2005 STATE OF THE PROVINCE ADDRESS
“ABANTE ZANORTE”
By:  Hon. Rolando “Lando” Enriquez Yebes
Provincial Governor, Zamboanga del Norte

 

INTRODUCTION

I come to you on this historic occasion – my first State of the Province Address mandated by the Local Government Code – brimming with hopes and prayers that united we can build a greater Zamboanga del Norte. For it is in unity, forged in the anvil of a common desire that we can serve the highest interest of our beloved Norte Zamboangueño people, in particular, and the Filipino nation, in general.

In my inaugural address, I laid down my 8-Point Development Agenda for the next 3 years – not utopia but one that is practical we can achieve and accomplish on time.

A hundred days after, I faced the people to report the modest inroads my administration has started in the areas of health development, agriculture, environment protection, infrastructure, and local governance, and electronic governance (E-Governance).

Today, eight (8) months after, I would like to say that we have worked in solidarity and cooperation to rise above the challenges of the times: the economic difficulties and the residual effects of the last election, through confidence-building and consultations.

The harmonious and collaborative relationship, especially between the Executive and the Legislative Branches of the Provincial Government, has given me the impetus to clearly set our vision and goals for our beloved Zamboanga del Norte.  For this I am thankful for the Honorable Vice Governor and the Members of the Sangguniang Panlalawigan. I am deeply grateful that as a sign of people’s overwhelming support, they gave me a huge majority in the Sangguniang Panlalawigan, among the local governments, and the three (3) congressional districts, thus allowing the Executive and Legislative Branches to work for measures calculated to bring into reality the dream and aspirations to improve our quality of life.

I am also deeply pleased that we have come to terms with the fact that a province deeply divided will not stand. And it certainly will not move forward.

Consequently, our administration succeeded to achieve modest accomplishments, that all combined manifest my strong resolve to serve the people above all else – As aptly stated, – UNA SA TANAN ANG KATAWHAN!

“I come to you on this historic occasion – my first State of the Province Address brimming with hopes and prayers that united we can build a greater Zamboanga del Norte,” says Gov. Rolando Yebes after acknowledging some of his guests and supporters.

ACCOMPLISHMENTS:

Allow me to walk you through to some of my humble achievements in the first few months of my ascendancy to the Office of the Governor.

LOOMING POWER CRISIS

Upon assumption to office, the threat of a powerless province was looming over us. ZANECO was finding difficulty accessing loans from government banks to immediately pay the principal amount of the Fuel Compensating Charge or Incremental Cost  (FCC/ICC) charged by the National Power Corporation or NPC to ZANECO.

Please recall that ZANECO was prohibited to collect the pass-on FCC/ICC component of the NPC power bills within the period July 1991 to December 1993 due to the preliminary injunction issued by the Trial Court in the civil case filed by the Province of Zamboanga del Norte against ZANECO, which preliminary injunction subsisted until the dismissal and reversal thereof by the Court of Appeals was finally affirmed by the Supreme Court in October 2000. For a period of nine (9) years, ZANECO was not able to pay NPC the principal FCC/ICC account in the amount of P30.557 million.

To delay the payment to NAPOCOR meant further increase in the imposed interest and penalties that would eventually be passed on to the consuming public.

Thus, in two (2) separate resolutions, the ZANECO Board of Directors sought the assistance and intercession of the provincial leadership to solve the problem by any legitimate means.

A panoramic scene of the SOPA fully attended by supporters of the Yebes Administration.

Acceding to the request of the ZANECO Board of Directors, we initiated negotiations with the Land Bank of the Philippines by making representation with the bank’s President, Former Congressman Gary Teves, for loan assistance to ZANECO. To cut the story short, ZANECO was granted the loan, paid NAPOCOR, thwarted imminent black out or power disconnection, and kept the province lighted enabling us to meet the power demand of a growing economy.  

PATRIOTISM REKINDLED

I am happy to report that I rekindled patriotism and love of country and province among government officials and employees throughout the province by singing the National Anthem and the Provincial Hymn with passion and burning fervor. The Provincial Hymn gives us a sense of identity as a people of this beautiful land we call Zamboanga del Norte. For so long a time, we are a province divided by our own parochial interest and crab mentality. As President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo said in her inaugural address: “it is not free markets but patriotism that makes countries strong”.

CONSULTATIVE DIALOGUES

Consultative leadership being the main feature of this administration and we believe no one has a monopoly on right ideas, the Executive and Legislative Branches jointly conducted monthly municipal and barangay consultation dialogues to reach out to all parties at all levels, regardless of political affiliations or loyalties, to join me in those things that should be everyone’s concern because they rise above politics to the level of patriotism.

Undertaken every last Monday of the month in different towns, such as Polanco, Katipunan, Liloy, Siocon, and Godod, these consultative dialogues provide the avenue for the local leadership to present to the provincial leadership their most pressing needs, discuss and share views and ideas to resolve them with dispatch.

Gov. Yebes was all smiles as he announced the presence of the three (3) Congressional Representatives of the province of Zamboanga del Norte, namely; Congr. Cely Jalosjos of the 1st District, Congr. Roseller Barinaga of the 2nd District, and Cong. Cesar Jalosjos of the 3rd District.

TITLING OF PROPERTIES

Over the years, under the stewardship of various administrations, the provincial government has acquired a number of parcels of land which to date have not been titled.   Adding insult to injury, unauthorized persons have occupied these properties.     

 

As a remedial measure, I have caused the process of issuing titles for our properties, which are being utilized as hospitals, jails, schools, medical centers and other public structures.  Conciliatory moves have been introduced to ensure that unauthorized persons vacate government lands.  To give way to the construction of the modern hospital, we are transferring the provincial jail in Sicayab to Misok, Sindangan and Don Jose Aguirre, Manukan.

I cannot end this discussion on government land without  expressing  the  gratitude  of the Provincial Government to our  provincemates who – all these years - have been donating  valuable  parcels of land  for  public  purpose.  In the same vein, under my leadership, the provincial government is committed to fairly compensate our provincemates whose properties are being used - for public purpose – by the government, without paying therefor.   

 

MEGA INITIATIVES

POVERTY MAPPING PROGRAM

The poverty mapping program was conceived to lay the strong fundamentals in the identification and implementation of poverty -reduction projects and activities, which scheme is intended to answer to the ignominy of the declaration that our province is one of the poorest provinces of the country.

The objectives of the program are three-pronged:

One, it provides answers to the questions: WHO ARE THE POOREST OF THE POOR, WHY ARE THEY POOR, WHERE ARE THEY, and WHAT DO THEY NEED;

Second, the program is a tool to continuously touch base with the rural communities; and

Third, it facilitates the updating of the Minimum Basic Needs data bank of barangays, an effective instrument in assessing the essential needs of a family.

In essence, the program is a prelude of the indigency and poverty reduction initiatives of my administration. Undertaken jointly by the Provincial Social Welfare and Development Office, and the Community Development Assistance Unit or CDAU of the Office of the Provincial Governor, the program is concretized through the conduct of surveys at the barangay level.

CDAU has completed the survey in the barangays of the municipalities of Polanco, Piñan, La Libertad, Sibutad, Manukan, Labason, Katipunan, Jose Dalman and Siayan. Nearing completion are the surveys in the municipalities of Godod, Gutalac, Kalawit, and other thirteen municipalities.  The surveys conducted as of today, covered a total of 91,511 households or a total of 457,555 individuals.

The end result of the surveys facilitates the identification of indigent families who would qualify to benefit under the Indigency Program as well as the livelihood projects of the provincial government. The provision of livelihood is facilitated under the program Tulong ni Lando sa Communidad or TLC.

Just last February 3, 2005, the first batch of beneficiaries of my Indigency program in partnership with the PhilHealth was issued their respective PhilHealth cards, and some of them are here to join us this afternoon. Can I request you to please stand up to be recognized?   Ladies and gentlemen, our beneficiaries . . . . .

Under the livelihood program, recipients are organized into cooperatives, and empowered them economically thru skills trainings and provision of agricultural inputs for livelihood undertakings.  This is being undertaken in close collaboration with the Office of the Provincial Agriculturist, and Technical Education and Skills Development Authority or TESDA.

Among the cooperatives organized and assisted are the Zamboanga del Norte Handicap Cooperative, Zamboanga del Norte Coconut Farmers Cooperative, San Jose Multi-Purpose Cooperative, and Datu Tangkilan Women’s Association.

Even the outside area of the convention was jam-packed with people hailing from the different towns of the province.

HEALTH AND SANITATION

Health is wealth, and a healthy populace brings about a productive economic human resource. This is why, under my administration, I am extending equal importance to preventive and curative health programs.

These preventive health programs implemented in the province in partnership with the Department of Health include Maternal and Child Health Services, National Tuberculosis Program, Expanded Program on Immunization, Cardiovascular Prevention and Control, Rabies Control, Leprosy Control Program, Acute Respiratory Infection Control, Dental Health, and Environmental Sanitation.

Implementation of the micronutrient supplementation program in the province is undertaken by the provincial government in collaboration with the Helen Keller International and the, Micronutrients Operational Strategies and Technologies or MOST, two (2) organizations that are funded by USAid.  MOST organization advocates for food fortification, in particular, with Vitamin A. In the province, coconut oil produced by Private Oil Mills, formerly known as SIOM, has already been certified by MOST as fortified with Vitamin A. 

Under the Environmental Sanitation Program, a total of 2,256 household toilet facilities were either constructed or improved. Water quality surveillance thru inspection and or disinfection of water supply sources, and household containers, is regularly undertaken by the Provincial Health Office to ensure safe potable water supply in households, schools and establishments.

Simultaneous with the conduct of surveys relative to the poverty mapping program, is the holding of medical outreach missions bringing medical, dental, agriculture and milk feeding services, and relief operations right at the doorstep of barangay households. Between July last year and March this year, these outreach missions served a total of 23,433 individuals and dispensed with medicines amounting to P 731,342.14.

On the curative aspect of our health program, immediately after taking the reins of the provincial government, I launched the ADOPT-A-WARD PROGRAM UNDER THE SAVE OUR HOSPITAL MOVEMENT, intended to improve hospital services and facilities to better serve our people. I am deeply grateful for the kind-hearted members of the business community and the private sector, who readily lend their support to our Adopt-A-Ward Program, thus paving the way for the renovation, refurbishing, and repainting of the following wards in the Zamboanga del Norte Provincial Hospital with very minimal or no cost at all on the part of the provincial government:

Male and Female Medical Charity Wards and Orthopedic Charity Ward by the Isaias Uy family;

Pediatric Charity Ward jointly by the Development Bank of the Philippines and the Catholic Women’s League; and

The Medical Charity Extension Ward by Mr. Edwin Capili.

Renovation of Piñan District Hospital is adopted by Trans and Kika Daarol.

The preparation of the program of work for the renovation of Sindangan Hospital is underway. This will be presented to prospective benefactors for adoption.

Equally important to acknowledge are the other improvements in the Provincial Hospital, including the asphalting of the access road embracing the hospital and the rotonda, repainting of the exterior and interior walls of the hospital, repainting and repair of the operating room, manpower augmentation, and 24-hour pharmacy service.

Our provincial hospital and nine (9) other government hospitals served a total of 126,124 patients, 95,790 patients of whom were outpatients and 30,334 were admitted patients either as charity, Medicare or paying patients. 

Three of our hospitals overflow with patients, namely, the Zamboanga del Norte Hospital with an occupancy rate 137 percent; Manukan Medicare Hospital with 186 percent; and Liloy Integrated Health District Hospital with an occupancy rate of 313 percent. 

Allow me to avail of this forum in expressing the gratitude of the Provincial Government to our province mates who are residing abroad for their kind assistance to our health programs.  May I single out the medical services of the provincial hospital as enhanced with the arrival of new equipment and supplies donated by the Zamboanga del Norte Association of Illinois, thru its Vice-President, Engr. Remchile Sienes. These included a portable defibrillator machine, electrocardiogram with cardiac monitor, 3 suction machines, otoscope, and various medicines and medical supplies.

I also manifest our thanks for the donation of the Zamboanga del Norte Association of California thru its President, Ms. Erika Austin, of some 22,616 tablets of anti-pyretic medicine, together with books and other materials for our Provincial Library.

The province was also fortunate to benefit from the medical and surgical mission conducted by the BISAYA MEDICAL ASSOCIATION of US-based Cebuano-speaking doctors and nurses. In partnership with the provincial government, city governments of Dipolog and Dapitan and the Rotary Club of Dipolog City, the group attended to a number of obstetrics surgical cases, and performed ophthalmology surgeries at Dipolog Medical Center. Consultation services were also extended to out-patients of Dapitan Hospital. 

Signifying their support towards the present Yebes administration as well as indicating the unity that is envied by the other local government units, the Mayors of the province came up the stage and sang the Zamboanga del Norte Hym.

Interplast Germany 2005 should likewise be thanked for conducting a surgical mission in the province early this year. Dubbed as “OPLAN PAHIYUM”, the mission performed surgeries to 98 patients with cleft lip or cleft palate, goiter, hernia, and cysts or abnormal growth.  The German mission was facilitated by Mrs. Norma Eguia Brozska, a native of the municipality of Katipunan, who now resides and works in Germany.

Interplast Germany 2005, thru the team leader, Dr. Siegfried Jaenicke, donated to the Zamboanga del Norte Provincial Hospital, one unit of pulse oximeter and medicines and medical supplies.

Other medical equipment donated to the hospital are 2 units of defibrillator and 1 unit of therapeutic ultrasound, courtesy of Mr. William Raymond Farace of Windham, Vermont.

I have also sustained the implementation of programs and projects for the welfare and protection of children, youth and women, such as:

Free health services on maternal and child care, immunization and micro-nutrient supplement, and socialized medical services to the needy and disadvantaged families. A total of P 1.259 million was utilized as financial assistance for medical and hospitalization of 2,059 individuals who sought assistance from us, while some P195,391.00 was extended to indigent in-patients for medicines and laboratory services ;

Nutrition program through fresh milk feeding and food supplementation to identified underweight pre-school and in-school children.

Under the One-Shot Milk Feeding Program, a total of 2,797 children were served in 21 barangays in the municipalities of Sindangan, Leon Postigo, Jose Dalman, and Mutia, and in the city of Dipolog. Meanwhile, the regular milk feeding program served a total of 947 malnourished children between the ages 2 and 6 years old. Supplemental milk feeding under this program is undertaken within a period of 120 days. To date, implementation of the program has been completed in the municipalities of Pres. Roxas, Leon Postigo and Labason; and on-going in the municipalities of La Libertad, Rizal and Mutia.

Protective services for the children and youth by way of food supplemental feeding and mental development thru the provision of workbooks in all day care centers in the province.

The implementation of the Early Childhood Care and Development (ECCD) is strengthened through the issuance of the following Executive Orders and memorandum:

EO No. 04-11: Organization of the Provincial Council for the Protection of Children;

EO No. 04-12: Organization of the Provincial Early Childhood Care and Development Coordinating Council tasked to oversee the effective implementation of the ECCD program in the entire province; and

Memorandum No. 04-543: Creation of the Provincial Technical Working Group tasked to oversee, monitor, and evaluate programs and services for children.

I have committed to provide counterpart fund in the implementation of the Early Childhood Care Development program in the pilot municipalities of La Libertad, Leon Postigo, Salug, Manukan, Polanco, Rizal, Liloy, Labason, Pres. Roxas, and Sibutad.

In the same vein, I have declared my commitment to promote the Rights of the Child, and make the Province of Zamboanga del Norte a Child Friendly Province with the support of the local government units, national government, non-governmental organizations and the civil society.

 

ENVIRONMENT PROTECTION

TASK FORCE KALASANGAN

In faithful compliance with the Local Government Code,  I  have adopted  adequate  measures to safeguard,  conserve   and  protect  our land, mineral,  marine, forest  and other  resources.

When I assumed the reins of the provincial government, I was told  by radio commentators, columnists, and other media personalities that the wanton destruction of our forest reserves and natural resources cannot be stopped – not by the joint efforts of the religious sector, our own NGOs, not even by the Provincial Governor. We have crossed the Rubicon and we have stopped the destruction of our natural resources thru sheer political will. Today,  I say to those unbelievers    and  other persons   who  doubted my  sincerity that   I  have  stop  the  degradation of  our natural  resources.   On  this  crusade   let me  ask  you,  my  provicemates   to  rally  behind  me  as  one  people   and  one  province.  

I  have  created  the   multi  sectoral   TASK FORCE KALASANGAN,    by  way of  implementing  the  TOTAL LOG  BAN  being  introduced by the national government. The Task Force fought to prevent the occurrence of landslides resulting from denuded forests, as experienced in the Province of Aurora.   Taking the cudgels for the environment, our Sangguniang Panlalawigan has even declared persona non grata some officers of the Department of Natural Resources and Environment (DENR) for their acts inimical to the interest and welfare of the people of Zamboanga del Norte.

Lately,  through the concerted  action of the  Task Force  Kalasangan  as  well as  congressional,  provincial and local  officials, we have  expressed  our  disappointment  and dismay  to  the  higher officials of this Republic on the proposed action of the Department of Environment and Natural Resources to  lift  the  Total Log  Ban  and  allow  logging  operations  anew  in our  province.  Sensitive to the pulse of our people, the President did hear our plea.  For such act, I am grateful to the President for sparing our province from destructive logging operations.  It is my fervent hope and prayer that the position of the National Government will stay on, and eventually our forestlands be declared as national reserves. 

Even as we fight against wanton logging operations, I have initiated the Tree-Planting Programs in some strategic parts in our Province  and I have caused the study of mining operations of big corporations - within our province - with the sole purpose of  preserving  our natural  and God given  resources.

When I assumed office, I declared a moratorium against the extraction and transport of pebbles from our province. The moratorium is not without reason. For theft and smuggling of our pebbles and minerals have been rampant, to the damage and prejudice of our environment. If  only  to  stress  the magnitude  of  this illegal  activity,  recently, I caused  the filing of the formal    Intervention of the provincial government in a case before the Court  in Manila, involving  some thirty two (32) vans containing  pebbles which were transported to Manila from the town of GUTALAC,  worth an estimated  sum of  P1.9M.  

On a happy note, allow me to  report  that  for its operation covering the period from July 2004 thru January 2005, the Provincial Environment and Development Office (PEDO), has contributed  substantial amount to the provincial coffers, by way of fines and penalties  being  imposed  against  illegal  environmental activities.

For the purpose of rationalizing our action on minerals and other  natural resources, I deemed it best to propose some urgent  measures  before the Sangguniang Panlalawigan, which, it is hoped,  in  due time,  will conduct  public  hearing on the matter.

To sustain our efforts in the protection of our forests and bountiful natural resources, I established a workable partnership with our brother indigenous peoples in the uplands to help us safeguard the integrity of our environment from the onslaught of kaingineros and other forms of destruction. It is yours and my responsibility to bequeath the province to future generations in an ecologically sound and healthy state.

Agriculture: The Provincial Leader 

I have always believed that agriculture should be in the forefront in bringing about the kind of development that will take our people across the great divide between poverty and prosperity. Industrialization is a dream that cannot be pursued at this time for the reason that the appropriate infrastructures and other supporting utilities are not yet in placed in our province.   Consequently, it takes some refocusing of priorities to be able to tap to the optimum the potential of the agriculture sector to do this.

In consonance to this thrust, I have strengthened the provision of agricultural extension services to the people in the farming and fishing communities thru the Yield Enhancement through Better Extension Services, YIELD in short, directly linked with the local government units. Its primary objective is to deliver economical, effective, and efficient agricultural services.

In a span of eight (8) months, we have undertaken activities that promote the production of non-traditional crops, such as, sweet potato, cassava, vegetables, peanuts, and high value crops, including organic farm inputs.

On sweet potato production, we have dispersed a total of fifteen thousand (15,000) sweet potato cuttings.  Each of the farmers is allotted 0.25 hectares for the propagation of sweet potato cuttings for future distribution to the rest of the barangays;

On cassava production, a total of 1,690 hectares have been devoted to its production, benefiting 1,824 farmers. This is expected to yield 21,131 tons of dried cassava;

Barangay-based vegetable production is also promoted and its implementation is facilitated during the conduct of integrated outreach missions and TLC activities. To date, a total of 11,853 packs of assorted vegetable seeds have been dispersed to some 2,117 farmers;

Promotion in the use of organic farm inputs like trichogramma and bio-fertilizers is also given priority under the YIELD program;

On fishery, fish seeding of rivers and fish dispersal activities resulted in the dispersal of 214,000 tilapia and 12,000 hito fingerlings to farmers, and twelve (12) rivers in the province were seeded with fish fingerlings.

We have continued the provision of veterinary services to livestock and poultry raisers, and increased farmers’ access to technology livelihood trainings.

The development of agriculture sector in the province is further enhanced with the support that we are getting from the Department of Agriculture thru the implementation of the GMA Rice and Corn programs, and the ZAMBAS Integrated Agricultural Development Program.

Under the ZAMBAS Program, a total of P 2.425 million was released to the province for the implementation of agriculture-infrastructure support projects like stilt dryers, bagsakan center, and farm-to-market roads in the municipalities of Sibuco, Sirawai, Baliguian and Siayan.

The province is also in partnership with the Department of Agrarian Reform thru the Western Mindanao Community Initiative Project or WMCIP, a project that is funded by the International Food and Agriculture Development or IFAD. A total of P8.725 million is earmarked for the province for the following projects intended for implementation in 24 barangays in the municipalities of Katipunan, Pres. Roxas, Sindangan, Siayan, Godod, and Leon Postigo:

Integrated Upland Farming Systems Development Project;

Upgrading of Zamboanga del Norte Ruminants, Poultry Center and Accelerated Animal Dispersal Program; and

Marketing Center in Katipunan

Under the agricultural support services program, the incumbent leadership is strengthening the province’s tractor pool by acquiring additional units of tractors aimed at helping more farmers who are financially incapable to procure farm equipment and implements, particularly farm tractors.

This would also result to job opportunities to our operators, and further capacitate our agriculture people to serve the farming communities and cover a wider area of agricultural lands. 

In line with my vision to mechanize the farming system in the province, I plan to create under the Office of the Provincial Agriculturist, a Farm Mechanization Unit to oversee the modernization in farming approaches. 

The provincial government’s present fleet of six (6) units had served a total of 799 farmers throughout the province in the last eight (8) months. This generated for the provincial coffers a total income of P1.765 million, the highest revenue-generating cost-recovery service of the Office of the Provincial Agriculturist.

Pointing at the guest of children, the Governor then said, “We lighted homes at night for children to study better.”

Tourism

For the first time, the provincial government recognizes the critical role of tourism in the development of the province. The first step that I did was re-organized the Provincial Tourism Council pursuant to the Tourism Code of 2002.  This stance stems from our pride in the natural beauty of our Province and the hospitality of our people.

It is tasked primarily to galvanize the key players in the tourism industry in the province into a solid group. The Council has so far formulated the Provincial Development Tourism Plan, advocated among local government units tourism as a potent vehicle of development.

Thus, the Council initiated the conduct of inventory of eco-tourist destinations, historical and cultural sites, as well as cultural and religious festivals for inclusion in the printing of a world class tourism brochure, video presentation, website advertisement and formulation of tour packages.

Validation tours to different potential tourism sites have been conducted in the municipalities of Sibutad, Rizal, Manukan and Tampilisan. The rest of the municipalities will be visited in the next 2 months.

Only last Christmas, my administration launched the Light-a-Tree Program, which was the first of its kind in the province. Conceived by the Tourism Council, the implementation of the Program did not cost the provincial government a single centavo. Rather, it was successfully undertaken through the participation and support of the private sector, business leaders, non-governmental organizations, government officials, and private individuals. 

The beautifully lighted capitol complex drew an average of 500 people a night from the time it was switched on, which was attended by no less than the Belgian Ambassador and some dignitaries.

Two recent developments further boost the development of the tourism industry in the province. One is the election of ZDN Provincial Tourism Council Chairman Atty. Michael Alan Ranillo, Chairman of the Regional Tourism Council, and, second, is the imminent transfer of the regional office of the Department of Tourism from Zamboanga City in Dapitan City.  These developments open the door for more opportunities of growth for the tourism industry in the province.

The holding of Hudyaka ZANORTE 2005 during the 53rd founding anniversary of the province is hoped to yield positive notes for the tourism industry.

It is our vision to develop Zamboanga del Norte into one of the premier nature-based tourism and convention destinations, and the center of history, culture and arts in the country. Our battlecry is ABANTE ZANORTE!

Rural Infrastructure

The key to the development of any locality is infrastructure development. Notably, investments in infrastructure including power and water provide the greatest multiplier effect for growth and job creation.

Kung maayo ang imprastruktura sama sa kalsada, tulay, airport, pantalan, telepono, koryente, daghan ang mamuhunan sa atong probinsya.  Mudaghan pod ang makatrabaho.

Thus, it is in the area of infrastructure development where we have made huge investments. Under the amended 20 Percent Development Fund for the year 2004, a total of P64.70 million was allocated for various infrastructure projects. This represented about 52.0 percent of total EDF appropriation of P 125.00 million.

In the last 8 months, starting July 2004 until to date, the provincial government has invested P 32.127 million to accomplish a total of 147 infrastructure projects to include the following:

Asphalting/paving of 2.7 kms. of provincial roads;
Maintenance of 802.94 kms. of provincial roads;
Rehabilitation of 7.32 kms. of provincial roads;
Construction of 5 day care centers;

Construction of 2-classroom and one (1) 1-classroom school buildings in the Barangays Nabilid, Tanayan, and Minang in Pre. Roxas; San Miguel in Liloy; Kalaguan, Sibuco; Linay, Manukan; Titik, Leon Postigo; and Lower Lux, Gutalac;

Energized the Jamboree site in Brgy. Intramuros in Sergio Osmeña, along with Sitio Tubalan, Brgy. Josefa in Sindangan; Lapero in Jose Dalman town; Brgys. Lupasang-Lingatongan-Meses, Sitios Maripad and Bob in Brgy. Depane all in Manukan; and Brgy. Dionum in Piñan. An initial total of 50 households benefit from the project.

Installed 30 units of Level I and II water supply in thirty (30) barangays in the cities of Dipolog and Dapitan, and in ten (10) municipalities to address the need for safe water and promote sanitation.

Moreover, under my administration a total of P1.0 million has been allocated to each of the 27 local government units of the province as funding assistance of the provincial government for their respective priority projects. Implementation is entrusted to them with supervision from the men and women of the Provincial Engineering Office. This is a way of empowering LGUs in the area of project implementation.

Twenty-three (23) LGUs have received their share of the assistance for projects ranging from farm-to-market roads, gymnasium, public market to agriculture and fishery related projects that are at various stages of development, as I am speaking now.

The municipalities of Rizal, Piñan, Salug, Godod, Liloy, Baliguian and Siocon have reported 100 percent completion of their projects. The rest of the projects are at various stages of implementation.   On process as of today is the financial assistance intended for the municipality of Labason.

The provincial government provided a total counterpart of P15.92 million for 2 bridge projects under the President’s Bridge Program: Calican Bridge over Dipolog River in the Municipality of Piñan, and Palomok Bridge over Palomok River in Barangay Gatas, Kalawit.

More bridge projects await to be implemented in the province. Early last year, the Regional Development Council endorsed to the President for funding assistance under the President’s Bridge Program 46 bridge projects.

Under my administration, I have recommended additional construction of bridges in some vital areas of our province.

On top of these projects, we have completed and continue the implementation of projects started by the past administration. I have taken this stand, by way of recognition of the projects’ beneficial impacts to the recipient-rural communities.  More importantly, I do not want to put to waste the initial investment poured to these projects.

Notable among the on-going initiatives are the 4 projects in the Triple S-B municipalities funded under US PL480 Section 146 (B) Grant Fund of the Department of Finance, namely:

The construction/improvement of Sibuco-Sirawai Road consisting of 28 kilometers;

The construction of water supply system in Sirawai;

The improvement of Siay-Pisawak-Kilalaban Road consisting of 19 kilometers in Siocon.  Completion of this project is now being undertaken by the municipal government of Siocon under a memorandum of agreement between the provincial government and Siocon leadership; and

The improvement and/or construction of Mamad-Alegria-Tamao-Milidan-Dicolom Coastal Road consisting of 17 kilometers in the municipality of Baliguian. 

Completions of these projects mean so much to our people in the Triple S-B municipalities. Physically isolated from the rest of the province for years, the snail’s pace of development fuelled the feeling of neglect and discontent among our brother Muslims and Subanens. 

It is hoped that with the sincerity of my administration to effectively mainstream the Triple S-B municipalities in the economic development processes of the provincial government, depressing images of burning public markets, bullet-holed municipal hall and houses, somber faces of grieving families, and frightened women and children in evacuation centers deeply etched in our memory will be completely obliterated.  

With the approval of the Sangguniang Panlalawigan, the provincial government will now enter a new phase in its rural infrastructure development with the acquisition of additional equipment totalling about P 54.200 million.

A photo of Governor Rolando Yebes as he enters the plenary hall and is welcomed by the people inside.

EDUCATION

Our support to education goes beyond the provision of school buildings and classrooms 

As earlier mentioned, mental development of pre-schoolers is made possible thru the provision of workbooks in all day care centers of the province.

Also pursued with deep interest is the establishment of libraries in municipalities and barangays pursuant to Republic Act 7743. With the assistance from the Office of the Provincial Librarian, a total 17 municipal libraries, 19 barangay libraries and one city library have either been reactivated or newly established. Books and other reading materials solicited from the National Library are shared to them. The Dipolog Chamber of Commerce has donated some business books and materials to the Provincial library.

Recently, the provincial library and some of the local libraries received books donation from Ms. Irika Austin, President of the ZAMNAC. She also donated one computer unit to the Provincial Library to enhance its computerization program.

The province’s Bookmobile or “Library on Wheels” regularly visits public elementary and secondary schools promoting library awareness, and affording out-of-school youths and out-of-work barangay folks the opportunity to get acquainted with the many uses of a library.

More importantly, the provincial government has sustained its long standing assistance program to the Department of Education address the concern on the lack of teachers. Out of our modest funds, we funded the hiring of 150 secondary school teachers, 106 of whom are drawing their salaries from the Provincial School Board Fund, and the remaining 44 teachers from the General Fund.

 

PEACE AND ORDER

The advancements that we have made in development which I have detailed today, is largely because of the sustained peace and order condition in the province.

I believe that with the resumption of the peace negotiations and the implementation of the ceasefire agreement, hopes are high that by this time lawless elements have come to realize that our people are tired of war and that there are other ways of achieving change and economic progress.

The New People’s Army, on the other hand, has seen its strength greatly diminished not because of armed encounters but because of the development efforts penetrating their former strongholds.

The Zamboanga del Norte PNP Provincial Office recorded a total crime volume of 314 cases, of which 174 were index crimes and 140 were non-index crimes. Of these cases, 301 were solved placing the crime solution efficiency rate at 96.50 percent.

The campaign against illegal drugs and illegal gambling in the province continues. While drug use is not as rampant as it is in other provinces, the police arrested 101 persons caught either pushing or in possession of the prohibited shabu. Total volume of shabu seized was 123.99 grams.

Operations conducted against all forms of illegal gambling resulted in the arrest of 152 persons and confiscated a total of P 108,216.00 bet money.

The drive against illegal logging and fishing has my administration’s unwavering support. The campaign in these two fronts resulted in the arrest 44 illegal fishers and confiscated P14,000.00 worth of fish, 2 fishnets and 16 pump boats; and the arrest of 12 illegal loggers and the confiscation of 14,968 board feet of lumber. 

The fight against illegal quarrying yielded the arrest of 2 people and the seizure of 330 bags of pebbles worth P99,000.00, and one truckload of boulders.

Lending support to police work is the National Bureau of Investigation (NBI) which continues to provide technical services to our courts, prosecutors, military, and the national, provincial and local governments. I would also like to commend the NBI in actively participating the efforts of the provincial government in the conservation and preservation of our forests and mineral resources. Likewise, to the church, led by Bishop Jose R. Manguiran, and the private sector.

I, therefore, call upon all the people of Zamboanga del Norte, the Indigenous Peoples, Subanens, Muslims, and Christians, to close ranks and help me preserve our modest gains. We must hold on each other’s hand and bravely face the challenges.

ELECTRONIC GOVERNANCE OR E-GOVERNANCE

In the field of Information and Communication Technology, I am pleased to report that soon, we shall be able to start with the computerization of the province’s real property tax system thru the facilities and services of the Management and Information System Office or MISO, whose establishment I fully supported. To date, MISO has recorded a 70.0 percent completion in the building of data base of real property units (RPU) for the Municipality of Katipunan. The estimated 170,827 RPUs from the twenty-five (25) municipalities of the province is targeted to be fully automated and functional, including that of the Provincial Treasurer’s Office, by the 3rd quarter of year 2006.

 

AGENDA FOR YEAR 2005 AND BEYOND

In the next 2 and half years, we commit to achieve the following pro-people agenda:

 

ON PATRIMONIAL PROPERTIES

By June 6, 2005, we will be celebrating the 53rd founding anniversary of our province.

 

Even as we prepare for such joyous and momentous event, there are still unresolved problems - conveniently linked to birth pains - which emanated out of the creation of the two (2) provinces of Zamboanga del Norte and Zamboanga del Sur from the mother Province of Zamboanga.  However, after 53 years the pain still continues and subsists.  

 

We refer to our valuable patrimonial properties, representing our share from the partition between the two (2) Zamboanga provinces, as adjudged, by final judgment rendered by the Supreme Court.  These valuable parcels of land are located within heart of Zamboanga City. Ironically, they are being used, utilized and enjoyed by Zamboanga City, without paying any compensation to our province.

Under my leadership, our province is committed to resolve the issue involving the patrimonial properties.

 

BOUNDARY CONFLICT

Another problem involves the boundary conflicts between some towns of Zamboanga del Sur and some of our towns, notably, the towns of SIAYAN, KALAWIT, SERGIO OSMEÑA, LABASON and SALUG.

Again, I am committed to put a definitive resolution to these boundary conflicts thereby preserving the territorial integrity of our affected towns. It is worthy to note that now in the Zamboanga Peninsula, the Province of Zamboanga del Norte holds the distinction of having the largest land area.

 

THE NEW ZAMBOANGA DEL NORTE PROVINCIAL HOSPITAL

I have earlier mentioned that three of our government hospitals are overflowing with patients.  So much so, that in the early months from assumption to office, I started the leg working for the construction of a new provincial hospital.

The proposed hospital is envisioned to be a tertiary level hospital with 200 bed capacity, and more specialized services. It will feature separate outpatient, emergency and main hospital entrances, complete laboratory, X-ray, diagnostic units with separate pharmacy unit; and private doctors clinics.

With the establishment of the new hospital equipped with state-of-the art medical and laboratory facilities, our people need not go to the big cities of Dumaguete, Cebu and Manila, saving cost and time on travel alone.

I am happy to report that this project has gained the support of the Provincial Development Council and the Sangguniang Panlalawigan.

 

AGRICULTURAL INITIATIVES

Let me stress that in the field of agriculture, it is my dream to provide  every municipality with one (1) farm tractor to help farmers  mechanize their farming practices and enhance their production capacity, consistent with the focus of my administration. At present, we have acquired three (3) new tractors, in addition to the existing six (6) tractors. 

 

INFRASTRUCTURE DEVELOPMENT

Our target this year is to complete the implementation of the 149 continuing projects funded by my administration meant to provide:

Facilitate access to the seat of local government, markets, production areas, schools, churches, government facilities, among others.

Moreover, mountain roads should be constructed to open and interlink barangays and towns, and most especially our province with our neighboring provinces, namely, Zamboanga del Sur, Zamboanga Sibugay, and Misamis Occidental, including Zamboanga City. It is only through this network or linkages of roads that we can connect our barangays to our towns, cities, and thereafter, to the seat of government;

Facilitate the delivery of government basic services to rural communities. I am happy to share with you my efforts to acquire a ship, either from the government or business sector,  for the purpose of assuring economical transport of our produce, through the seas or  the President’s  nautical highway, to Cebu, Manila, Dumaguete, Iloilo, Bacolod and other areas  here  and abroad.  It is my desire to make full use of such Nautical Highway, where our Pulauan Port serves as one of the component ports.

Schools to school-less barangays. On a personal note, I strongly believe that EDUCATION provides great opportunity to our youth to fulfil their dreams for a better life. After all, EDUCATION is the great EQUALER in our society.

Open opportunities for livelihood opportunities;

Connect barangays, municipalities, cities, and the province;

Improve hospital services. Also, I intend to make representations with the better universities to open and establish medical schools in our province. Through this process we will save time and money for our students who have to travel to other places to get their medical education.

Access to safe water;

Well lighted homes at night for children to study better;

Well lighted streets for safety and security

 

AIRPORT AND SEAPORTS

As the Gateway of Mindanao, we give our full support to the local governments of Dipolog and Dapitan in the upgrading of the Dipolog airport and Pulauan Port, respectively, two major ports of entry and exit to and from the province and of adjoining provinces. My administration will lobby for the inclusion of Dipolog airport in the restructured Southern Philippines Airport Development Project of the Department of Transportation and Communication.

During the October 6, 2004 meeting of the Provincial Development Council, we passed a resolution reiterating our request to Her Excellency President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo to upgrade the Dapitan Port Terminal Office into Port Management Office; and make it better equipped to provide quality and efficient service to the increasing commuting public and shipping companies that call on the port. Operational statistics of Dapitan Port Terminal Office shows, that in year 2004 alone, a total of 559,317 domestic passengers, and 304,283 metric tons of cargo, both inbound and outbound, were served by Pulauan Port, which part of the Nautical Highway.

The improvement of the port system involving Pulauan Port and six (6) municipal ports will gain my full backing as part of the intermodal transport system in the province.

 

SPORTS GYMNASIUM AND PROVINCIAL MUSUEM

In support to sports and youth development, I am seeking financial assistance from the national leadership for the construction of a Sports Gymnasium and Multi-Purpose Center. Financial help is also sought from our elective Representatives to the Halls of Congress for the construction of a Provincial Museum that will house the mementos of our rich culture and heritage. Understanding and appreciation of our culture evoke in us all a sense of identity as a people.

Let me assure you that the Provincial Government is also committed to lend a helping hand to the business sector with the end in view of allowing them to grow as partners of the provincial government.

 

TRANSFER OF REGIONAL OFFICES IN THE PROVINCE

It is a sad commentary that in comparison – our Province has been virtually receiving the crumbs from the Imperial Manila which has been handing out the projects for the betterment of the countryside. Cognizant of this reality, I have been inviting the transfer of regional offices to our province so as to afford as the chance and opportunity to have direct and immediate access to the national government - through the regional offices. Happily some offices – like Tourism, Agriculture – have signified their preference to move to our province.

 

CHALLENGES AHEAD

We made a headstart in the last 8 months; we must take bolder steps in the next 2 and half years and beyond. All the solutions to all our problems require toughness on the part of the provincial government, cooperation on the part of business community, private sector and the civil society groups, patience on the part of our people, and active support on the part of the Sangguniang Panlalawigan and local government units.

I liken the next 2 and half years of my administration to one span of a long bridge that will bring our people across a great divide between poverty to prosperity. Must one span of bridge sag? No, it must not. It must be strong to the last point so that the next span will have something to hold on to. Just like a runner in a relay, this administration must run even beyond the finish line to make sure the baton is received well by the next runner.

I, therefore, call upon all the people of Zamboanga del Norte, the Indigenous Peoples, Subanens, Muslims, and Christians, to close ranks and help me preserve our modest gains. We must hold on each other’s hand and bravely face the challenges.

God bless us all. Daghang Salamat ug Maayong Hapon!