10/27/2005, 00.00
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Provide the poor with electricity, says Filipino priest

Fr Aldrin Suan hopes the authorities will take the necessary measures to encourage the poor to stop stealing electricity or using dangerous alternatives.

Quezon City (AsiaNews) – Fr Aldrin Suan, who heads a parish near a dumpsite in a run-down part of Quezon City north of Manila, expressed hope the government will provide his community affordable electricity so people would not have to steal or use risky fuel.

Father Suan said each household in the Mother of the Promised Land Parish in Payatas B community of Quezon City, which houses some 120,000 residents, consumes on average about 500 pesos worth of electricity.

Many of them earn a living from scavenging and other "informal" work. But those who are "really hard up" use accident-prone gas lamps, small cooking gas tanks or firewood, he said

Some families also use these even if they can afford to pay for electricity because there are only two people in their home or their house uses only one light bulb, Father Suan said. Others simply steal it.

A local fruit vendor who asked not to be named said he connected a cable to a line of the Manila Electric Company and attached four other lines to the secondary cable to power up his neighbours' homes. Electricity flowing through the secondary connection does not register in his meter so the 150 pesos to 200 pesos fees the neighbours pay him each month are extra income for his wife and two kids. Without that money he cannot afford to pay his monthly electric bill of about 1,500 pesos even with additional income from driving a pedicab and scavenging in the Payatas dumpsite.

Father Suan said Church workers have advised parishioners not to steal electricity and warned them of the consequences they face if they are caught. None the less, the parish priest acknowledges the people's actions are rooted in "deeper problems" and asked, "Why doesn't the government supply electricity in homes in a place this poor?"

Many of the 120,000 residents live by their wits peddling, driving public vehicles, working in construction sites. They seldom make the 325 pesos (US$ 5.9) minimum daily wage.

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