The more things change….

“And we rely on you to achieve all these.”

Thus said Governor Joseph Cua to his brother, Vice Governor Peter Cua, and the members of the Sangguniang Panlalawigan, as he concluded his address to the legislative body during its inaugural session last Monday afternoon.

He stressed that the goal of the executive is to provide services to everyone, especially the poor; programs that shall provide proper healthcare, jobs, and scholarships; and a system to ensure that every Catandunganon has access to available government services.

The first thing for which he would seek the SP’s cooperation would be the appropriation of funds for the improvement of the province’s medical facilities as well as the updating and revision of the Revenue Code to include fees that would be charged on new services.

“We will also lean on your help to approve the amendments to the ordinance which established the Eastern Bicol Medical Center as economic enterprise,” the governor bared.

Whether the reelected provincial board members, particularly Health Committee chair PBM Santos Zafe, were surprised by the proposed amendment to the economic enterprise ordinance, it did not show on the surface.

Since 2010 when it was passed, the provincial hospital has been laboring under the weight of expectations that it would be able to survive on its own income.

For more than five years since its profit-oriented health service began, it had endured successive adverse findings from the Commission on Audit (COA) on millions in subsidies provided by the provincial government for its operation, especially to pay off long-delayed salaries of its staff.

While the negative findings have disappeared from the COA reports for a few years now, basically the same problems still exist although the Cua administration has implemented necessary repair and improvement projects and purchased medical equipment, even hiring a Manila-based consultant for a hundred thousand pesos a month just to oversee reforms.

The SP, as a whole and not just the Health committee, would be certainly awaiting whatever amendments that the executive will lay out on the table in the next few months.

Among the other ordinances that the administration wants approved by the legislators are measures intended to ensure the provincial government’s calamity preparedness and response as well as those that would prioritize the agricultural sector, as the government strives to realize food security for Catanduanes.

Echoing the vice governor’s message during the inauguration, the governor expressed hope that their being on separate sides of the political fence would not be a hindrance to their common aspiration of providing the best possible service to their constituents.

Asking for the cooperation of all the SP members, however, is easier said than done.

Despite the fact that the Bagong Timpla political alliance has the majority in the board for now, the passage of vital measures would require the usual give-and-take.

Back-scratching and horse-trading are common in the legislative scene that extends from municipal councils to Congress.

There is no other way a measure of some import would pass without the chief executive giving up something and the legislators taking their share.

For decades now, majority of councilors, board members, congressmen and senators have become masters at the quid pro quo. But the congress representative beats them all, by virtually having the power to decide who wins infrastructure contracts at the DPWH district engineering office.

And all this is business as usual for the electorate, who have come to expect winning vote-buyers to recover their investments from public funds.

The next three years, therefore, will be more of the same despite the new faces.

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