GAINS AMID LOSSES. The provincial government of Negros Oriental has reported significant accomplishments in 2021 even as Typhoon Odette devastated large areas of the province in mid-December. The aerial photo, taken on Dec. 26, 2021, shows a coastal area ravaged by the typhoon. (Photo from the Facebook page of the provincial government of Negros Oriental)

DUMAGUETE CITY – Despite the uncertainties that the coronavirus disease 2019 (Covid-19) pandemic brought to Negros Oriental and the devastation of Typhoon Odette that battered the province towards the end of the year, the provincial government has proven its resilience by rising above these challenges in 2021.

Governor Roel Degamo, in his year-end report delivered at the close of 2021, emphasized the gains of the province made possible with the help and support of Capitol officials and workers, national government agencies, partners in the non-government and private sectors, and the general populace.

While 2021 was a tough and challenging year for everyone due to Covid-19 and “Odette”, Degamo noted that “as a resilient people, these events have never made our hands up to surrender, rather they have given us more strength to row our boat to calmer seas, and continue to keep the faith”.

As Degamo outlined his administration’s accomplishments in the past year, Capitol public information officer Bimbo Miraflor, however, told the Philippine News Agency on Tuesday that some areas in the governor’s report, such as the agriculture, fisheries, and livestock sector, covered only up to the 3rd quarter of last year following the onslaught of “Odette” in mid-December.

Health is wealth

After combating two surges in Covid-19 cases in 2021, the governor said the provincial government aims to achieve full vaccination of its target population against the infection by the second quarter of 2022.

The latest data at the Provincial Health Office as of Jan. 3, 2022, show that 554,445 individuals have received the first dose of the Covid-19 vaccine and are awaiting their second dose, while 345,345 people are fully vaccinated, including those administered the one-shot Janssen vaccine.

The target population for Covid-19 vaccination in Negros Oriental is 908,939.

On other health programs and accomplishments, the Negros Oriental Provincial Hospital (NOPH) has served some 21,651 in-patients from January to November 2021.

About 7,790 patients availed of financial assistance from the Malasakit Center, the Assistance to Individuals in Crisis Situations (AICS) fund of the provincial government, and other funding sources from senators through the Department of Social Welfare and Development amounting to more or less PHP23,370 million.

Fifty outreach missions were also held throughout the whole year by the Magdegamo Medical Team, in collaboration with the Integrated Provincial Health Office, the NOPH, the Community Primary Hospital, Provincial Agriculture Office, Provincial Veterinary Office, and other provincial government offices, which benefited an estimated 39,672 individuals from 50 barangays in different towns and cities in Negros Oriental.

Other accomplishments that the governor mentioned include the blood bank program that collected 1,610 units and shared for free to patients at various hospitals; 48 HIV/AIDS cases undergoing treatment in the provincial government’s hub; and the malnutrition prevalence rate accomplishment of Weight for Age, (5 percent); Length or Height for Age (11 percent); and Weight for Length of Height (3.5 percent).

“I expect a far better result next year with all the support coming from the provincial government and our project partners,” Degamo said.

Education for a better future

While face-to-face classes were still not allowed in 2021 due to the Covid-19 pandemic, this did not hamper the implementation of programs, projects, and other initiatives of the provincial government in collaboration with the Department of Education (DepEd).

The 2021 Special Education Fund of some PHP34 million was allocated for various projects, including the hiring of 170 teachers from January to June 2021, and 170 administrative aides or utility workers for the same period.

An appropriation of PHP5 million went to the completion and construction of school facilities in 13 public schools throughout the province and the remaining balance was used to support the Learning Community Plan of the DepEd, with procurement of more or less 58 units three-in-one printers, laptops, and smart television sets, and various agricultural tools for donation to public elementary and secondary schools within the province.

A total of 746 poor but deserving students also received financial assistance of PHP5,000 each for the academic year, while the province’s medical scholarship program has eight post-graduate interns (PGIs) undergoing internship and training while waiting for their licensure examination this year.

As of this academic year, the province has 35 medical student-scholars in the Silliman University School of Medicine with a total investment of PhP6.950 million sourced from the Gender and Development Fund.

Ramping up the economy through tourism

Optimistic of a better year in 2022 even with the continuing global struggle to end the Covid-19 pandemic, the provincial government is gearing up to launch full swing its tourism industry, one of its major sources of revenues and job generations.

In 2021, some tourist destinations reopened, with the guidance and approval of the national government and in observance of health and safety protocols so as not to compromise public health.

This gave job opportunities and income to those who were displaced due to the pandemic, Degamo said.

The Provincial Tourism Unit has made “major leaps” in the promotion of Negros Oriental in the national and international market by participating in the worldwide webinar of promoting the best of tourism and culture of Negros Oriental, he added.

Other significant highlights in the tourism sector were the launching of the Dive 7-Dauin Tourism Project, which saw the reopening of the province’s diving industry to the national and international markets; and the identification of a tourism circuit and loop under the banner of 3FS – the Farm, Fitness, and Food Circuit from Canlaon City to Bayawan City – through the Provincial Tourism Unit and in cooperation with the Department of Tourism in Region 7.

Peace and development toward a brighter future

With Negros Oriental still facing the insurgency problem with the presence of the Communist Party of the Philippines-New People’s Army-National Democratic Front (CPP-NPA-NDF), close collaboration with the Armed Forces of the Philippines, the Philippine National Police, government agencies, and local government units continue to bring back to mainstream society those who are still in the “underground movement”.

The Enhanced Comprehensive Local Integration Program or E-CLIP, an initiative of the national government, has resulted in the surrender of 60 CPP-NPA rebels who availed of the livelihood and other programs offered to them.

Each of the former rebels received PHP10,000 financial assistance to help them start a new life.

To help improve the lives of those in the remote and hinterland areas, the provincial government also undertook various infrastructure projects to benefit these people.

The Provincial Engineer’s Office (PEO) has completed 530 projects or 46.74 percent out of the total 1,134 programs and plans of action as of November 2021 despite the limitations due to the pandemic.

These completed projects totaled close to PHP1.3 billion, while there are currently 374 ongoing projects with an overall appropriation of more than PHP1.2 billion.

For national government-funded projects, the actual accomplishment was pegged at 81.11 percent at the cost of PHP1.036-billion, including the PHP318-million Hilaitan-Trinidad Road project funded by the Philippine Rural Development Project.

These access development projects to rural areas have resulted in easy transport of goods and services to and from the difficult-to-reach areas, the governor said.

The projects include opening, construction, and maintenance of roads, drainage systems, flood control structures, footbridges, multi-purpose halls, and evacuation centers, among others.

 Agriculture, aquaculture, and livestock

Typhoon Odette which hit Negros Oriental on Dec. 16, 2021 devastated more than a third of the province’s farms, residences, and business establishments and left 76 people dead, scores still missing, and more than 100 injured.

Prior to the onslaught, however, the province reported gains in the agriculture, aquaculture, and livestock sector up to the third quarter of the year.

The average rice production was pegged at 3.2 metric tons (MT) per hectare (ha) and the province is determined to level off with the national average rice production of 4 MT/ha by the next cropping year, the governor said.

For corn production, the average production was at 1.65 MT/ha, which accounts for 57,750 MT total production.

Degamo attributes the increase in rice and corn yield to the distribution of free seeds, seedlings, fertilizers, and technological transfer to the farmers.

In vegetable production, the Provincial Agriculture Office distributed a total of 9,609 packs of assorted vegetable seeds benefiting 4,949 farmers beneficiaries. As a result, 7,457.39 MT of different kinds of vegetables were produced with an estimated value of PHP149,147,800.

For 2021, PAO has actively promoted inland fishery through tilapia production. PAO was able to distribute a total of 1,756,445 pieces of tilapia fry, which benefited a total of 1,449 pond operators province-wide. This accounted for the estimated production of 140,515.60 kilos of marketable sized fish with a value of more than PHP14 million.

On the other hand, the sufficiency level for livestock commodities based on the Philippine Statistics Authority survey was 58.62 percent, with the highest percentage share from carabaos, goat, and swine.

“Consequently, to ensure the stability of livestock supplies, we have strengthened our mechanisms in the surveillance and monitoring of deadly diseases such as the Avian flu disease, the foot and mouth disease, and the African swine fever”, Degamo said.

Brighter year ahead

These were among the accomplishments that the Negros Oriental governor reported to his constituents, which also included plans, programs, and projects related to the environment, gender and development, skills training, disaster risk reduction and management, concerns regarding children and persons with disabilities, and many more.

Looking forward to a brighter year ahead in 2022, Degamo reiterated his commitment to lead the people in forging ahead and hurdling any obstacles as he called for unity among the people.

“As a province, through unimaginable difficulty, we have done well together. We might not be close to the finish line, but we need to give just another push or two to get us across the line. Let us not let up. Let us not let our guard down,” he said.

Degamo, who is gunning for another term in office in the May 9 elections, stressed that these accomplishments are the result of the government and the people working closely together, something that the province's residents could be proud of.

“Because we have done well, we are perfectly positioned to seize a strong, successful future. We are in this position because of each and every one of us. Be proud of that,” he said.

The governor noted that there would be tough days ahead, thus, it would be crucial for everyone to go together in the same direction.

He reiterated his commitment to “do everything I can to remain worthy of your continued confidence and trust”. (PNA)