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As power rates rise, ‘solar panels’ a hit on Quiapo sidewalk

By: - Reporter / @erikaINQ
/ 11:19 PM December 14, 2013

RENEWABLE energy is the wise option these days, but will you trust these “solar panels” being sold on the bangketa? NIÑO JESUS ORBETA

From P4,200, Sonny Oswa said his monthly electricity bill went down to P1,500 after turning to solar power to run six electric fans at night.

For two years now, Oswa has been selling solar panels on Raon Street in Quiapo, Manila, a go-to area for electronics enthusiasts.

A number of bargain hunters, eager to reduce their household power consumption, gathered around Oswa’s sidewalk table on Wednesday, asking about the price and how the panels work. For them, Oswa’s wares could be the answer to the upcoming rate increase recently announced by Meralco.

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One customer asked him a series of technical questions. Mel, 27, said he used to work as a technical engineer at an oil company, and that he came to look for solar panels on Raon to reduce his electricity bills.

Another buyer easily shelled out P2,700 for a panel and an inverter for quite another reason: Jelyn Sumiguin, a 25-year-old survivor of Supertyphoon “Yolanda” who had evacuated to Manila, said she would bring the equipment on her trip back to Tacloban City, where her neighborhood remained without power supply.

“My uncle told me to buy a solar flashlight. But it seems we can use more (appliances) with a solar panel,” Sumiguin told the Inquirer. Her family survived Yolanda by climbing onto the rooftop of their two-story house which stood near the sea.

The rampaging wall of water reduced her house to “a skeleton.” They made do by patching up a wall here and there, and for three days subsisted on bananas, sweet potatoes, coconuts and other food items that the water had swept toward them from the nearby wet market.

She and her family members queued for three days before they could board a C-130 military plane to Manila.

And then she encountered Oswa’s stall and found something that she thought could be very useful for starting life anew in devastated Tacloban.

The panels she was offered on the bangketa, however, showed no signs that they had been subjected to quality control or safety inspections by the government. There were also no visible labels or markings indicating the manufacturer.

Depending on the wattage, the solar panels were being sold at P9,500 to P2,800 each, and came in monocrystalline and polycrystalline variants. Oswa said his supplier was a Chinese businessman from Binondo who imports panels manufactured in Taiwan.

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Lately, he said, he had sold five to 10 panels a day, many to Yolanda survivors like Sumiguin.

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TAGS: Manila, Metro, power rate hike, Power supply, Quiapo, Solar panels
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