Negros Oriental Gov. Roel Degamo expressed gratitude the province has managed to breeze through the many odds it had to face in many aspects in what he described as a “challenging year”.
“Despite our serious efforts to bring more developments to the countryside, we still continue to experience some ups and downs. However, we look at these ups and downs as challenges which helped us to strive harder in order to attain maximum development for the province,” the governor said.
Governor Degamo, continued with his flagship development programs to include health, education, livelihood, infrastructure and disaster preparedness and response, to name a few.
His administrations development agenda under the flagship program, Sa Probinsya, Magdegamo Ta!, focuses on H-E-L-P, an acronym for Health, Education, Livelihood Programs and Projects.
In a year-end press conference with the media in mid-December, the Governor reported of gains by his administration which he said have benefited innumerable constituents, most especially the much criticized medical missions across the province.
“As you all know, it is the objective of my administration to pursue various programs and projects with the ultimate goal of uplifting the quality of life of each and every Negrense,” Degamo said.
The criticisms hurled against him and his administration he took as a challenge to further aim to reach the goals set for the year so that Negros Oriental constituents can receive the best quality of services the province can offer, he added.
Degamo cited the support and collaboration of provincial leaders such as the Sangguniang Panlalawigan members, department heads, government agencies, civil society organizations, the media and other stakeholders to triumph over the trials in 2014 for the good of everybody.
“This, I believe, is one of the reasons why Negros Oriental accomplished the so-called declaration of the province as conflict manageable and development ready by the Armed Forces of the Philippines early this year,” Degamo pointed out.
“The declaration is just an affirmation and a result of what the government has done so far for the province.”
In May 2014, the AFP and the Philippine National Police declared the province of Negros Oriental as “conflict manageable and development ready”, with no less than Defense Sec. Voltaire Gazmin leading the ceremony here.
The declaration came following relentless efforts by the military and the police to bring down the insurgency problem to an insignificant level and this was attained in the first half of 2014.
“This humble representation has, for two consecutive years now, been given citations by the Philippine Army for the provincial government’s great contributions to bring down to the minimum the insurgency problem in the province,” Governor Degamo noted.
The governor is also scheduled to receive another award early next year for the province’s contribution to the Bantay Bayanihan, a civil society group organized to monitor the military’s Internal Peace and Security Plan-Bayanihan.
With the insurgency problem no longer a major concern to deal with, potential investors are seen to come to Negros Oriental, while other sectors such as the tourism industry are also expected to benefit from the province’s better peaceful atmosphere, he explained.
On peace efforts, the province has strengthened partnerships with various sectors to make Negros Oriental conflict and insurgency-free.
The peace initiatives yielded some 34 former rebels, who, after having returned to the folds of the law, have received financial and livelihood assistance, medical-related assistance and psycho-social interventions.
With the growing population and the socio-economic boom in the province comes the need to provide more quality health and medical care and services to the people.
The province’s major accomplishment which the governor said he is “proud to share with the public” is the start of the continuation of the Negros Oriental Provincial Hospital Central Block Building.
The soon-to-be state-of-the-art building complex, which was started by the previous administration of the late Gov. Emilio Macias II, had encountered many obstacles but with the governor’s determination it is now becoming a reality.
The provincial government borrowed a total of 350 million pesos to bankroll the said construction of the four-story edifice aimed to decongest the jam-packed provincial hospital. The project had earlier received a funding commitment from the Department of Health but for reasons unknown, it never panned out.
Once completed, perhaps in another year or so, the NOPH will be able to accommodate more patients. Aside from the provincial hospital, the provincial government is also continuing its efforts to improve various facilities and equipment in the district and community primary hospital all over the province.
“This is aimed at achieving our goal of zero maternal and child mortality rate”, according to Governor Degamo.
Efforts also continue to bring down the malnutrition and maternal and child death rates in the province, the Governor said.
From 7.4 percent last year, the province’s malnutrition rate went down to 6.9 this year.
For the last three years, the maternal and child deaths have continued to decrease with 23 cases in 2011, 19 in 2012 and 16 in 2013.
Also, one of the highly appreciated yet relentlessly criticized programs of the provincial chief executive is the medical-dental-surgical missions this year which totaled 48 and had benefited more than 40,000 individuals.
Designed to bring medical and other health services close to the people, especially those living in the hinterlands, the province as of Dec. 17 conducted 48 of these with services offered ranging from minor surgical operations, dental extractions, medical consultations, circumcisions and distribution of ready eyeglasses, among others.
Believing that good education will lead to a better future, the provincial government endeavored to make education available to all – rich or poor, young and old, he said.
“This is reflected in the provincial government’s continuous support and assistance to the programs, projects and activities of the education sector in order to address their various needs and concerns,” the Negros Oriental governor said.
The scholarship program of the province continued but in an expanded coverage to include poor and deserving students from just the usual scholarship for high school valedictorians and salutatorians.
For this year, a total of 1,016 beneficiaries of the Madegamo Scholarship Program are enrolled in the various campuses of the government-run Negros Oriental State University.
In addition, the provincial government has maintained its scholarship program for those wanting to pursue medical studies at the Silliman University School of Medicine.
Currently, there are 30 scholars enrolled in the program while six have graduated and are currently serving in the different hospitals of the provincial government.
Providing livelihood and economic opportunities through training, jobs placement and fairs and distribution of start-up capital in cash and in kind helped the province’s townsfolk become self-reliant and not dependent on dole-outs so that they can improve their living conditions, Degamo said.
Having finalized the Tourism Action Plan (also known as the tourism road map) for the province this year, Capitol submitted the same to the Regional Development Council for consideration and possible funding, the Governor disclosed.
The province of Negros Oriental ranked number two in the Central Visayas’ 2013 tourist arrivals with a total of 470,438 (13.4 percent) with Cebu ranking first with a total of 2,598,250 (74.41 percent).
Through the provincial Public Employment Services Office, the provincial government has facilitated the employment of 110 individuals for work overseas and some 2,285 individuals for local jobs.
The Provincial Integrated Skills Training Center has recorded a total of 621 graduates in automotive servicing, welding, machining and driving courses.
Around 610 graduates have also benefited from the different livelihood trainings conducted by the Technology & Livelihood Development Center, which include dressmaking, fish, meat and poultry processing, commercial baking and cosmetology, among others.
They have also extended a total of P343,000 pesos micro-financing assistance to 46 individuals.
In the field of Coopreneurship, the Governor disclosed that the Provincial Cooperative Development Authority received the Outstanding Union in the Philippines Award.
“The provincial government has poured in a total of 5.4 million pesos for the Coopreneurship Surety Fund in order to assist small cooperatives secure loan from banks”, Degamo said.
Other highlights of the livelihood programs of the provincial government that earned gains this year include the Provincial Tilapia Hatchery and the satellite hatcheries that showed a hike in yield with more harvests in the early part of the new year; the oyster farm in Bais City that include the production of 60,000 pieces of oyster seedlings this year, with 55,000 disposed to 195 fisherfolks;
The distribution of 832 heads of cattle, carabao, goat, swine and poultry to farmer-recipients; increase in palay production at 3.36 percent this year versus 2013’s first semester production and corn production with a hike of 6.05 percent this year;
The production of 15,459 bags of vermicasts or organic fertilizer with an estimated value of more than P3 million; the planting of 72,513 assorted fruit and forest trees in estimated area of 75 hectares; and the production of 112,602 assorted seedlings by the Provincial Nursery, which were distributed to farmer beneficiaries, the governor’s report showed.
With the continuous increased influx of tourists each year, the Capitol has embarked on the implementation of various development projects in several tourism sites in Negros Oriental to include additional comfort rooms, shades and viewing deck at the Twin Lakes in Balinsasayaw and Danao in Sibulan town; continued developments at the Tanjay City boardwalk; and the construction of a canopy at the boardwalk in Lake Balanan, Siaton; road concreting completion from the national highway leading to Lake Balanan, covering 616 meters amounting to P5 million.
Also, the provincial government has appropriated P1.8 million for additional site development of the world-renowned dive destination, Apo Island.
Other improvements cited are the completed construction of four units of Barangay Agricultural Development while six others are still being constructed; and the assistance in the completion of the construction of a comfort room for the Malatapay Flea Market in Zamboanguita.
On infrastructure development programs implemented through the Provincial Engineer’s Office, an official report showed billions of pesos worth of projects, to include roads, bridges, school buildings, flood control, sanitation, health facilities and also tourism sites improvement were undertaken.
Three school buildings were completed costing P1.150 million; road projects to include concrete, gravel and asphalt around P100 million; 20 waterworks projects amounting to P6.576 million; 18 projects of rural health units and barangay health stations and other facilities, P4.590 million; electrification at P1.1370 million and other completed provincial projects totaling P254,140,811.
The provincial government also has ongoing major projects in many towns and cities in Negros Oriental with varied funding appropriations.
Meanwhile, around P35 million worth of additional development projects have been calendared for implementation next year, the Governor said.
Disaster preparedness to reduce impacts on lives and properties
Amidst the more visible signs of climate change and the unpredictable weather patterns, the governor has continuously emphasized the need for a collaborative effort among local governments and the public to aim for zero casualty during calamities, disasters and emergencies.
“We have strengthened efforts for disaster risk reduction through our Provincial Disaster Risk-Reduction Council. We funded various preparedness training and activities including Search and Rescue, Mountain Search and Rescue, SCUBA diving, GIS Training, Contingency Plan for Flood and Incident Command System, among others”, Governor Degamo said.
“Through the PDRRMC fund, we acquired more and more life-saving equipment, including heavy equipment to strengthen the DRRM programs of the provincial government.”
Governor Degamo said the provincial government has “adopted the mainstreaming of DRRM into our development projects for them to be disaster resilient and geo-hazard complaint in order to withstand the various disasters, man-made or natural, to achieve a disaster resilient community, thereby achieving our goal of zero casualties during emergencies”.
With these accomplishments for this year, Governor Degamo vowed that his administration will continue to strive hard for better services delivered to his people in 2015.
Reassuring of his untiring dedication and commitment, the governor said the provincial government will continue to serve with vigor and sincerity.
“As your governor, I have chosen to help. I have chosen to become a steward of excellent service. I have chosen progress. I have chosen the safety of my constituents. I have chosen to remain focused on my mandate – and that is to serve my people”, Degamo stressed.
“It is my intention to put to good use the trust and confidence that my fellow Negrenses have so overwhelmingly given me during the last elections.”
Ending his message with gratitude to the people who have helped me, he quoted Mother Theresa as saying “You can do what I cannot do. I can do what you cannot do. Together, we can do great things,” said the Governor of Negros Oriental, who will seek re-election in 2016. (PNA)