The administration of President Rodrigo Duterte has raised renewed hopes among the Bicolanos by putting in the pipeline major transport infrastructure projects in "record speed," continuing with "inclusive development" policies such as the Pantawid Pamilyang Pilipino Program or 4Ps, and ensuring that the mechanism to end contractualization or ENDO is in place.
Two of the major transport infrastructure projects were the Php 170.7-billion North-South Railways Project (NSRP) South Line and the Php 4.79-billion Bicol International Airport (BIA) in Barangay Alobo, Daraga, Albay.
"The NSRP Southline and the BIA are projects Albayanos take pride in," said PDP-Laban and Albay second district Rep. Joey Salceda.
He said minutes after the news came out in his social media account of the approval by the National Economic and Development Authority (NEDA) of the two projects, it gained more than a thousand likes and was flooded by comments from Albayanos thanking the Duterte administration for releasing their long awaited projects, with "record speed."
Meanwhile, Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD) in Bicol Regional Director Arnel Garcia said 2016 has "marked the inception of a new governance that promises social reforms and significant change towards achieving inclusive development in the country."
He said in line with the President's core objective of providing concern and care for the helpless and marginalized, DSWD's "Maagap at Mapagkalingang Serbisyo" continues to contribute to the national government's efforts to improve the economic status and standing of the poor, as well as support the ongoing efforts to bring about a just and lasting peace in the region and the Philippines as a whole."
Garcia said the government's poverty alleviation program, the Pantawid Pamilyang Pilipino Program or 4Ps, has enrolled a total of 375,520 families with a total of P1.38 billion released in cash assistance to the beneficiaries.
Meanwhile, the Department of Labor and Employment (DOLE) in Bicol said its ENDO campaign in the region resulted in 552 workers voluntarily absorbed by their employers as of the end of October. Ma. Karina Perida-Trayvilla, DOLE-Bicol officer-in-charge regional director said this comprised five percent of the total absorbed workers nationwide.
North-South Railways, BIA
The NEDA has approved three major transport infrastructure projects which they see as decisive growth propellers for their province and the entire Bicol region.
Delayed for a number of years, the three major transport infrastructure projects worth about P185.64 billion, were approved by the NEDA Board, chaired by President Duterte, on recommendation by the NEDA Investment Coordinating Committee (ICC).
Salceda, former Albay governor and chairman of both the Bicol Regional Development Council and the Luzon Area Development Committee for nine and six years, has initiated and pushed for these during the previous administration.
He identified the projects as the P170.7-billion NSRP South Line, the P4.79-billion Bicol International Airport (BIA) in Daraga, Albay with an increase in its Passenger Terminal Building (PTB) Area, and the P10.15-billion Inclusive Partnerships for Agricultural Competitiveness (IPAC) project, in his province's third district.
The three projects were among the first batch of NEDA approvals worth P300 billion under the new Duterte administration, 60 percent of which were seen to benefit Bicol, especially Albay. They were recommended by the NEDA ICC to the board for final approval and release of funds.
Salceda said he was informed of their approval by Socioeconomic Planning Secretary and NEDA Director-General Ernesto M. Pernia and Department of Budget Secretary Benjamin E. Diokno.
The 653-kilometer NSRP Southline, which runs from Tutuban in Manila to Legazpi and eventually to Matnog, Sorsogon was approved following several modifications, including the shift to the use of standard gauge, a newer and more internationally accepted technology, said Salceda.
He said the NSRP Southline would give about 24 percent economic returns to the countryside and is expected to offer massive growth opportunities for Bicol, particularly Albay, the regional center and hub. Formerly known as the Bicol Express, the link is the oldest rail system in Southeast Asia.
As for the BIA, a new domestic-Principal Class 1 airport of international standards, the budget was maintained at Php 4.79 billion since the proposed changes would not entail additional cost, and the construction would be shortened to 2.5 years, he added.
Groundbreaking of the BIA on December 8 marked the start of the P708-million construction work of the landside facilities of the airport project that is seen to boost tourism and economic development not just in Bicol but in the entire Southern Luzon.
Elizaldy Co, owner of Sunwest Construction and Development Corp., contractor of the BIA project, said the project would be completed by 2019.
Co said the landside facilities consist of 17 buildings for administration, cargo terminal, air traffic control, crash fire rescue, power house, maintenance, material recovery facilities, pump room and water reservoir, chilled water pump house, chlorination house 1 and 2, guard houses and headquarters of the Department of Transportation (DOTr)-Civil Aviation Authority of the Philippines.
The government has initially spent some P1.6 billion for the airport project for the acquisition of the lands and the construction of a 2.1-kilometer runway.
Implementation of the airport project was delayed for 11 years as this was conceptualized and approved during the administration of former President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo and passed on to President Benigno Aquino III.
The project should have been operational this year but despite the availability of funds, work was snail-paced due to lapses in the bidding process. Construction work has been confined to the airside while the structures at the landside area of the proposed airport are still being worked out.
Funds for the airport project were released in three tranches: P300 million in 2009 and another P300 million in 2010 for concrete road construction and site development. The P970-million funding released in 2012 was spent for the construction of the 2.1-kilometer runway.
The BIA lies in a 148-hectare area with 2,100-meter runway strip. It will be equipped with night landing capability and take-off facilities, control tower, passenger and cargo terminal, car park, fire station and other modern facilities.
Salceda expressed confidence that the international airport will sustain the gains of Albay's tourism with foreign tourist arrivals shooting up from 8,700 in 2007 to 339,000 in 2015 during his term.
Together with the new South Railway project, he said he is confident foreign tourists will triple to 1.2 million by 2025 and make Albay an economic powerhouse.
DSWD in Bicol in its accomplishment report from January to October 31, 2016 noted significant strides in six major programs: 4Ps, Sustainable Livelihood Program, Kapit-Bisig Laban sa Kahirapan-Comprehensive and Integrated Delivery of Social Services (Kalahi-CIDDS), Social Pension for Indigent Senior Citizens, Supplementary Feeding Program, Assistance to Individuals in Crisis Situations.
Garcia said the biggest number of beneficiaries of the 4Ps program come from Camarines Sur with 113,427 who received a cash assistance of P376 million; followed by Albay with 78,011 beneficiaries and cash assistance of P254 million; Masbate with 75,055 beneficiaries and cash assistance of P342 million; Sorsogon with 60,500 beneficiaries and cash assistance of P224 million; Camarines Norte with 32,714 beneficiaries and cash assistance of P100 million; and Catanduanes with 15,813 beneficiaries and cash assistance of P85 million.
The "Sustainable Livelihood Program" has given support to 4,239 families in the amount of Php 252 million while the "Social Pension for Indigent Senior Citizens Program" has served 82,286 beneficiaries who were given P246 million in assistance.
KALAHI-CIDDS has served 91 municipalities in the amount of P1,697,051,594.00. Camarines Sur has 33 municipalities served, Masbate-16, Sorsogon-14, Camarines Norte-11, Catanduanes-11, and Albay-6.
The Social Pension for Indigent Senior Citizens has served P82,286 beneficiaries in the amount of P246 million while the Supplementary Feeding Program has served 138,494 day care children with a total cost of P249 million.
Meanwhile the Assistance to Individuals in Crisis Situation Program has served 21,369 clients in the amount of Php68 million.
Ma. Karina Perida-Trayvilla, director of the Department of Labor and Employment Office (DOLE) in Bicol, said in mid-October, one of the biggest firms in Catanduanes voluntarily absorbed its 231 contractual workers, contributing to half of the total workers regularized in the Bicol region since start of the campaign against "Endo" or (end of contractualization) by the DOLE in Bicol.
She said the move of the Cua Group of Companies in Catanduanes to regularize 231 workers in its businesses in shipping, dockside work and office management is more than good news.
"It means that we are on the right track in addressing this Endo issue here in Bicol," Trayvilla said.
She said, including the 231, there are now 552 contract workers who have been voluntarily absorbed by principal employers since the start of the Endo campaign in Bicol when President Rodrigo Duterte assumed the presidency.
She said the 552 workers voluntarily absorbed by their employers in the Bicol region comprised five percent of the total absorbed workers nationwide.
Trayvilla cited the "national total tally of Endo of DOLE Central Office through its Labor Communications Office is nearly 10,000 as of Sept. 30."
Source: Philippines News Agency