LEGAZPI CITY, March 6 (PNA) -- They asked for it, they got it.
Catanduanes Gov. Araceli Wong said over the weekend that the request of the provincial government for a share in the national government’s Php6.5-billion KALSADA (Konkreto at Ayos na Lansangan ang Daan Tungo sa Pangkalahatang Kaunlaran) program has been granted.
She said the Department of Budget and Management (DBM) allotted the province over Php109 million for use in the maintenance and upgrading of the local road network, especially those that link the national road to countryside growth areas.
Placed under the implementation of the Department of Interior and Local Government (DILG) and with funding coming from the DBM, KALSADA is an innovative devolution program launched recently by the national government towards the institutionalization of Local Resource Management (LRM) systems and processes in provincial local government unit operations.
It involves the formulation of the Provincial Road Network Development Plan (PRNDP), the rehabilitation and upgrading of provincial roads, the transfer of these road assets permanently to provincial government balance sheets as assets, and the installation of a mechanism for monitoring and evaluation of provincial roads.
Among the requirements of the program, whose funding is included in the 2016 National Expenditure Plan, is the preparation of and submission of the PRNDP approved by the governor, adopted by the provincial legislative board and endorsed to the DILG.
“We were able to comply with that requirement and Catanduanes is found by the DBM eligible to the program, considering its enormous development areas in agriculture, health, education and tourism, among others,” Wong said.
For this, the DBM approved for the province an amount of over Php109.9 million in national subsidy, added to the provincial government’s counterpart of Php12.2 million.
“We are blessed enough to be one of the country’s 74 provinces that qualified and selected into the KALSADA program based, among others, on our compliance with the DILG’s Seal of Good Financial Housekeeping and prompt submission to DBM of our Local Public Financial Management Assessment Report,” she said.
The national fund, which will be soon downloaded through the Local Government Support Fund, according to the governor, will increase the province’s ability to bring its road network to sustainably maintainable condition through renovation or rehabilitation that would boost the local agriculture and tourism industries, in particular.
The DILG-Bicol regional office based here said Catanduanes is a tourism and agriculture growth area, making it highly qualified for the KALSADA program even as it has been enjoying the all-out support that the Aquino administration extends under its countryside development program geared towards the assurance that not one is left behind as the country advances towards inclusive growth.
Among these supports is the implementation of the Catanduanes Circumferential Road Improvement Project (CCRIP) worth Php2.6-billion project now ongoing works managed by the Department of Public Works and Highways (DPWH) in a joint venture with Nippon Engineering Consultants Co. Ltd. and Egis International, with Engineers International (KEI) as the lead firm.
It is funded under the Road Upgrading and Preservation Project (RUPP) being undertaken by the Philippine government with financial assistance from Japan International Cooperation Agency (JICA).
The CCRIP covers a 290-kilometer primary and secondary road network traversing the entire island that boasts of a USD20-million-a-year abaca industry.
The island is also a potential world-class ecotourism destination, the reason why it has been included in the formation last year of the “Triple C” cluster, a local tourism industry development alliance called “Gems of the Pacific” for its geographical location, which is along the rim of the Pacific Ocean.
The cluster involves the provinces of Camarines Sur, Camarines Norte and Catanduanes comprising a tourism development area (TDA) as identified in the 2011-2016 National Tourism Development Plan (NTDP) of the Department of Tourism (DOT).
Two sub-TDAs form this cluster -- the Caramoan-Catanduanes Tourism Link (CCTL) covering the tourism town of Caramoan, Camarines Sur and the entire Catanduanes area; and the Camarines Tourism Circuit (CTC) covering the rest of Camarines Sur and the whole of Camarines Norte.
For the CCTL, Caramoan, which lies at the northeastern tip of Camarines Sur separated by Maqueda Channel from Catanduanes, covers Caramoan Peninsula where a group of exotic islets serving as a major ecotourism destination sits.
Catanduanes, on the other hand, is a promising travel destination owing to its ecotourism wonders, dive sites and sea surfing venues.
Wong said that their draft PRNDP vis-à-vis provincial development directions and the road sector situational analysis of the province were presented during a recent stakeholders’ consultation workshop for the formulation of the core road network.
It was followed by an introduction to road network development strategies and an overview on the road network investment program where the criteria for selection of areas for prioritization and the rating and ranking of existing provincial roads, according to the same criteria, were extensively discussed.
Wong said her administration is seriously pursuing development projects as she vowed participation in whatever capacity for its successful implementation by effectively checking substandard road infrastructures once common in the island by making the contractor and the province accountable.
She enjoins Catanduanons to join her in expressing gratitude to the Aquino administration for its all-out support to the province’s clamor for a better road network as a prerequisite to a tourist-friendly area. (PNA) SCS/FGS/DOC/CBD/PJN