassim said that most of the people living in the community are relatives and rely mainly on fishing as their primary source of livelihood.
Hassim said before SEC came they are heavily dependent on government subsidy and aid for help especially in legal or civil matters considering that most of their community members are under-educated.
"Mga mangingisda talaga kami sir galling sa ibang lugar, mga 54 years ago pumunta kami ditto kasi maraming isda sa Sarangani. Dito na din kami dumami pati yung pamilya ko nandito na din at mga kapatid ko hanggang sa dumami na kami," he said.
Hassim added that ever since, they are basically a self-sustaining community with few or no outside intervention.
Because of this, most of them do not have birth certificates, marriage certificates and the few that have government records in the past have not been officially registered as dead.
Leslie Lopez Flores, of the Local Civil Registry of Maasim (LCR-Maasim), said that this has become a problem since children have a hard time being enrolled in schools because nobody knows how old they are, their formal names, and what level of informal education they have undergone.
"We also have a hard time enrolling them in government programs such as PhilHealth, Pag-ibig and other beneficial government programs because they have no papers," Flores said.
SEC saw this emerging problem during one of its community stakeholders monitoring initiative and with the help of the local government of Maasim led by Mayor Anecito Lopez Jr. and Philippine Statistics Office (PSA) the Mobile Civil Registration Program was organized.
This was later partnered with SEC's other program under the “Agapay sa Kapitbahay” where more than 500 slippers are distributed to barefoot kids age one year old to six year old.
Agapay sa Kapitbahay also has a feeding program component supported by the Conrado Ladislawa Alcantara Foundation Inc. (Clafi).
Children enjoyed the overflowing famed "Rose-Caldo," an original take on the Filipino favorite Arrozcaldo but with chicken meat being substituted by bangus from the Sarangani Bay.
While children are enjoying their new slippers and cool snacks under the warm Sarangani sun, their mothers or fathers line-up for the free medical and prenatal checkup as well as the free medicine.
SEC project assurance manager Joel Aton assured the public that this is just part of "keeping and even surpassing SEC's promise of bringing growth and progress to the municipality of Maasim."SEC started their civic social responsibility operations benefiting the community of Maasim long before the construction and even the commercial operation of the plant.