State of the Province Address
15 July 2011
Governor Gwen Garcia
I thought I could say, after seven years — another July evening, this celebrated hall filled once again by those who wish to hear, of this historic province and its continuing story — that the majesty of the moment has ceased to move me.
But, no. Because we repeat this ceremony — you as well as I; we who are held to account as well as those to whom an accounting is owed — not by rote, nor by routine, but in renewal and reaffirmation of the trust that holds us — and everything else together.
It moves me still, and by your presence tonight no doubt it moves you, as well, that in July — midway through the year — we who have sought and seek to maintain the people’s trust prove that we are worthy of that continuing privilege.
And so we gather each year, midway through it, to measure the now against the beginning, our actions against our promises, so the people may decide — from this solemn inventory — whether there is a balance of hope for the future.
Hope. Each July of the past seven years, when I stood before you as I do now, that balance of hope we have never failed: each year brighter than the last; the state of the province stronger, always, with each passing year.
And as though by force of habit, and as a matter of course, this year, I am proud to announce that the state of this great province is strong; stronger than we have ever been, and stronger than any other province in this country is or can ever hope to be.
As of December 2010, our total assets now stand at 28.6 billion pesos. Cebu is richer by a mile than the next richest province.
Our total income for 2010 was 2.085 billion, up 10% from that of 2009, the number one province in the country in total income.
And as for financial liabilities, at the risk of being repetitious, and annoying to some, the Province of Cebu remains debt-free.
But is the state of the province, however, to be judged solely by its financial position? Is the bottom line the bottom line?
We believe not. Beyond the figures, we believe our success is measured not by the balance sheets but by the balance of our people’s hopes. Whether by our investments now the people can hope for a brighter future. Whether we have made our formidable assets work for the benefit of our most valuable assets — the Cebuano people.
And indeed we have. Our strong financial position, unfettered by debt, has allowed us to invest in the 12-point agenda we set out, seven years ago, to define, and to meet, our people’s hopes and expectations.
In infrastructure, because everything — the quality of our people’s lives, the availability of their livelihoods, and our viability as a province — depends on infrastructure.
Seven years ago, we said we would pave 400 kilometers of our remaining unpaved provincial roads. Today, we have asphalted a total of 773 kilometers, more roads paved than at any other time in this province’s history.
And, with our barangay roads program, a collaborative effort with our towns and cities as well as barangays, we have concreted more than 175 kilometers of barangay roads all over the province.
We have upgraded all our provincial bridges from timber or bailey bridges to concrete, and have even upgraded national bridges, bringing our total accomplishment to 80 concrete bridges. And we thank CEMEX for generously providing, free of charge, the cement needed for a greater number of these bridges.
We have constructed and rehabilitated a total of 59 water systems all over the province, bringing us ever closer to the dream of Level 3 water systems in all barangays in the Province of Cebu.
In bulk water supply, we have successfully completed negotiations of an unsolicited offer for the Carmen Bulk Water Project with a consortium led by Manila Water, and have — today — published an invitation for competitive and comparative offers from all interested parties.
In barangay electrification, we have — through our partnerships with private sector donors like KEPCO, local government units and our congressmen, as well as Cebeco 1, 2 and 3, Banelco and Celco –energized a total of 394 sitios. And we pledge to continue.
But what of the larger question of power supply?
A few years ago, on an occasion such as this, we spoke with great concern on the subject of whether we would have enough power in Cebu to sustain our unprecedented growth.
When supply began to falter, your provincial government, initiated, and with the full cooperation of VECO, CEBECO and their large load customers, implemented, in early 2009, an interruptible load agreement.
By all accounts and by any measure, this trailblazing agreement — never before successfully initiated by any other LGU in the country — mitigated, to a very substantial degree, the effects of the power shortage, and minimized brownouts in the entire province, the City of Cebu included.
For this, we have to thank the inimitable spirit of Cebuano unity, our willingness to face challenges head on, and make sacrifices, together.
We did not stop there, however. In 2009, another historic agreement — a first in the country — was initiated by the Province of Cebu and Global Power, through its Panay Power Corporation. This Power Swap Agreement makes available surplus power from Panay to the 3
Province of Cebu, to cope with additional demand that comes with our continued economic growth.
More importantly, with the province’s all-out support to our power generators, we have since inaugurated last June 27th, the 200 megawatt Kepco-Salcon power plant in Naga City. The 246 megawatts CEDCO Power Plant in Toledo City started commercial operations last March 26, as well. Thus, an additional 436 megawatts has now been added to our base load capacity.
Thank you, Global Business Power Corporation, for believing in Cebu. And thank you, Kepco-Salcon, for carrying on and forging ahead, despite the difficulties thrown your way.
In health, we are completing the construction of the three 100-bed capacity provincial hospitals in Carcar, Balamban and Danao City. We shall also soon begin implementation of the fourth provincial hospital in Bogo City, even as we continue to upgrade facilities and services at the remaining 12 district hospitals spread across the province. And we have constructed 37 birthing centers on our way to providing all our towns and cities with this facility.
We continue to achieve universal coverage of indigents under the Philhealth Indigency Program, enrolling — with the help of our municipalities and cities — a total of 409,736 families.
We also continue to enroll a total of 45,104 barangay officials and workers under our GSIS Group Insurance.
Our comprehensive sanitation and health program has provided 43,373 households with sanitary toilets, ensuring that disease prevention starts at home.
Our 7-year aggressive social welfare program — which aimed to triple the budget for social welfare to address the needs of the underprivileged sectors — has achieved major milestones in our efforts to bring more of government services to those who have less in life.
Our supplemental feeding program, the ECCD, has fed 62,229 of the province’s malnourished children, as well as those in day care, and has achieved an impressive 87-90% rehabilitation rate. Thank you, Congressman Pablo Garcia, Pablo John, Benhur and Red for partnering with the Province in this Program.
For the women — who bear the brunt of difficult times for families — we have so far completed, in 16 LGU’s, the distribution of 10 bags of rice to serve as seed capital for every registered women’s association. And to empower them in the long term, our Grameen for Women Empowerment program has provided capital to a total of 3,513 women for small-scale enterprise. The repayment rate has been at a perfect 100%.
And in our continuing concern for the elderly, we have, under the Halad sa Gugma Alang Kang Lolo ug Lola, served over 150,000 senior citizens through medical missions and distribution of basic commodities. This year, we have also began constructing senior citizen buildings for all of our towns and cities.
We continue to serve persons with disabilities, to give them better access, through the provision of wheel chairs, canes, crutches, hearing aids and the like.
We provide skills enhancement training programs to the out-of-school youth, teaching them basic electronics, automotive mechanics, photographic silk screen printing, beauty care, food processing, sewing and electronics.
In agriculture, our aim had been to reach out to those who produce our food, to provide them with agricultural input and training, to improve production and livelihoods. And we have done so systematically, coming up with a master list of over 17,000 farmers and fishermen, to whom we provide technical training. And, to protect their agro-fishery crops and products against natural calamities, we are now implementing a special Comprehensive Insurance Program through the Philippine Crop Insurance Corporation, for all of our farmers and fisher folk in the Province of Cebu.
Our dispersal program continues. In banana production, we have distributed lakatan suckers to thousands of farmer-beneficiaries, and established 15 technology-guided demo farms across the province.
Our Saksak program has distributed camote planting materials to our farmers, achieving a total of 1,700 hectares now planted to sweet potato. More importantly, with our aggressive Sinanduloy Alang sa Kabusog, Sinanduloy alang sa Kahimsog program, kamote, once so looked down upon has now become a choice crop for many because of its health benefits.
We have made substantial progress in weaning our farmers away from dependency on commercial fertilizers through our Go Organic program, which provides farmers with vermiculture beds for breeder worms, as well as vermicompost and organic fertilizers.
Our Provincial Nursery and Training Center in Barili continues to produce and distribute seedlings and cuttings of nangka and neem trees, vegetables and sweet potatoes to anyone and everyone who would plant them. Training seminars on how to plant them continue to be conducted.
Our Cebu Provincial Aquaculture and Development Center in Pinamungajan continues to provide materials and trainings for bangus, lato and prawn production, and has established and maintained 22 communal and over 100 backyard tilapia ponds.
In our efforts to promote entrepreneurship, and help micro and small entrepreneurs in the Province, we have launched the Obra Negosyo Eskwela Countryside Enterprise Business Upliftment, or ONE CEBU program, a joint effort of the Province of Cebu, the MSME Council, the Mandaue Chamber of Commerce and Industry and business and management students from our prestigious Cebu universities and colleges.
Through ONE CEBU, micro and small-scale entrepreneurs in the countryside receive technical assistance from business and management students in the fields of operations, processes, marketing and finance. 5
For the 2010-2011 season of ONECEBU, the Province of Cebu has granted six cluster industries and ten individual businesses direct grants which they could use as additional capital.
In education, we have built and turned over 858 classrooms around the province, as our continuing commitment to the National Government to help in the education of our children. For this we thank Taiheiyo Cement and CEMEX for partnering with us and generously providing the cement component for our schoolbuilding program.
We continue to provide public pre-school, elementary and high school children with free school bags, school supplies and other materials, giving much-need tools to over 600,000 students, and their parents, much-needed relief.
To provide deserving underprivileged high school graduates the opportunity to get a college education, our Cebu Tertiary Education Assistance Program has grown from an initial 22 scholars to 385 scholars, and, in partnership with the Cebu Normal University and the Cebu Technological University, have automatically provided all high school valedictorians in the province full college scholarships. Thank you, CNU and CTU.
Just this week, we signed a Memorandum of Agreement with the Development Bank of the Philippines, the Cebu Technological University and the Cebu Normal University, to expand our scholarship program to include all high school salutatorians in the Province of Cebu. Thank you, DBP, and once again, CNU and CTU.
In peace and order, we have continued our relentless drive against criminality by taking an active role in law enforcement and providing direct support to our law enforcement agencies through equipment and resources.
As a result of our anti-insurgency drive, 91 communist rebels have surrendered and rejoined society, and the Province of Cebu has maintained its status as 100% insurgency-free. We thank the Armed Forces of the Philippines, specifically the 78th IB, the Philippine National Police, the Office of the Presidential Action Program, and our own Provincial Social Welfare Office.
In our war against illegal drugs, we have significantly enhanced the capabilities of PDEA with the province-initiated deputization of 5000 police and military personnel, and 16,000 barangay tanods all over the province. And in further support of PDEA, we have just signed the Memorandum of Agreement for the construction of a new PDEA Region VII building, beside the CPPO on the province-owned lot in Sudlon.
But the changing world brings with it new challenges to peace and order. On December 2010, we convened the Task Force on Anti-Trafficking, to address the need to protect victims of human trafficking, especially the women and children. In this effort, we have solicited the participation of shipping companies, the airlines, hotels, resorts and restaurant operators, as well as transportation companies, whom we believe can greatly help in fighting this scourge of modern-day slavery.
In addition, our Provincial Women’s Council, co-chaired by Vice Governor Agnes Magpale, has been, for years, at the forefront of the protection of women and children, by providing legal, psychological and other forms of assistance to rescued minors who are victims of trafficking and cyber-pornography. Thank you, PWC and Vice Governor Agnes Magpale.
The environment. Well, at least tonight, it is we who get the chance to talk about the environment.
Because for all of us gathered here — government officials, workers in government, leaders of business and the private sector, leaders of various religious and civic organizations — we do not make a living from talking about the environment.
So we hardly talk about it, and just do our duty — official, civic and human duty — to protect it. Those who make a living from talking about it… well, they keep talking about it.
But as far as we are concerned, I will instead let the figures do the talking. 4.9 million surviving trees; 1.6 million mangrove plants have been planted to date. With the help of our students and the DepEd family, and the Cebu Coastal Education Foundation, we have achieved something we truly can be proud of, even if we hardly talk about it.
We have activated nine Coastal Resource Management Clusters, involving all of our LGUs, each of which has been given half a million pesos as seed fund for operations, equipment like GPS to patrol a total of 81 marine protected areas covering 1,716 hectares of coral reefs.
Our Cebu Provincial Anti-Illegal Fishing Task Force has been operating in the field, from seaborne patrolling by Team Pukot, market denial by Team Eskina and surveillance by Team Aninaw. This task force has been responsible for successful operations against illegal commercial fishermen and poachers of corals and other marine resources.
We have initiated the construction of materials recovery facilities in each of our more than 1,000 barangays, and in each of our 51 municipalities and cities.
In partnership with the Ramon Aboitiz Foundation, Inc., we are now on our third year of the eGwen Our Cebu program, the expanded Green and Wholesome Environment that Nurtures. This program is about rebuilding each town in the Province of Cebu by ensuring sustainable development with environment as the main point of entry in achieving vibrant, progressive and self-reliant communities. We have awarded substantial prizes for barangays, municipalities and cities that have created clean, green and livable communities. But more than just the prizes, the eGWEN program has resulted in a qualitative and positive change in communities around the province, a virtual transformation of Cebu.
Very recently, the Municipality of San Francisco, in Camotes Island, garnered the United Nations Sasakawa Award for Disaster Reduction in Geneva, Switzerland, winning over 25 nominees chosen from over 120 countries. I am told that a major determining factor was the fact that San Francisco had twice in a row, been the grand prize winner in the eGWEN program of the Province of Cebu. Congratulations, Mayor Aly and Vice-Mayor Al Arquillano.
When you seldom talk, there is a lot that you can do. For sincere and reasonable Cebuanos, environmentalism is a way of life, not a tool to earn a living. 7
Cebuano pride of place, has brought the Province of Cebu and the City of Cebu, together in a most worthy project aimed at restoring the beauty and charm of this Queen City of the South.
Spearheaded by Mayor Mike Rama and now being implemented by a group of selfless and passionate Cebuanos led by Dame Mariquita Salimbangon Yeung, we are now seeing the best of the Cebuano character by the ready, willing and able hands offered to realize a truly beautiful Cebu.
And the Province has joined in by committing to beautify the entire route from the Capitol until Fuente Osmeña. In this effort, we thank our contractors who are now starting work and will finish the job “gratis con amore”. Thank you Socor Construction Corp., Duros Construction, OR Sarmiento Construction, Pragmatic Construction, BARR Steel Construction, Maningo Construction, Supreme ABF Construction, and Rovilla Construction.
When, seven years ago, we created the Provincial Tourism and Heritage Council, the direction was clear: a push for tourism must be coupled with renewed efforts at the preservation of our culture and heritage. We needed to outgrow the cliche that Cebuano tourism had become. We were more than our white sand beaches. We needed to fall off the edges of our tourist maps.
And we believed then that the way forward was outward, to our countryside. And inward — to ourselves. The sustainable, and inexhaustible, potential was to be found in us as a people, in our history, in our spirit and in our way of life.
Seven years later, we can now say for certain that that was the way to go. That in meandering from the beaten path — sa pagsuroy-suroy – our people found the confidence in themselves to open up to the world.
And how: We now have 49 festivals out of the 51 towns and cities of the Province. Each place has, not only an inventory of its cultural heritage, but a definitive written history. The Province of Cebu has encouraged our towns and cities in the development and maintenance of their own museums. And now, even the barangays have felt this pride of place; many of them now have their own barangay museums.
Since Suroy-Suroy Sugbo began, our people have tied their tourism programs to the need to rediscover, preserve and enhance their cultural heritage. And to preserve and enhance the environment, as well, for at no other time in the history of this province have so many eco-tourism products been developed and offered.
We have challenged our towns and cities to come up with their unique tourism packages and towards this end, we thank the Cebu Chamber of Commerce for partnering with us in this endeavor.
The Province will reward them for their efforts. For each town and city that can put together a tourism and cultural experience, the Province of Cebu will provide, without exception, one tourist bus or coaster each.
We continue to build the infrastructure needed to serve the demands of tourism. We have helped develop heritage parks and rest areas in Oslob, Samboan, Moalboal and Dumanjug, and will soon implement the construction of tourism rest areas across the entire Province of Cebu.
I am likewise happy to announce tonight that we are now in the finishing touches of the Cebu Performing Arts Center, to be operated by the Province of Cebu on the U.P. Lahug campus, which will be the premier cultural venue in the entire Province of Cebu.
Beyond that, we have reached out to the rest of the world, to tell them of the treasure that is Cebu. We have established working partnerships not only with Philippine provinces, but also with 14 provinces and states across Asia, Europe and the United States, namely, Sichuan, Guangdong and Guangxi Zhuang of the People’s Republic of China; Gangwon, and Busan Metropolitan City of Korea, Vladimir Region and St. Petersburg of Russia, Ljubljana of Slovenia, Guam, USA; Rishon LeZion of Israel; Barcelona, Spain and the Autonomous Republic of Crimea, Ukraine. The Province also has previously entered into sisterhood agreements with Hainan, China and the State of Hawaii, USA.
We showcase Cebu to the world through our One Cebu Expo, a joint public and private endeavour launched last August 8, 2008 at the Cebu International Convention Center. The Expo is a testament to Cebuano creativity, and showcases Cebu’s diverse and world-class products and services.
One Cebu started with 130 exhibitors in 2008. Last year, the number of exhibitors grew to over 300 and was visited by more than 15000 people for the duration of the exhibition. This year, this August, over 400 nexhibitors have signed up and over 25,000 are expected visitors for the duration of the One Cebu EXPO.
We will soon again showcase Cebu to the world, when we host the 12th East Asia Tourism Forum in September of this year. Twelve governors heading each of their delegations from Quang Ninh, Vietnam; Tottori, Japan; Yogyakarta, Indonesia; Gangwon, Korea; Sarawak, Malaysia; Tuv, Mongolia; Siem Reap, Cambodia; Luang Prabang, Laos, Chiang Mai,m Thailand, and Primorsky, Russia and Jilin, China will be our guests right here in Cebu. They will come to experience the dynamism, beauty and unique charm that sets Cebu apart from all the rest.
As we have achieved much, and have much to be thankful for, we as a people have many to thank for this:
Vice Governor Agnes Magpale: Thank you for the steady hand, the wise counsel, the hard work, and the grace of principled leadership.
To each and every member of the Sangguniang Panlalawigan, for striving always to put the best interest of the Cebuanos above every other consideration.
To our department heads, and our provincial government employees, for slowly but surely changing the image of the worker in government. 9
I wish to thank our private sector partners, who have given so much of themselves to create, for Cebu, a better and more livable community; the officers of the national government agencies, who have been always ready to cooperate for our common objectives; our civic leaders, and leaders of the religious sector, who not only inspire us to work, but work with us to serve our common constituency.
It takes all of us. Thank you all for making great things possible.
One late afternoon a few weeks ago, I was in Bantayan, preparing for a boat ride to Lipayran, a tiny, little-known islet – the farthest in that group of islands – I was scheduled to visit. It was a particularly stormy day, torrential rain and rough seas.
As each hour of waiting for the weather to clear passed, the trip was becoming more and more uncertain. The boatmen advised against it, and so did the municipal officials, and even the congressman, known not to refuse a challenge, begged me not to go.
Twice we set out to start, when the weather cleared a bit, but they were brief respites, and then the waters would rage again.
I had a decision to make, and the only question that, for me, needed to be answered, was: “Are the people still waiting?” They were. And that was all that mattered to me. And so, we made that treacherous, probably foolhardy voyage, in that stormy sea.
When we finally made it — wet, shaken, stirred — a huge crowd of people, the entire population of Lipayran, was still there, waiting. Seeing me, they rushed and took me in their arms, some were in tears, probably thinking what a crazy woman they had for a Governor.
“Abi namo’g di ka modayon. Mosabot lang unta mi.”
I tell this simple story of a stormy afternoon perhaps because it sums up what these seven years have all been about — the work we have done, the decisions we have made, the many risks that we have taken, the lengths that we were willing to go, despite the thanklessness and the pain.
“Are the people still waiting?” If they are — and they are — then there is work to be done, and we will take that stormy trip, we will make that dangerous journey again and again.
The people are waiting. Tonight, we are privileged to have with us Mayor Michael Rama of Cebu City, who I suppose has made his own perilous journey to the Capitol tonight because the people are waiting. For too long, we had labored under artificial boundaries which selfish interests have drawn between the Province and the City.
But there is only one Cebu. And there are not two Cebuanos, but one proud Cebuano people, eagerly waiting to celebrate once more the unity in spirit that has always been there; the one destiny we’ve always shared since our common beginning. This unity is such that if one reads our history, those who have sought to divide us have but one fate: the enduring darkness of eternal irrelevance.
Therefore, I thank you, Mayor Mike, on behalf of the Province, for your openness to work together, as one Cebuano people, towards that era of unprecedented progress that is our common birthright.
And to the Cebuano people — mga minahal ug gipangga kong Sugbuanon: Even as we celebrate tonight the work that we together have done, on this July evening, in the middle of, at the high noon of this year, we know that you still wait. There is work to be done. And there is no journey so perilous that we would not take in order to get there.
Mabuhi ang Sugbo!
Mabuhi kitang tanang mga Sugbuanon!