Vowing to upgrade the provincial hospital into a Level III health facility, Governor Joseph Cua last week announced that funding of P100 million has been pledged for the rehabilitation and improvement of the Eastern Bicol Medical Center (EBMC).
In his State of the Province Address on the 77th founding anniversary of Catanduanes at the convention center, Cua disclosed that due to the provincial government’s limited budget, he lobbied for funds at the national level, with Senator Chiz Escudero pledging the amount of P100 million through the efforts of Sorsogon Governor Joseph Edwin “Boboy” Hamor.
This, he said, is in addition to his administration’s efforts to provide a CT Scan facility at EBMC and the operation of the 10-unit Hemodialysis Center in two months’ time.
Cua stressed that he will continue to focus on the improvement of EBMC from Level II to Level III hospital as per Department of Health (DOH) standards, as it would be in consonance with the plans of the Catanduanes State University to open Medicine courses.
This is the reason why the provincial government hired an expert to help craft a master plan for the improvement of the facilities and services of EBMC and the district hospitals, the chief executive said.
He reiterated his earlier announcement that his administration will construct access roads that will provide better road networks for farmers, connecting their farms with centers of trade and commerce.
The road construction will be done by administration and work will be continuous and year-round, Cua said further.
In his accomplishment report rendered before members of the Sangguniang Panlalawigan headed by Vice Gov. Peter Cua, municipal mayors, heads of national and provincial agencies, barangay officials and other guests, the governor underscored the aggressive approach taken by his administration in the COVID-19 vaccination rollout resulted in 192,832 or 103% of the total target population five-years-old and above given their shots as of October 2022, the highest in Bicol.
In tourism, he said that the provincial tourism took advantage of relaxed restrictions to launch promotional materials on social media, with Catanduanes returning to the travel bucket list of many tourists.
As of last week, he bared, the Happy Island already attracted more than 92,000 tourists in the first three quarters of 2022, which is more than the entire arrivals in 2021.
“We anticipate that before the end of year, about 150,000 tourists will have visited the island, with 200,000 targeted for 2023,” the chief executive stated.
More cash-for-work programs were given to tourism workers in the past months, benefiting more than 1,500 workers engaged in the maintenance of tourist spots, he added.
In infrastructure, the Cua administration is actively supporting the national government’s Build Back Better program, with more than P700 million allocated to various projects, including over P300 million for the repair and improvement of provincial roads.
Among these are the P180 million road concreting from Ogbong to Mabini in Viga town, the rehabilitation of the Provincial Capitol Dome, construction of the PDRRMO and PGSO warehouse that will accommodate prepositioned relief goods from the DSWD and PSWDO.
Six million pesos have been allotted for the installation of water systems in support of the program initiated by former Cong. Hector Sanchez, along with more than P140 million for disaster mitigation projects like drainage systems, seawalls and flood control projects.
Monthly trainings and Farmers’ Field Schools have been held to capacitate local farmers with modern, innovative and effective ways in rice farming, abaca planting, crab production and fish farm management, Gov. Cua said, as part of the effort to make the province food-sufficient.
More than 36 million tons of palay have been added to the production of local rice farmers, thanks to the continuous release of certified seeds and fertilizers as subsidies.
To strengthen the abaca industry, the province has set io the abacatanduanes.com website which would be the database of abaca farmers, farm owners and laborers to speed up the implementation of abaca industry programs.
He announced that 33 local technicians have been hired to help implement the P69.9 million project for the revitalization of damaged abaca farms which would benefit 13,000 farmers.
Out-of-school youth abaca farmers and rural women, on the other hand, have benefited from DOLE’s P20 million TUPAD emergency employment program, with a total of 9,000 Catandunganons given short-term jobs and livelihood programs.
With funding from the Department of Agriculture, the Provincial Agricultural Services Office has served 160 schools and 44 barangays under the Gulayan sa Paaralan and Gulayan sa Barangay programs, he added.
Another 88 local agri-entrepreneurs have been granted loans or business grants ranging from P50,000 to P100,000 as assistance from the government.
Through its partnership with CatSU, the Dairy Farm project now has 16 heads of cattle, with one expected to give birth this November, Cua said.
This year, P1 million was allocated to the project, which seeks to process the milk from the cows for the province’s nutrition programs.
In revenue collection, the Provincial Treasurer’s Office have raised around P270 million from local sources for the past two years, supplemented by the P2.4 billion from the National Tax Allotment.
As a result, Catanduanes has been cited by the Bureau of Local Government Finance for being in the top 3 in Bicol region for 2021 year-on-year growth in locally sourced revenues.
He said that the Sangguniang Panlalawigan has been asked to review the revenue code for the updating of charges while the province conducted its first public auction sale of real properties with delinquent taxes.
The programs, Cua stressed, are intended to keep the province afloat as it anticipates the effects of the Mandanas ruling and the sudden P180-milliom decrease in internal revenue allotment for 2023.
In youth and sports development, Catanduanes became the first in the region to hold a youth leadership camp for youth leaders from the 11 municipalities.
It likewise implemented the Grand Incentive-Based Program, in which five youth organizations will be assisted in their community development projects, and convened the Local Youth Development Council that will craft the Provincial Youth Development Plan for Catanduanes.
This is aside from the distribution of sports equipment and materials like mountain bikes, balls, chessboards, badminton rackets and the like, along with equipment for barangay tanods.
The chief executive disclosed that since 2021, the province has givan more than 2,000 indigent individuals with medical, transportation, educational, burial and cash assistance under the AICS program funded with more than P20 million.
On the other hand, 3,600 patients have benefited from the No-Balance-Billing policy at EBMC where more than P34 million pesos had been set aside at the hospital for this year.
This is being supported by the Medical Assistance to Indigent Patients (MAIP) program and the Meals, Allowance and Transportation (MAT) grant, he said, in addition to the P50 million given by the Duterte administration.
Aside from these, the province had also provided free consultation checkup for seniors, PWDs, Early Childhood Development programs, livelihood trainings for women, and, for the first time, financial assistance to LGBT members.
“Our commitment to public service/ will not end on any of these accomplishments,” Gov. Cua emphasized. “We will not sit on our laurels. Rather we will persevere and push for change that matters.”
He remarked that he wants the province’s leadership to be remembered for good and responsive governance, by providing programs as an answer to issues and concerns raised by the province’s communities.