LEGAZPI CITY, April 3 (PNA) -- With mixed feelings of nostalgia and pride, Albay Gov. Joey Sarte Salceda traced back on Sunday what the Albayanos have achieved under his nine-year leadership as he led them in the celebration of the 442th year of the foundation of Albay province.
Salceda, before outlining the achievements, however, explained first to the Albayanos the reason for the transfer of the celebration of the Albay foundation day from the usual May 14 to April 3, which was started last year.
“It was pointed out by one of the most prominent historians of Bikol, Dr. Danilo Madrid Gerona, that May 14, 1834 was the day that Jose Maria Penaranda became governor of Albay. He was an outstanding leader and Albay is what it is now largely because of his good governance and outstanding accomplishments,” he said.
However, the governor said, there is a document in the Archivo General de Indias in Seville, Spain that clearly states that on April 3, 1574, then Spanish Governor-General Guido de Lavezares assigned to a certain Juan Guerra the settlement that would later on be called Albay as an encomienda or “entrusted village,” for his administration.
“This immensely valuable document provides the indisputable proof of Albay’s entrance into the Spanish imperial chart. While the document does not officially refer to the foundation of Albay, it nevertheless should be considered as an important date in Albay history… as the rightful date to celebrate Albay Day,” Salceda said.
Citing the foundation day’s significance, he said it is a milestone in the Albayanos’ long and tortuous trek towards progress and the betterment of their lives.
The aggregator or weaver of dreams of Albayanos defended the celebration of Albay Day, citing the following objectives: 1) To deepen the people’s appreciation of the significance of the day as an important event in the history of the province; 2) To give due honor to the early Albayano heroes who had contributed to the growth and progress of the province; 3) To reminisce the early days of the creation of the province; and, 4) To look at the gains the province has attained from the time of its establishment to the contemporary times.
“More than four hundred years ago, our province was nothing but patches of forest and swamps between the sea and the mountains. Our forefathers lived on tilling the land and fishing from the sea. The terrain was rugged, the weather was harsh and they were buffeted by waves and typhoons. And we were colonized by foreign forces,” Salceda said.
Men of outstanding character and of fortitude, he said, fought the colonizers and oppressors in order to free the Albayanos from the shackles of slavery, of exploitation, of prejudicial forces.
“We give them honor and salute them for the sacrifices they did for us, some even gave their lives in order that we may live freely as we wish to live,” the expert risk reduction manager said.
“As I stand before you now, probably for the last celebration of Albay Day as your governor, I could not resist looking back to my three terms or nine years of service and reminisce some of the happiest days of my life when together we worked hand-in-hand for the betterment of our province,” stressed the mobilizer of the resources the Albayanos needed to move on.
He added, “I was in front of you to inspire, alongside to support and behind to ensure that those who stumbled are cared for.”
Looking back, the present father of Albay took pride in having zero casualty in 20 of 22 years, which gives flesh to the central philosophy of the provincial community – constant kindness and the universality of human dignity.
In education, the son of two great educators said, the province’s National Achievement Test improved from 177th in 2007 to 19th in 2012 and had assisted college graduates increase from 34,000 to 188,000, with 77,137 assisted since 2007, and if scholars during his congressional terms are added, this would chalk up 104,000.
Under the UNICEF-PIDS, the province has 98-percent participation rate among school-aged Albayanos and minimal dropout rate of 0.3 percent.
To increase the province’s manpower resources and empowering the young constituents, it supported the modernization of Bicol University (BU), spearheaded the integration of BUPC, establishment of the BU College of Medicine, Multi-Tech Center, Food Innovation Center and EPTU.
A remarkable increase in tourist arrivals was noted -- from 8,700 foreign tourists in 2006 to 339,000 in 2013; domestic tourists from 124,675 to 647,839.
The governor-environment protector said Albay’s forest cover increased from 6,399 hectares in 2003 to 53,011 in 2015, while mangroves quadrupled from 700 to 2,400 hectares.
The province, he said, has achieved rice self-sufficiency from 74 percent to 104 percent, with the irrigated lands increasing from 17,000 hectares to 19,433 hectares.
It also became the second biggest producer and exporter of camote, has the largest pili hectarage at 2,972 from 1,200 hectares and succeeded in replanting 1.6 million coconut trees.
“As an avid protector of health, we were the first province to be declared as having achieved universal coverage with PhilHealth, increasing from 17,000 to 172,000. The province also pioneered in ‘no balance billing’ policy in government hospitals, especially free hospitalization during calamities and PhilHealth coverage for all evacuees,” Salceda said.
For healthier citizenry, the province transformed the Bicol Regional Teaching and Training Hospital (BRTTH) into the most modern health facility south of Manila in Luzon.
He said Albay had achieved the Millennium Development Goals targets for health as early as 2011 against 2015 in maternal mortality rate of 33 versus 224 national or only nine mother deaths out of 26,826 live births population.
“We are now into a second wave of the Php3.7-billion modernization of the BRTTH into a 600-bed university hospital. We have modernized our provincial hospitals. We are establishing four new hospitals in Polangui, Guinobatan, Bacacay and Daraga,” the governor said.
For long-term development in safe locations for investments and settlements, he said, the province has the GuiCaDaLe (Guinobatan-Camalig-Daraga-Legazpi) Economic Township project.
The expert investment banker said that to ride the tides of progress through innovative businesses, his leadership pushed for the AlMaSor (Albay-Masbate-Sorsogon) Tourism Alliance.
“We gave priority to infrastructures that will ensure synergetic connectivity among progressive communities,” the world-renown economist said.
Under his leadership, Salceda said, the province constructed or started the following: Bicol International Airport; Php171-billion South Railway Project; Legazpi Drainage Project/Urban Flood Control System; Albay Southeast Quadrant Roads/Mayon Diversion Roads; Legazpi North Boulevard; Pan-Philippine Highway (PPH) Extension to Legazpi City; Redevelopment of Old Legazpi Airport into an Integrated Tourism Complex; Albay West Coast Road; Albay-Donsol Roads–Pio Duran-Donsol, Jovellar-Donsol, Daraga (Ibauguan)-Donsol; San Fernando-Oas-Daraga Bypass Road; PRDP–Coconut Road (Oas-Cagmanaba); Pili Road (Guinobatan); Abaca Roads (Polangui, Malinao, Tabaco); and Php240-million Albay Eco-Tourism Projects.
These achievements, he said, have been noticed and cited here and abroad.
For instance, in tourism, Albay has had the PATA CEO Challenge Top Destination for 2015 (by TripAdvisor); Tourism Star Philippines Award from DOT; Galing Pook and Gawad Kalasag -- Galing Pook 2008 for Institutionalization of the APSEMO, Galing Pook 2011 for Health Strategy towards Early Attainment of the MDGs, Galing Pook 2015 for Team Albay Humanitarian Assistance Program, Gawad Kalasag Award as Best Provincial Disaster Coordinating Council (2009), Gawad Kalasag Award as Best Provincial Disaster Coordinating Council (2010), Gawad Kalasag Award as Best Provincial Disaster Coordinating Council (2011), and Gawad Kalasag Hall of Fame Award as Best PDRRMC for three consecutive years.
Under Salceda’s administration, Albay became a world lead model for adapting to Climate Change and Disaster Risk Reduction and Mitigation and for this he has been called “The Green Economist, and Architect of Albay Green Economy.”
This was done through the following: 1) Albay has been inscribed as UNESCO Biosphere Reserve on March 19, 2016 during its conference in Lima, Peru; 2) The Province of Albay was awarded as 1st LGU Eco Champion by Green Convergence; 3) Four watersheds being co-managed with the DENR.
Albay’s DRR initiatives are model of: 1) Zero Casualty Goal; 2) Preemptive Evacuation; 3) Disaster humanitarian missions through Team Albay; 4) Republic Act No. 9723 (The Climate Change Act of 2009); 5) Republic Act No. 10121 (The National Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Act).
In cultural development, the Cagsawa Ruins was named National Cultural Treasure by the National Museum, along with the Nuestra Senora de la Porteria in Daraga and the Church of John the Baptist in Tabaco City; Mayon and the Cagsawa Ruins have been nominated to the UNESCO World Heritage List; developed Camalig and its colonial houses and structures to form a possible declaration as the Heritage Town of Albay.
Albay has also emerged to be a top site for sporting events in the country.
In February, Albay hosted for the second year the XTerra Off-Road Triathlon Race and it is hosting the national games or Palarong Pambansa 2016 — the Philippines biggest sporting event, with at least 10,000 of the country’s best athletes competing in 36 events in seven days on April 10-17.
The State Colleges and Universities Athletic Association (SCUAA) is also holding an athletic meet in May to be participated in by at least 7,000 athletes.
Further, the Private Schools Athletic Association (PRISAA) held its Athletic Meet in the third week of February, participated in by about 1,200 athletes.
The Mayon 360 (degrees) Ultramarathon, organized by the JCI Legazpi, set a new standard by providing aid stations in a ultramarathon race and was then copied by other ultra races across the country.
“Nevertheless our trek towards attaining our dreams and our goals is not over. We continue our march towards progress. But in so doing, it is very important that we look back just to know where we came from, so that we shall have the correct bearing to know the directions we are taking. By looking back to our humble beginnings, we are able to measure our achievements and learn how to chart our way ahead,” Salceda said. (PNA) SCS/FGS/IAS/CBD/SSC