Governor Jose Alvarez has vowed to focus his final term as governor on achieving major targets for the province.
Taking his oath Sunday, Alvarez said these targets are: the completion of big-ticket infrastructure projects, achieving five million tourists by 2023, poverty reduction, and the creation of three provinces in Palawan to stir economic growth in distant rural areas.
In his speech following the mass oath-taking and induction of over 350 city, municipal, and provincial government officials, Governor Alvarez said that his two terms in office focused on the reduction of the “68 percent poverty index” in the province and getting it out of its “negative one percent economy”.
“Negative one percent ang ekonomiya ng Palawan, tatlong taon ang nakalipas, umangat po ‘yan… very discernible, nakikita, napupuna, nadadama ng bawat mamamayan na paakyat tayo. Finally, from negative one percent, naging 6.2 percent ang ekonomiya ng Palawan… hindi ‘yan dahil sa akin, tulong-tulong at napakarami nating gumagawa niyan,” he said.
Alvarez said that when they started in 2013, tourist arrivals in Palawan was only around 300,000 but in 2018, it increased to two million and is still growing.
He said that on his last term, the provincial government will strive to reach five million “with P250 billion money in circulation.”
“Sa tatlong taon na darating, ang target namin ay maging limang milyon ang turista sa Palawan with 250 billion money in circulation,” he stated.
Alvarez said that when this goal is reached, it will help in further bringing down the current 52 percent poverty index of the province to be around the national average of 20-25 percent.
Big-ticket infrastructure projects
To speed up reaching the tourist arrival target, which will ensure more economic development in the province, Alvarez said his administration will already complete the pier in Brgy. San Fernando, El Nido to link it via the roll-on, roll-off (RoRo) ferry to Brgy. Borac in Coron to the provinces of Batangas and Mindoro.
“Para mapabilis ang daloy ng ekonomiya, hindi pupuwede na eroplano lang tayo ng eroplano galing sa Manila. Tatapusin ko na po ‘yong pier sa El Nido… tuloy na ‘yang sa San Fernado, tuloy na ‘yan sa Borac sa Coron, at tuloy na ‘yan ng Mindoro. Batangas is only one hour away kaya puwede na tayong pumunta ng Manila by land and by RoRo,” he said.
Construction of the El Nido pier will begin before the end of the year, he said, telling local government unit (LGU) officials that soon they can visit Manila by land and by RoRo.
He said the construction of the new airport in Coron has already commenced, while the one in Brgy. Catagupan, Balabac, is already being prepared.
“Gagawa ang Philippine Air Force (PAF) at saka ang province — ‘yan po ay magiging regional airport ang dalawang ‘yan,” he pointed out.
The San Vicente Airport (SVA), he said, will also become a regional airport in three years time because it will add 600 meters more of development.
Alvarez said that with two more international airports to be constructed in Taytay and Brooke’s Point, “the target five million tourist arrivals will no longer just be a dream”.
“Darating at darating ‘yan with the help of our millennial congressmen (Franz “Chicoy” Alvarez, Gil Acosta Jr. and Cyrille Abueg Zaldivar),” he said.
He added that the target is to surpass the tourist arrivals of Cebu which currently receives 75 percent of the total arrivals in the whole country because of its ferry links to other provinces in the Visayas.
Alvarez said Palawan should not allow that only Cebu gets to have 7.5 million tourists since it has more than enough interesting natural destinations.
“Kung ang Palawan ay magkaroon ng 7.5 million tourist arrivals multiplied by P50,000 per capital of tourist expenditure P375 billion money in circulation po ‘yan. Hopefully, by that time wala na tayong mahihirap kasama ‘yong ating mga kapatid na naninirahan ngayon sa mga foothills at saka sa mga kabundukan kasi sila ang mag-supply ng kakainin ng mga turista and thereby, reducing our poverty to our neighbor’s poverty index of only nine percent like Malaysia,” he added.
Kota Kinabalu in Malaysia, he said, is the best example of an area that is able to “micromanage its poverty index from 15 percent to nine percent” with a per capita income of RMB27,000.
This is envious, he said, but once Palawan’s economic goals have been reached, there is no reason why Palawan will not be like Kota Kinabalu.
Creation of three provinces
Alvarez said that if Palawan becomes three provinces through a decision of the majority in 2020 with a highly-urbanized city, everyone can benefit from the optimistic outcomes of Republic Act 11259.
“Sa buong lalawigan kung magiging tatlong probinsya man sa desisyon sa 2020 at may isang highly urbanized city, tayong lahat ay puwedeng-puwedeng dadama ng lahat ng ito… aabutan pa natin ito in the next three to six years time,” he said.
He also belied claims that the IRA that will be cut up and shared among the three provinces that will be created is the current revenue allotment of the province.
“Maling-mali ang sinasabi nila na kung ano ang IRA ngayon ng probinsya ay ‘yon ang paghahatian ng tatlong probinsya. Hindi po. Pinakwenta namin sa DBM (Department of Budget and Management) at magiging almost P6 billion each sa 2023 pagkatapos ng plebisito,” he said.
Re-elected City Mayor Lucilo Bayron, on the other hand, dedicated his last term to the senior citizens, persons with disabilities, poor farmers and fisherfolks, laborers, and other workers and at the same time called on his rivals “to set aside politics and work alongside him for further progress”.
“Nakaraan na ang eleksyon at nag-decision na ang mamamayan. Ewan muna natin ang pulitikahan at sama-sama nating harapin ang mga hamon. Huwag nating hayaan na ang nakaraang halalan ay humadlang sa mga mithiin natin. Ngayon ay inaabot ko ang aking mga kamay sa lahat ng mga elected city officials, sa lahat ng mamamayan ng Lungsod ng Puerto Princesa, tayo na at magtulungan tayo na abutin ang mas magandang bukas,” he said.
He said they have already “planted the seeds of the good future” and what the city government needs now is everyone’s cooperation to join them in unity in nurturing these for the economic development of Puerto Princesa.
All re-elected and newly-elected chief executives of the 23 Palawan municipalities were in complete attendance during the mass oath-taking and induction ceremony on June 30 at a hotel in Puerto Princesa City.