The Regional Development Council (RDC) VI held its 3rd Quarter virtual meeting on 2 October 2020 with 52 out of the 72 members composed of LGU officials, regional line agency heads and private sector representatives in attendance.

Ms. Marissa C. Segovia, RDC VI Co-Chairperson, presided over the meeting in behalf of RDC VI Chairperson, Governor Rhodora Cadiao of Antique.               DENR Assistant Secretary Joselin Marcus E. Fragada, represented the Cabinet Officer for Regional Development and Security, Secretary Roy A. Cimatu, and delivered the Secretary’s message and reported on the CORDS activities related to COVID-19 interventions in the Visayas and the progress of the Regional Task Force to End Local Communist Armed Conflict (RTF-ELCAC) in Region VI.

Secretary Cimatu in his message conveyed that the economy of the Western Visayas Region, like the rest of the national economy has been hard hit by the COVID-19 pandemic and it will take time to recover.  However, he emphasized that recovery will be faster when stakeholders work together.  Before COVID-19 came, the region saw how communist insurgency obstructed the development of the region.  As a Cabinet Officer for Regional Development and Security (CORDS) for Western Visayas and chair of the Regional Task Force to End Local Communist Armed Conflict (RTF-ELCAC), he regards peace and development as interdependent.

He reported that 160 barangays in the region have been cleared of communist influence, with the addition of 86 barangays in mid-September to the initial list of 74 barangays.  The Secretary added that the region will build on these accomplishments with the allocation of PhP1.4 Billion for the implementation in 2021 of the RTF-ELCAC Barangay Development Program. This will fund the construction of farm-to-market roads, health centers, school buildings, and agriculture facilities in the cleared barangays or incentivize more barangays to reject communist influence.

Further, Secretary Cimatu expressed that one positive effect of COVID-19 is that it pushed the national government to revisit the idea of decongesting Metro Manila by decentralizing or disbursing development to the countryside. This led to the Balik Probinsya, Bagong Pag-asa Program (BP2).

Co-Chairperson Segovia in her welcome message discussed the latest DBM report on the utilization of the Bayanihan Grant downloaded to LGUs.  She called upon all governors and mayors of HUCs, component cities and municipalities to promptly utilize the funds which were allocated to them. She advised all local chief executives to find out from their health officers what else is needed as far as testing, hiring of more contact tracers, buying medical supplies, or even providing opportunities for employment for those who were unemployed because of the pandemic.

RDC Vice-Chair, RD Ro-Ann Bacal, on the other hand, gave a comprehensive orientation on the Balik Probinsya, Bagong Pag-asa Program and organized the RDC Special Committee on Balik Probinsya, Bagong Pag-asa (BP2). She also discussed about the regional share from the Energy Regulation No. 1-94 Fund which the RDC-VI intends to provide to non-host municipalities to assist them in managing the COVID-19 cases in their areas.

Governor Lacson reacted that it seems that the BP2 prioritizes probinsyanos who are now residing in the National Capital Region.  He said that if we are successful in creating new industries that would in return create jobs, there are Negrenses or Ilonggos that are now in the province that will be competing for these people for jobs. He then asked whether those Negrenses staying in Manila will be given the priority as far as jobs are concerned.

RD Bacal concurred with the observation of Governor Lacson and relayed to the NEDA central office the sentiments of many government leaders of the region. She told them that there has to be a parallel strategy to beef up the reaching out to the poor sector of our society in the region because there are many who were affected by closures of industries and have been left without jobs.  RD Bacal assured that the BP2 Committee will do something about the situation when they start doing their action planning.

Also during the meeting, the Department of Health (DOH) reported on the status of COVID-19 cases, testing capacities and facilities in the region and answered queries coming from several governors and mayors. As of October 1, 2020, data shows that there are a total of 11,811 confirmed cases of COVID 19 in Western Visayas of which 7,460 cases (63%) have recovered, 4,101 cases (35%) are active (admitted, in the facility or in-home quarantine), and 250 cases (2%) of deaths following COVID-19.  Out of 4,101 total cases, 74% are asymptomatic, 17% mild, 5% severe which is above the cut-off of 3%, some data need further verification from the LGUs.  It was also reported that as of October 1, 2020, there was a total of 199,037 samples released with 187,829 individuals tested at a positivity rate of 5.66.  The accredited laboratories in Western Visayas, wherein the average samples processed per day is 2,410 with a maximum capacity of 5,746 samples per day. For the current Turn-Around-Time, the shortest time to release the results is 20 hours and the longest time is 69 hours with an average Turn-Around-Time of roughly 36 hours. The equipment and beds utilization for COVID-19 was also reported where out of 16,150 beds, 41% are currently occupied mostly by returning OFWs (ROFs) and locally stranded individuals (LSIs). Current case mortality rate for Western Visayas is at 2.12 percent and this is higher than the national case mortality rate of 1.77 percent.

On the other hand, Governor Florencio Miraflores of the Province of Aklan reported on the opening of Boracay Island on October 1, 2020. The Governor said that there were only 27 tourists that went to the island during the opening, but said that this is still a good start. Governor Miraflores said that tourists are advised to strictly wear facemasks and observe social distancing with a specific requirement that their place of residence must be under General Community Quarantine (GCQ) or better yet, under Modified General Community Quarantine (MGCQ). The Godofredo Ramos Airport was designated as the main port of entry in order to screen tourists arriving by land, sea and air. More than 4,000 rooms are now ready to accommodate tourists in Boracay.

Sixteen resolutions were approved coming from the different RDC VI sector committees and those from the floor, namely:

  1. Endorsement of the Farm-to-Market Roads under DA’s FY 2020 GAA “For Later Release”;
  2. Endorsement of the Philippine-Israel Solar-powered Fertigation Project (PSF);
  3. Endorsement of the Philippine Rural Development Project – 2nd Additional Financial (PRDP-AF2);
  4. Enjoining all regional agencies to submit through the sector committees the completely filled out RPMES Form 5 with their quarterly accomplishment of PAPs in the COVID-19 Regional Recovery Plan and to institutionalize the consolidation of quarterly monitoring and evaluation of the RRP by the appropriate committee of the Council in order to address implementing issues and concerns that may require policy or legislative action;
  5. Recommending the DOLE to convene meeting with DOH, CSC, and medical professional groups to propose policy recommendations to address the long working hours and health and safety concerns of medical frontliners in public and private healthcare institutions in Western Visayas;
  6. Requesting the DPWH Region VI to Assist PNP VI in the Funding and Construction of 20 Police Stations in Western Visayas;
  7. Requesting the DPWH Region VI to Assist PNP VI in the Funding and Construction of 20 Police Stations in Western Visayas;
  8. Requesting the Bureau of Corrections (BuCor) and the Department of Justice (DOJ) to Establish/Construct a Regional Penitentiary in Western Visayas in Partnership with DPWH VI and BJMP VI;
  9. Endorsing the Proposed Philippine Air Force’s Air Base Relocation Project in Cabatuan, Iloilo;
  10. Endorsing the Request for Support of RDC-IX Resolution No. 44, Series of 2020 to exempt all government projects that will traverse forestlands from payment of DENR fees and recommending for the inclusion of protected areas in its coverage;
  11. Enjoining the Provinces to start updating their Provincial Development and Physical Framework (PDPFPs) covering the period of 2021-2030;
  12. Enjoining the Local School board and the Department of Education (DepEd) in Region VI and the National Commission for Culture and the Arts (NCCA) to provide financial assistance in the conduct of Capacity Building and Training on Filipino Culture, Values and the Arts towards New Normal for Basic Education Teachers in Western Visayas;
  13. Creation of the RCHAC Technical Working Group (TWG) for the establishment of the Western Visayas Cultural Statistics and Database System;
  14. Approving the Organization of RDC VI Special Committee on Balik Probinsya, Bagong Pag-asa (BP2) Program, its Membership, and Secretariat;
  15. Approving the Use of the Regional Share in the Department of Energy (DOE) ER 1-94 Funds for COVID-19; and
  16. Authorizing the RDC VI Chairperson to Enter into a Memorandum of Agreement with the Department of Energy, Generating Companies/ Independent Power Plants (Gencos/IPPs) and Identified LGU Beneficiaries for the Transfer of ER 1-94 Funds to the Latter.

(YGBatacandolo/NEDA VI)