Let there be light

Published April 1, 2018, 12:05 AM


By Angelo G. Garcia

An aerial view of a brighter Ormoc City
An aerial view of a brighter Ormoc City

More and more cities around the world are now converting from conventional lighting to LED lighting.  Aesthetically speaking, LED street lights make any city’s nightscape more bright and beautiful. The wonderful and sometimes enchanting features of a city come alive even at night.

One of the main reasons, however, why cities are switching to LEDs is due to its cost-effectiveness. These new lights are actually so efficient that local governments are saving a lot of money in electricity bills.  And every cent saved is diverted to other projects that are in need of proper funding. And ultimately, less energy consumption spells positive for the environment.

In the Philippines, while some cities in Metro Manila and other urban metropolis are slowly switching to LED, one city in Eastern Visayas leapfrogged all these efforts. Ormoc City in Leyte just upgraded its entire street light system. It converted all its 1,641 street lights to energy efficient LED lights. It is the first city in the country to implement a city-wide upgrade.

It’s an impressive move by the city’s mayor, Richard Gomez. As a first class city, he’s using the advantages of technology to benefit the city, even outclassing the most modern Philippine city.

“I am a believer of new technology, especially LED lights. So I told my council, if we’re going to upgrade our street lights, it has to be a whole lot,” he says.

The wining bidder for the project is Philips Lighting, a world leader in lighting systems. The local government has a total budget of P33M for the upgrade but Philips managed to win the bid by offering P22M for the project, saving the city government P11M. The city has likewise saved in installation costs since lights were installed in existing lamp posts.

“The mayor had a vision for doing the city’s lighting right. They were on the lookout for who can do this job and I guess Philips has always been a natural consideration, considering that the city has been using Philips lamps. It was kind of natural that we would have been one of the parties they looked out for,” explains Philips Lighting Philippines country manager Jagan Srinivasan.

The ceremonial lighting was led by Ormoc congresswoman Lucy Torres-Gomez (3rd from left), Philips Lighting Philippines country manager Jagan Srinivasan (center), and Ormoc City mayor, Richard Gomez (4th from right)
The ceremonial lighting was led by Ormoc congresswoman Lucy Torres-Gomez (3rd from left), Philips Lighting Philippines country manager Jagan Srinivasan (center), and Ormoc City mayor, Richard Gomez (4th from right)


LED lights are reshaping the cities light their streets, public spaces, and offices. LED has more advantages than disadvantages. In Ormoc City, Philips installed its Road Flare model, designed specifically for street lights, and each light is 90 watts.

First, LED lights are brighter but consume less energy. It also emits less heat than conventional lighting. And this type of lighting can also be digitally manipulated to be more efficient that it already is. The lights can also be connected into a system that can be controlled remotely, for systematic troubleshooting and the likes.

For instance, light pollution is a problem in big cities. The combined luminance of lights in cities creates a bright glow that overpowers the natural beauty of the night sky. LED lights, although brighter, can actually control what is called “light spillage.”

“Firstly, when it’s not designed right and it’s just brightness that is not specified, then all the energy that being consumed is producing light that goes everywhere. If it designed right both at the product level and installation level, then you can direct the light where you want it to be,” Jagan explains. “Philips started lighting in 1893, so we’ve got 125 plus years of experience in dealing with lighting as a domain. What that teaches us if you design it right, if you can control stray light or light spillage, if you design as such all that light is directed when you need it, then you wouldn’t end up with a light pollution problem.”

He adds that currently in the Philippines, light pollution is not the problem but rather light poverty. It is a fact that there are still areas in the country that has no access to electricity, thus the lack of lighting as a major problem.

“To be honest, I don’t think most parts of the Philippines are at a stage where light pollution needs to be what we worry about. I have an opposite worry for the Philippines, and that’s something we call light poverty. It’s a serious issue that at this day and age, where it’s the 21st century, there are sections of the society here in the Philippines that do not have access to light. I’ve been in barangays where a kerosene lamp or candle is the only source light after sunlight. In most cases it’s a wood fire and that comes with health issues due to indoor smoke and things like that,” he says.

As a lighting company, one of its advocacoes is to end global light poverty by 2030. It’s a tall order but the ‘LEDification’ of Ormoc City is a good example of what cities should do in the near future.

The old Ormoc City Hall is now the city's museum
The old Ormoc City Hall is now the city’s museum


According to Mayor Richard, he is already seeing positive changes in the city, specifically from feedback from the people. He says that his citizens feel safer. There’s no more dark patches on the streets, all streets are illuminated ideal brightness.

“We monitor Facebook and the people are very happy. They are saying that before their area is very gloomy but now, it’s also brighter inside the house. The security of Ormoc also improved. Peace and order is the number one thrust of city,” the mayor says.

The installation of the lamps began November of last year and since then, the city has already seen a significant decrease from their energy bill.

“Huge savings with our electricity bill. We’re saving an average of about P250,00 a month. The computation is we’ll be saving about P5M a year, so that money can go to other projects for sports or education,” he says. “

Philips was also able to talk to the locals the testimonies are all positive. “We spoke to some of the people after the implementation. I was personally touched by a traffic enforcer because he made an interesting comment. He said, ‘I feel safer now in doing my job than before. Because of the lighting, I can see traffic further away and they can see me from further away. And there’s more discipline in traffic.’ These are the kind of ways street lighting can touch lives that you don’t normally think of,” Jagan shares.

For the Philips team, the Philippines should embrace this technology as soon as possible, considering that the country still has the highest electricity rates in Southeast Asia.

“It’s most compelling for the Philippines to embrace this in a very accelerated manner, because if you look globally, as well as across the region, Philippines has one of the highest energy tariffs in the world. The country is one of the top highest value paid per kilowatt-hour,” he says. “Whatever the energy bill of the government today for lighting, I am confident anywhere from 50 to 80 percent of that can be cut down. So, if the government spends P1M today, it could be P200K to P300K tomorrow.”