ILOILO CITY, Jan. 2 (PIA6) -- President Benigno S. Aquino III visited Western Visayas several times in 2013, an indication of Malacanang’s commitment to answer the needs of the people and support the region’s development.
The visits took place early in the year when Western Visayans wanted to ascertain that they are still on the straight path and again towards the end of the year shortly in the aftermath of “Yolanda” when those affected by the super typhoon wanted to be reassured of help to get back on their feet.
The President took his visits in February and April as an opportunity to push development projects including the implementation of the P11.2-billion Jalaur River Multi-Purpose Project Stage II and completion of irrigation projects and upgrading of the Roxas City Airport.
The region’s development got added impetus with the establishment of Iloilo International Airport through public-private partnership as an international flight hub with flights between Iloilo Hong Kong and Singapore and vice versa.
In November, the Chief Executive was able to see for himself the devastation caused by the strongest typhoon to pass through the country and led in the distribution of relief goods to survivors.
He was accompanied by DILG Secretary Mar Roxas, Defense Secretary Voltaire Gazmin, DPWH Secretary Rogelio Singson, and Secretary to the Cabinet Jose Rene Almendras.
The President’s visits to the region were for Western Visayans, the biggest piece of good news to come their way.
In March came the first of a wave of cruise ship visits for the year to world-famous Boracay Island in Malay, Aklan with high-end tourists onboard one of the world’s top cruise liners from Hapag-Lloyd Company.
The arrival of the cruise ships was the result of DOT’s marketing pitch for Boracay as a cruise ship destination during the Cruise Shipping Asia exhibition in Singapore in 2012. Two more visits by cruise ships from Star Cruises took place on October 17 and November 4.
Then came the national and local elections on May 13 that saw exciting twists and turns in local politics especially involving a new alignment and showdown of political forces and greater use of mass media and social networking in election campaigns.
The elections also became a stress-test for the “Daang Matuwid” of the administration, that is to determine whether it has taken roots in the hearts and minds of the people or was destined to lie to waste by the wayside.
The region hugged national attention when cases of an emerging disease called “chikungunya” were discovered in Antique. It is a viral disease and is transmitted by mosquitoes which are identified vectors for dengue fever – Aedes aegypti and Aedes albopictus. Chikungunya shares some clinical signs with dengue like fever, joint pain, headache and rashes, among others, although it is not as fatal.
A report released by the National Statistical and Coordination Board (NSCB) Region 6 in July on regional economic performance revealed that Western Visayas’ economy as measured by its Gross Regional Domestic Product (GRDP) did well overall over a 3-year period.
The region sustained its GRDP growth at 7.5 per cent in 2012 from 6.2 per cent in 2011 and 4.5 per cent in 2010.
At the national level, GRDP becomes Gross National Product (GNP), which has also been doing well.
Presidential Communications Operations Office (PCOO) Secretary Sonny Coloma picked it up also to mean to mean “Good News Philippines” in a message he gave out during the National PR Congress held in Boracay, Malay, Aklan in July.
If the May elections have proven the Daang Matuwid as a cause worth rallying for behind, the good performance of the GNP also drew its primary strength from the crusade. Said Secretary Coloma: The Daang Matuwid catapulted Noynoy to the presidency, later resulting to a surge in credit ratings for the country, and then to a rise in the GNP. A good news, indeed.
Another boost to the region’s repute as a leading renewable or alternative energy center in the country was the launching in October of a 19.9-megawatt biomass power plant of San Carlos BioPower Incorporated and ground breaking of the first commercial solar farm of the San Carlos Solar Energy Incorporated in San Carlos City, Negros Occ.
The project is under the BronzeOak Philippines and is supported by ThomasLloyd Group. A leading European-based asset management and project finance group that has put in $470 million or equivalent to more than Php20 billion investments in the Philippines.
A first-time event or development endeavour in the region was the holding of the First Panay-Guimaras Indigenous People Leaders’ Summit on October 20-22 in Jamindan, Capiz, which was conceived to educate and empower IP leaders in Panay and Guimaras as advocates for peace and development through appropriate tribal representation.
The Barangay Elections pushed through on October 25, although sans the election for Sangguniang Kabataan (SK) officers.
About four months after the first Disaster Risk Reduction and Management (DRRM) Summit for WV local chief executives was held in Iloilo City on the occasion of the National Disaster Consciousness Month (NDCM) observance last July, one of the region’s nightmarish experiences of a natural disaster occurred. Super typhoon “Yolanda” made at least two of its landfalls in Panay Island, meaning its impact came so hard it left a swath of destruction.
Hardest hit were northern Iloilo, much of Capiz and Roxas City, and Aklan. The destruction in infrastructures, agriculture, fisheries and human lives were massive so much so that Malacanang declared a state of national calamity (to take into account also the tragic effects of the typhoon in Eastern Visayas and other areas along its path) and prompting President Aquino to visit Panay particularly Roxas City.
The situation also saw the outpouring of international aid from various foreign countries and organizations.
An assessment done by the Regional Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Council (RDRRMC) placed the cost of rehabilitation in the region at some P12 billion.
Yolanda’s onslaught put an exclamation point to 2013 as it was about to end, a mark that at first raised a sense of bewilderment and frustration to a region and people who have practically gone over the ordeal brought about by typhoon “Frank” in 2008. As weeks passed by, however, from that particular initial emotional sense emerged the real spirit of the Western Visayans – strong, optimistic and resilient.
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