ON LEGAZPI'S LOW GRADE: Rosal: Life before ranking

By Bobby Q. Labalan


It’s a matter of life over ranking for Albay Governor Noel Rosal as he addressed the low ranking of Legazpi City in the City and Municipality Competitiveness Index for 2021.


In an exclusive interview, Rosal, who was the former city mayor before becoming governor, said the drop in the city’s ranking is no cause for worry as it was just a “temporary setback”.


He stressed that the city government, then under his helm, had to prioritize the anti-Covid-19 campaign in 2021 as it directly endangered the lives of Legazpenos. “As you can see, as a result of our campaign, the city government’s anti-Covid-19 drive paid off as Legazpi City was top in the vaccination campaign in Bicol,” Rosal said.


He added that the city government already had plans in place before left office in June and all the current administration has to do is to follow and implement the plans contained in the local development plan.


The city government is now headed by Rosal’s wife, Mayor Geraldine Rosal, who also served as city mayor from 2010 to 2013.


As governor, Rosal said he intends to lift the ranking of Albay among provinces in the competitiveness index where it ranked 22nd in 2021 by assisting the towns and cities in its jurisdiction.


As his first step, Rosal said he wants Albay to qualify for the Seal of Good Local Governance (SGLG), an assessment system put up by the Department of the Interior and Local Government (DILG), which “puts primacy to integrity and good performance and gives distinction to remarkable local government performance across several areas.”


Rosal also wants to upgrade basic service programs like health, tourism and investment, and provide direct assistance to basic sectors like agriculture, fisheries, senior citizens, persons with disabilities, solo parents, and other social sectors.


In his first 100 days, the governor said he wants to see improvements in health care services especially at Ziga Memorial District Hospital in Tabaco City and the Josefina B. Duran Albay provincial Hospital in Ligao City as well as the other seven hospitals run by the provincial government.


Rosal said among the priorities in the health care service are the provision of medicines, facilities, especially the beddings, and equally important is the proper treatment of patients by health care workers. Caesarian services at Ziga Memorial hospital would also be restored, he added.


In the same interview, the governor also addressed the worsening power situation in the province, which has resulted to the burgeoning financial liability of its lone electricity distributor, the Albay Electric Cooperative (ALECO). ALECO is currently being run by the Albay Power Electric Corporation (APEC), a subsidiary of San Miguel Corporation (SMC).


Rosal said he had directed the ALECO to call for an annual general membership meeting (AGMA) in August to discuss the issues and concerns pestering the coop. The governor recently met with the National Electrification Administration (NEA) officials in Manila wherein he discussed the plight of ALECO and sought its help in resolving the problem.


The governor said he would let the AGMA decide on the fate of APEC, whether or not it will be allowed to continue running the ALECO.


He said there were two possible courses of action as suggested by the NEA but refused to divulged them so as not to preempt the decision of the general assembly. However, he said that most important of all member-consumers must religiously pay their power bills and stop pilfering electricity or report those whom they knew were doing the act. ALECO has 26 per cent system loss at present, one of the highest in the country, which is primarily attributed to power pilferage.


He stressed that the power situation in Albay is now becoming a concern among businessmen in the province because of the high electricity rate while those who are eyeing the province for business investment or expansions are discouraged. Albay has one of the highest electricity rate at P15 per kilowatthour, the governor added.


Rosal expressed exasperation at the current situation of ALECO under the APEC management as its financial liability continues to soar.


Originally, ALECO had an indebtedness of P5.2 billion, the reason why APEC was allowed to take-over its operation on the condition that it will infuse fresh capital and run the coop in a way that it will be redeemed from its obligation, the governor explained. However, the opposite happened as the APEC now also has an outstanding debt of P4.167B and counting, he stressed.


Rosal said the provincial government is very much willing to help the ailing cooperative in its rehabilitation or even debt servicing if the Commission on Audit (COA) would allow it, after all ALECO is a public utility.