Governor Arthur D. Defensor, Sr. delivered his State of the Province Address at the Sangguniang Panlalawigan Session Hall today, October 25, 2016. Read the whole transcript below:
STATE OF THE PROVINCE ADDRESS 2016
BY GOV. ARTHUR D. DEFENSOR, SR.
Vice Governor Christine S. Garin, Members of the Sangguniang Panlalawigan, distinguished guests, fellow workers in government, ladies and gentlemen:
In the course of all my years in public service, from the time I served as the first Mayor of the newly-created Municipality of Mina almost 50 years ago until now, I have always asked myself these questions: Have I arrived at my destination? And if I have, when do I stop?
Let’s answer the second question first — and collectively: When do we stop?
No, we don’t stop. As public servants, there’s no stopping for us at some destination we have marked out for ourselves in the course of our journey — for if we do, we wilt. And wither. And become worthless.
Public service is not a walk in the park, not a field trip, not even just a journey — but a pilgrimage of faith — faith in ourselves, in our capabilities and our resolve to achieve the greatest good for the greatest number of our people.
Since I came back as your Governor, we have dreamed a lot and worked so hard to give color, meaning and substance to our banner and call for “Reform and Change”.
I won’t bore you with a litany of past accomplishments and admissions of past disappointments. Let’s move on. Let’s talk of the here and now.
But, first, we must look back and recall. Borrowing the words of a great Jewish writer Elie Wiesel, a holocaust survivor: “Without memory, there is no culture. Without memory, there would be no civilization, no society, no future.”
That is why we rebuilt our Casa Real from the ashes of our old Casa Gobierno. There it stands to my right as I speak, “an enduring witness to the glorious past of the Province of Iloilo, and a symbol of its vibrant present.” No need for me to praise or promote it. It speaks for itself.
Sugiran ko kamo kung ano matabo sa inang building diri sa nawala nga kilid sang Kapitolyo kag sa iya palibot. Ang ginatumod ko amo ang daan nga Iloilo Provincial Jail.
I know too well that that place is a dungeon of despair. I have practiced law for a good part of my life dealing with men and women incarcerated there. And I’m seriously considering having it exorcised of all the anxiety, the anger and the anguish that resided there before we inaugurate it for its new purpose — a purpose none of the old inmates there could have imagined possible.
Soon, our old Iloilo Provincial Jail will reopen its doors as the home of our Western Visayas Regional Museum — a repository of our collective memories pleasant and painful, triumphal and trivial, mediocre and monumental. This was an old dream that is now at the threshold of reality. This achievement would have been beyond us without the unwavering support of our National Museum. The institution and its leadership have invested time, talent and resources to help transform a penitentiary into a palace of culture and history.
Indi lamang amo sina.
Aton man i-develop ang aton propiedad sa palibot sang Kapitolyo — halin sa Casa Real tubtob sa Metro Iloilo Water District — nga mangin isa ka Government Center nga may mga Mini-Parks kag Multi-Level Parking nga aton ipahamtang dira sa aton bakante nga lote nga ginbayaan sang National Irrigation Authority. We are planning to engage the services of Architect Paulo Alcazaren, the talent behind the Singapore River Quay and the Iloilo Esplanade, for this massive undertaking.
This will be operated as an economic enterprise primarily for people working in or dealing with the Iloilo Provincial Government and the Iloilo Hall of Justice. And with this, we hope to solve a bad and ever-worsening problem in the city: parking.
For the moment, let’s go back to basics. Even as we explore the frontiers of creativity and innovation in the area of resource-generation in our pursuit of greater local autonomy, we cannot escape, for the moment, our dependence on taxes to keep us alive. I can count on my fingers the number of LGUs which can survive without their Internal Revenue Allotments or IRAs. We cannot. Not yet — and not in the foreseeable future. Not until change comes — as our new President has promised during his campaign — when an acceptable form of federalism finally fulfills the promise of genuine local autonomy.
Meanwhile, we manage to survive quite well.
Our Provincial Treasurer's Office has improved its tax collection efficiency for the first semester this year by 3.32 percent higher than what was collected during the same period last year — that’s close to P174.4 million over the previous P168.8 million. We expect to collect more before the end of the year.
Kag para sa kasulhayan sang aton mga taxpayers, ginhingyo naton ang Land Bank of the Philippines nga magpahamtang sang Online Banking Services para sa mga nagabayad sang ila buhis. Gina-paabot naton nga pwede na kamo makabayad sang inyo buhis para sa Gobyerno Probinsyal sa mga dalagko nga mga malls.
You might think that the local taxes you pay — burdensome as they may feel for many of you — couldn’t really go a long way to finance our massive programs and projects for the province. By themselves — maybe not. But they are indispensable in the scheme of “counterparting”.
The idea is simple, really. Some nations, like people, are poor. Some are rich. We might be richly endowed in terms of human and natural resources, but poor in market economics. But we have rich friends who sincerely want to help us.
So how does it work?
Assuming we need to undertake a project but we don’t have enough money for it. So, either we ask for help from our foreign friends, or they volunteer to help us.
Our rich friends want to help but they don’t want to appear like they were giving us dole-outs. So they ask us to put up our counterpart. They offer us 100 pesos, if we can put up 1 peso. That’s the deal, with no other strings attached.
So, with the local taxes you pay as our counterpart, we have entered into massive joint projects that we couldn’t have undertaken by ourselves. Projects like those funded by the World Bank through the Philippine Rural Development Program or the PRDP. We have three of those going on even as we speak: the 28-kilometer Passi City-Gemumua Agahon road which costs 264 million pesos, the 10.2 kilometer Poblacion to Tacuyong Norte road in Leon that costs 114.8 million pesos, and the 7 kilometer Parara-Jamog road in Tigbauan, costing 77 million pesos.
Three similar projects will soon be implemented — the 4.5 kilometer San Antonio-Lambuyao-Abilay road in Oton which will cost 46 million pesos, the 9.9-kilometer Tinocuan-Maribuyong road in Dueñas worth 100 million pesos, and the 14.2-kilometer Bongol-Quipot road — with two bridge components — in Janiuay worth 185 million pesos.
Kuntani, ang mga banwa nga makabenepisyo sa sini nga mga proyekto ang ginalauman nga mag panga-baga sang counterpart funding. Ugaling, kalabanan sa ila indi makasarang. Gani, bilang ginikanan, ang Gobyerno Probinsyal, amo ang naga-lukdo sang responsibilidad sang iya mga kabataan.
Along similar lines, and in partnership with the Department of the Interior and Local Government, we are also implementing the KALSADA program or “Konkreto at Ayos na LanSAngan ang DAan tungo sa Pangkalahatang Kaunlaran” which involves the concreting of the 15.3-kilometer Badiang-Ilajas-Moroboro-Lincud-Rumagayray-San Enrique road.
At the cost of 117 million pesos, this will benefit the towns of Anilao, Dingle and San Enrique. For this, our counterpart is 30 percent of the total project cost.
In partnership with the Department of Agrarian Reform and the Asian Development Bank, we are currently implementing the concreting of vital farm-to-market roads under the Agrarian Reform Communities Project Phase II in the municipalities of Barotac Viejo, Bingawan, Dumangas, Lambunao and San Rafael in the total amount of 242 million pesos, where we gave a counterpart of 38.7 million pesos in cash and in kind.
Ini nga mga dalanon amo ang mga masunod: ang Sitio Nagpana–Sitio Proper Lipata–San Geronimo farm-to-market road sa Barotac Viejo, ang Agba-o–Tapacon–Inamyungan-Guinhulacan farm-to-market road sa Bingawan nga may kaupod nga taytay, ang Pulao–Balod–Sulangan farm-to-market road sa Dumangas; ang Agsirab–Bagongbong–Sitio Agdalusan farm-to-market road sa Lambunao; kag ang San Andres–San Florentino farm-to-market road sa San Rafael nga may kaupod man nga taytay.
Sa idalom sang Tulay ng Pangulo para sa Kaunlarang Pang-Agraryo ukon ang President's Bridge Program, duha ka mga steel bridge ang una nga paga-ubrahon. Sang nagligad lamang nga semana, akon gin-sumiter sa Sangguniang Panlalawigan ang Memorandum of Agreement para sa pagpatuman sang pagpahimo sang Guinawahan Bridge sa Badiangan kag Nabitasan Bridge sa Pototan. Dugang pa nga mga steel bridges ang paga-patindugon sa masunod nga mga binulan.
Aside from infrastructure, which is really the backbone of any emerging economy, food production remains our top priority. And we remain steadfast in providing assistance to our farmers in the form of certified seeds, farm equipment and small-scale irrigation facilities. Iloilo remains one of the top five rice-producing provinces in the country. But that’s not good enough. We have to do more.
In aquaculture, Iloilo ranked second in the country in fish capture within municipal waters with a total of 58,900 metric tons in production for the year 2015. We are blessed with the bounty of the soil and of the seas. Let’s not dissipate it. Let’s preserve and protect it.
We need water as much as we need land. And yet, what we have in abundance, we often take for granted. But we ought to be careful, for what we have in plenty, we can easily lose. I still remember the old Ilonggo hurubaton: “Ang tubig sa tingulanon, sa tingadlaw pagabawi-on.”
That’s why we care for our watersheds as much as we care for our seas. That is why we have now planted more than two million trees — seedlings, at least — with the cooperation of our government workers and private volunteers, young people mostly, in our Action for Regreening and Transformation for Climate Change Adaptation (ART for CCA) Program.
That’s why we keep on pushing programs like our Rural Water Supply and Sanitation Projects which, to date, provided water systems to 291 barangays since 2010, along with our Provincial Livelihood Project Fund that provided loans amounting to 4.4 million pesos to 10 farm cooperatives last year and our Rainwater Harvesting Technology Transfer Program that helped build small farm reservoirs and rainwater harvesting facilities.
Our foreign friends have been helping us in these areas as they are helping in other vital areas as well.
We have a long-standing partnership with the Republic of Korea through the Korean International Cooperation Agency or KOICA in the implementation of the Iloilo Geographically Isolated and Disadvantaged Area (GIDA) Health System Strengthening Project.
Last month, Korean Ambassador Kim Jae Shin turned over to the Province of Iloilo the newly-completed Comprehensive Emergency Obstetrics and Newborn Care facilities and newly-purchased equipment for the Aleosan District Hospital in Alimodian, the Jesus M. Colmenares Memorial District Hospital in Balasan, and the Dr. Ricardo S. Provido Memorial District Hospital in Calinog.
The Iloilo GIDA Health System Project is a grant from KOICA and the Republic of Korea in the amount of 7 million US dollars, or about 300 million pesos, which primarily aims to strengthen the maternal and child health service delivery system of the three recipient district hospitals and the Rural Health Units (RHUs) in nine municipalities served by these hospitals: Alimodian, Leon, San Miguel, Calinog, Bingawan, Balasan, Batad, Estancia and Carles.
This project has augmented the bed capacities of Aleosan District Hospital with 40 beds, the Jesus M. Colmenares Memorial District Hospital with 48 beds and the Dr. Ricardo S. Provido Memorial District Hospital in Calinog with 32 beds. KOICA has also provided additional facilities for the three hospitals, such as X-ray and ultrasound equipment, hospital beds, laboratory instruments and supplies as well as generator sets.
Gin-umpisahan naton ini nga partnership sadtong 2014 sa handum nga mangin State-of-the-Art Hospitals for the Poor ang aton mga hospital.
And towards that end, the rest of our hospitals are also undergoing similar transformation, especially with the implementation of the Hospital Facilities Enhancement Program in partnership with the Department of Health. As of last year, the DOH has implemented various projects amounting to 244 million pesos — and last month, it has endorsed to PAGCOR our additional proposed projects amounting to 225 million pesos.
Bilang pasalamat, aton gin-donar sa Department of Health ang aton duta sa Santa Barbara nga nagalapad sang 9,900 square meters agud patindugan sini sang ila Regional Office, upod ang PoPCom kag ang PhilHealth.
Speaking of PhilHealth and our economic enterprises as sources of income for our Province, our implementation of the Point-of-Care program is bearing fruit — our hospitals earned a total of 431 million pesos in 2015 as we project an earning of 562 million pesos this year — an increase of 131 million pesos.
Of course, even as our hospitals earn from PhilHealth, we also invest for our people in PhilHealth. In the last two years, we invested 60 million pesos or 30 million pesos annually for the PhilHealth enrolment of our indigent patients. In 2015, we enrolled 8,148 patients, and as of June this year, we have already enrolled 5,160 patients.
Ang kinitaan sang aton mga hospital aton man ginabalik indi lamang sa pagpagpamakal sang mga equipment kag mga pasilidades, apang ginagamit man naton sa pagpamakal sang mga bulong kag mga supplies kag subong man sa hiring sang additional personnel.
We spent 153 million pesos last year and 219 million pesos this year for medicines and supplies so our patients will no longer incur out-of-pocket expenses for their medical and surgical needs. And we have allocated 8 million pesos for the construction of our provincial warehouse to expedite replenishment of medicines and supplies.
We have also hired additional health and support personnel to serve our people better. We have appropriated 66.4 million pesos for 593 additional hospital personnel, including 33 physicians and 241 nurses, among others.
Aside from the three GIDA hospitals I have mentioned earlier, we will also upgrade the bed capacities of our other hospitals. Six of our 50-bed hospitals will be upgraded to 75 beds, while the rest will be upgraded to 50 beds.
Even as we care for those who are ill, we also look after those who are in need because of other disabilities. For this reason, we have expanded our Aid to Individuals in Crisis Situations or AICS program to cover some 4,965 indigents last year in the amount of 10.9 million pesos. More than half of them are senior citizens.
We are grateful to the Latter Day Saints Charities, the Humanitarian Arm of the Mormon Church, for providing wheelchairs, crutches, walkers and canes to 251 persons with disabilities as of September 2016. Suno sa ila, ang Iloilo ang may pinaka-maayo sa pagpatuman sa amo nga programa para sa mga PWDs.
We are not only assisting our people with direct assistance but with programs that will provide employment opportunities for our youth through our Public Employment and Services Office (PESO). We have upgraded that office into a full-fledged Department and complemented it with a push for greater investment generation by strengthening our Local Economic Development and Investments Promotions Center.
Just last October 14 in Cebu City, the Department of Labor and Employment honored our Public Employment and Service Office as the Best PESO in the whole country.
Ang aton mga programa para sa mga kabataan nagasugod sa pagpreparar sa ila nga mangin responsable nga mga pumuluyo. Ginpabakod naton ang aton Iskolar sang Iloilo Program, agud malakip naton ang mga persons with disabilities kag mga katapo sang indigenous communities. Sa 23 ka graduates sang nagligad nga school year, may ara isa ka summa cum laude, isa ka magna cum laude kag napulo ka cum laude.
Nakatukod naman kita sang 42 ka mga school-based Multi-Purpose Teen Centers sa bug-os nga probinsya, kag may walo pa kita ka mga teen centers nga iga-inagurahan antes magtakop ang tuig nga ini.
Sa masunod nga tuig, may napulo kita ka teen centers nga paga-buksan agud ang mga kabataan malikaw sa mga risky behaviors kasubong sang pag-inom sang alak, paggamit sang droga kag temprano nga pagpaminata. Ginakilala naton ang pagpangabudlay sang Provincial Population Office sa pagpanguna ni Mr. Ramon Yee.
Paagi sa aton Provincial Social Welfare and Development Office, nagapatuman man kita sang mga skills training para sa mga pamatan-on nga katapo sang Pag-asa Youth Association of the Philippines.
We also established the Iloilo Physical Fitness and Sports Development Council as we aim to implement a comprehensive physical fitness and sports program for our youth. And we are now ready to support these programs with physical resources and facilities. We have completed the rehabilitation of our Iloilo Sports Complex at the cost of 25 million pesos and the installation of a new eight-lane synthetic running track oval at the cost of 13 million pesos, to mention just two.
We continue to rehabilitate the lives of the Yolanda victims in Northern Iloilo who, despite the deluge of relief, still require long-term assistance for their needs to enable them to stand on their feet again, with renewed strength and optimism.
Again, let me thank KOICA for assisting us not only in our health programs but also in responding to the needs of our marginal fishermen in Concepcion by funding the development of the municipal port there in the amount of 4 million US dollars, or some 168 million pesos. This facility will be a great help in raising the income of our fisherfolk residing not only in the many island-barangays of Concepcion but also of other neighboring municipalities.
Let me also acknowledge the help of the Italian Government for providing us with two sea ambulances to serve the emergency needs of those residing in our island barangays in Northern Iloilo. Costing 4.4 million pesos, these sea ambulances are equipped with collapsible stretchers, medical kits and rubber lifeboats. Aside from emergency response, they will also augment the monitoring, control and surveillance capability of our Iloilo Provincial Bantay Dagat Task Force.
Halin sa aton kaugalingon nga pundo, gin-islan naton ang duha naton ka mga Bantay Dagat patrol boats nga naguba sadtong bagyo Yolanda. Ining mga bag-o nga mga patrol boats may turbo engines, global positioning system or GPS equipment kag communication facilities. Ang aton Bantay Dagat wala naga-untat sa ila kampanya batok sa illegal fishing sa Northern Iloilo, isa sa pinaka-manggaranon nga palangisdaan sa bilog nga kalibutan.
Still, in Northern Iloilo, the Irish NGO “Concern Worldwide” implemented 260 million pesos worth of livelihood projects in Concepcion as rehabilitation assistance to those who suffered from the wrath of typhoon Yolanda in 2013.
The Italian Government also provided 5.8-million peso worth of solar lamps to over 1,000 fishermen, and 21 million peso worth of farm equipments like hand tractors and rice threshers to farmers in Yolanda-stricken communities.
I am also happy to announce that the islands of Pan de Azucar and Botlog in Concepcion have been declared rabies-free by the National Rabies Prevention and Control Committee, thanks to the joint efforts of our Provincial Health Office and our Provincial Veterinary Office.
All our work did not go unnoticed. We’ve won coveted awards over all these years — as I have dutifully reported to you. And we need not revisit it. Let me just report to you a few items on current events.
Before the close of 2015, the Province of Iloilo was adjudged the Best Performing Province in Western Visayas in the DILG's Annual Excellence in Local Governance Awards. Iloilo Province was also adjudged Champion in three out of four categories, namely, Best in Administrative Governance, Best in Economic Governance, and Best in Environmental Governance.
In December last year, the Iloilo Provincial Assessor’s Office was awarded the Most Outstanding Provincial Assessment Office in Western Visayas by the Bureau of Local Government Finance. Congratulations to our newly-appointed Provincial Assessor Katherine Mae Sullano!
In the same month, our provincial newsletter, Balita Halin sa Kapitolyo, published by our Public Information and Community Affairs Office, was chosen the Best Agency Newsletter in the Region by the Philippine Information Agency. Let me also congratulate our PICAO Chief Nereo Lujan for having received the Presidential Medal for Accomplishments in Journalism and Local History awarded by the Presidential Communications Operations Office.
At the start of 2016, I had the honor to accept on your behalf the Gawad Parangal 2016 Award as the Most Outstanding Governor in the field of Social Welfare and Development given by the Association of Local Social Welfare and Development Officers, a distinction that elevated me to the Hall of Fame after having received that high honor for the third time in three consecutive years.
As I have mentioned earlier, we won the Best PESO Award and I would like to congratulate Mr. Francisco "Bombit" Heler for that. The Province of Iloilo was also awarded 2nd Runner-up Best Tourism-Oriented LGU and let me also congratulate another "Bombit" — Mr. Gilbert "Bombit" Marin — for having been cited as the Most Outstanding Provincial Tourism Officer in the Philippines by the Association of Tourism Officers in the Philippines or ATOP and the Department of Tourism.
The Province of Iloilo was also included as one of the National Finalists in the Best in Customer Empowerment Award by the Department of the Interior and Local Government and the National ICT Confederation of the Philippines.
Last August 26, 2016 on the occasion of the 115th Police Service Anniversary of the Philippine National Police, I received an award in behalf of the Province of Iloilo from PNP Director General “Bato” de la Rosa for being the Most Outstanding Local Government Unit in Region VI for 2015 for its outstanding support for the PNP, in line with their Integrated Transformation Program - Performance Government System.
Pamatuod ini sang aton wala untat nga kampanya batok sa kriminalidad, kasubong sang iligal nga droga, iligal nga pasugal, kag iligal nga pagpangisda, agud mapabilin nga malinong kag matawhay ang bug-os nga Probinsya sang Iloilo.
For the second time, our Provincial Social Welfare and Development Office also won the Gawad Listahanan Award and the Panata Ko Sa Bayan Award for utilizing the National Household Targeting System of the Department of Social Welfare and Development in addressing poverty in the Province of Iloilo. Congratulations, Dr. Neneth Pador!
I also received for the Province of Iloilo the Kalikasan Award from the Department of the Environment and Natural Resources in recognition of our sustained effort in environmental governance, protection and rehabilitation through the Action for Regreening and Transformation for Climate Change Adaptation (ART for CCA) Program.
I am also thankful to the Rotary Foundation for making me a Paul Harris Fellow, a very special distinction in Rotary Club International. Likewise, I am thankful to the Junior Chamber International for honoring me as Pinoy Icon 2016 – Gen. Emilio Aguinaldo for Government Service Awardee last June 12, 2016 in commemoration of the 118th Independence Day celebration.
On Thursday, the 27th of October, I will be in Manila to receive the 2016 Seal of Good Local Governance for the Province of Iloilo from DILG Secretary Ismael Sueno for having excelled in financial administration, social protection, disaster preparedness, business friendliness and competitiveness, peace and order and environmental management.
This is already our second Seal of Good Local Governance, as we have received the same award last year – and it is now prominently displayed at the Capitol lobby, symbolizing our journey towards good local governance as we uphold the standards of transparency, integrity and efficient service delivery.
This honor will allow us access to the DILG's Performance Challenge Fund, facilitation of loan approval through a Good Financial Housekeeping Certification, and other financing windows.
We are certainly gratified and humbled by all this praise and commendation.
But as I’ve said before — and I say it again — we are not here to collect trophies or medals or plaques of recognition. All the honor and acclaim that come our way are but bonuses for the work we have done and continue to do.
We simply do our best to attain the greatest good for the greatest number of our people.
If we can’t do that, awards are meaningless. If we do that, awards are not necessary.
Let’s do what we’re here to do.
But all that we have done would not have happened without the unwavering support of the Sangguniang Panlalawigan.
God bless the Province and the people of Iloilo!
Madamo guid nga salamat kag maayong hapon sa inyo tanan.