GROWTH AND DEVELOPMENT IN THE ISLANDS: Catanduanes reports gains, programs
By Jason B. Neola VIRAC, Catanduanes --- Wanting to be more receptive to the demands of more medical and legal services, the provincial government here is pursuing a novel program by extending educational assistance to students who dream of becoming doctors and lawyers someday. A scholarship program is being mulled to utilize excess funds from the allocated budget intended for the existing scholars in college in consonance with the government’s free tuition law that is expected to be implemented in 2018. “Since free tuition na an mga estudyante sa mga government-run schools, colleges and universities next year, mababawasan na an samuyang gastusan sa scholarships. Imbes na magbayad pa kami nin more than P2,000 para sa tuition fee kan lambang scholars, magiging P1,000 plus na lang para sa miscellaneous expenses, plano mi na gamiton sa scholarship na ini su matatadang kwarta,” Governor Joseph Cua said. In an interview with Naga City newsmen who came to witness the Catandungan Festival, Cua said that the plan will have to undergo deliberation in the Sangguniang Panlalawigan because such program that required budget allocation needs an ordinance to stand on. The scholarship grants will also to be made available to students who wish to pursue higher education like masteral and doctoral degrees. One of the conditions that will be drafted by a multi-sectoral committee is a provision that will require would-be scholars to serve the province for a maximum of 5 years once they graduated or had taken the board or bar exams. In nutrition, the provincial government is partnering with Catanduanes State University in the campaign to lower the province’s malnutrition rate. This will include the establishment of a dairy farm, its operation will start with an initial 10 heads of cows. Cua, who was granted with the authority by the Sangguniang Panlalawigan to enter into a memorandum of agreement with the university, said the milk produced will be apportioned to malnourished children under a sustainable feeding program. Catanduanes, which was only recently conferred the Seal of Good Financial Housekeeping by the Dept. of Interior and Local Government (DILG), marked the Catandungan Festival last October 23-27, this year, to celebrate the province’s 72nd foundation anniversary. The 5-day grand festivity reeled off with activities that highlighted the province’s culture and religiosity and promote heritage awareness and preservation. The “Parada nin mga Patron” that unveiled a procession of patron saints of the province’s 11 municipalities with the image of Our Lady of La Naval taking the lead also added color to the festive ambiance of the province. As the country’s top abaca producer, the province generates at least P100M per month in revenues from the province’s fiber industry that made it to become the best performing economy among the 6 Bicol provinces. More than 80% of the region’s abaca production comes from Catanduanes. Cua said that they opted to adopt and revive machine stripping so that the abaca workers can double their income and spare them from crude labor when they do the stripping by hand. The provincial government also assists abaca farmers in organizing their own cooperatives that would provide them access to capital so that they can engage in direct trading of their product. Two of these cooperatives are in the towns of Bato and San Miguel. Still in agriculture, the province distributed agricultural machineries to farmers associations along with the construction of irrigation facilities. In an interview, Cua said P1.5M has been allocated for the expansion of the Simamla tilapia hatchery this year, which allowed the LGU to disperse 67,712 fingerlings to communities engaging in inland fishing. The dispersal was supported by the Bureau and Aquatic Resources (BFAR) which donated 120,000 fingerlings. In employment generation, the provincial government has conducted trainings that are free of charge for 62 persons who want to learn the operations of wheel loader. Thirty-five of them were selected to work in Japan after they passed the interview that was given by the Phil-Nippon Technical College while 18 were required to undergo training in Laguna before they fly to Japan. Social services personnel were able to register for this year at least 2,077 clients who availed of the LGU’s financial aid under the Assistance to Individuals in Crisis Situation (AICS) program that involved the amount of P6.7M. Similar assistance was extended to 629 clients by DSWD under the expanded AICS.