Monday, May 16, 2016

Albay 3rd district expects further inclusive development from solon’s fresh mandate
By Danny O. Calleja

LIGAO CITY, May 11 (PNA) -– More inclusive development is expected by both the urban and rural communities of the third district of Albay from the fresh mandate they gave to their congressional representative.

Rep. Fernando Gonzalez (LP) was proclaimed Tuesday by the Commission on Elections (Comelec) board of canvassers as the runaway winner in the May 9 elections after obtaining 174,554 votes as against his closest challenger Oliver Olaybal who garnered only 10,134 votes.

After his proclamation, Gonzalez went around this city and the six towns—Jovellar, Guinobatan, Oas, Polangui, Pioduran and Libon-- covered by the district to personally express his gratitude to his rejoicing constituents.

“Thanks to all of you. In the next three years of this term, my third and last so far as your congressman, I am going to work in Congress doubly harder to deliver the economic growth leading to further inclusive development of the district that would benefit both the rural and urban communities,” he told his people in the local dialect.

The congressman vowed to work a lot more for the agricultural sector, especially the rice-based community, to empower it with the capability to raise the residents' purchasing power and produce more for the country’s food security agenda.

The entire district is optimistic of this.

Pioduran mayor Henry Callope on Wednesday here told the Philippine News Agency that his town mates count much on Gonzalez when it comes to delivery of services expected from a congressman as what he has done during his first six years in the position.

“He (Gonzalez) is very much concerned over the plight of farmers and fishermen, the most dominant sectors of the district which happen to be the poorest, reason why he has been working on sensible projects through national government funding designed to lift the living condition of these sectors,” Callope said.

Part of the congressman’s past initiatives related to this was the bringing in to this city the Bicol station of the Philippine Rice Research Institute (PhilRice) that since about two years ago has been introducing tremendous changes that really empower local farmers into being more productive.

PhilRice is a government corporate entity attached to the Department of Agriculture (DA) that is tasked to help farmers produce more rice by way of developing high-yielding and cost-reducing technologies through research and development works.

Its regional facilities for Bicol, the eighth research station in the country was established in late 2014 within a 20-hectare plain surrounded by irrigated paddies in Barangay Batang here, serving as the regional demonstration farm and rice breeding center.

According to Gonzalez, it took his office and the city government eight years to realize the project of bringing in PhilRice to the city to help Bicol farmers boost their rice production and address local agriculture problems, thus, reducing poverty, hunger and malnutrition by improving rice-self sufficiency.

Since the inception of its operation, the station has aggressively performed its tasks and functions by way of educating local farmers on latest farming technologies and developing new farm tools and equipment that make production easier and cost-effective even with the advent of climate change, he said.

Also during his first two terms, Gonzalez pushed the national government into building various permanent flood control projects, farm-to-market roads, bridges (including hanging bridges), irrigation systems and hundreds of school classroomss, among other useful structures whose benefits are now being enjoyed by barangay residents.

Another laudable measure initiated by Gonzalez is his approved House Bill No. 5522 which amends Republic Act (RA) 7307 or the “Act Creating the Philippine Carabao Center to Propagate and Promote the Philippine Cababao and for Other Purposes”.

Gonzalez’s bill seeks the amendment to pave the way for the establishment of a similar facility in this city in addition to the existing ones across the country.

“The existing law created 13 carabao centers throughout the country but not one of them is located in Bicol. It is hoped that with the enactment of this amendatory law, the region shall be assured of the continued conservation, propagation and promotion of the carabao or water buffalo as a source of milk and meat as well as draft animal power and hide to benefit its rural farmers,” Gonzalez explained.

Likewise, Gonzalez is also behind the proposed declaration of Ticao-Burias Pass as protected seascapes to save and preserve their great marine diversity threatened by unabated illegal activities and other abuses.

These bodies of water are home to whale sharks, manta rays, dugong and various species of sea turtles, exotic coral reefs and lately discovered to be a habitat of the globally rare megamouth shark (Megachasma pelagios).

The bill filed by Gonzalez to this effect has been already been initially approved by Congress before it went on recess for the elections.

Burias Pass is a rich fishing ground shared by coastal barangays of this city and the municipalities of Pioduran, Libon and Oas with two towns of Burias Island of Masbate while Ticao Pass separates Masbate’s Ticao Island from the Bicol mainland.

Once officially declared as a Marine Protected Area (MPA), these two bodies of inland sea will be placed under the Protected Area Management Board (PAMB), a multi-sectoral body which will be created to be responsible for its administration, protection and management.

Gonzalez is also responsible for the proposed law seeking that the unspoiled white sand beaches along the Albay west coast, whose diversity and unique attraction offer an alternative to the highly commercialized beaches and mangrove or Boracay and Palawan, be developed as an additional tourism site for the province.

“Since I perform dual functions—national legislator at the same time representative of my people to the national government, my work at home is to find out what are needed by my constituents, especially in the barangays and submit the list of these needs to concerned agencies for inclusion with their proposal for funding,” the congressman explained.

In his next three years in Congress, Gonzalez said, he will work harder with the new administration for the continuity of the development he has introduced in his district. (PNA) RMA/FGS/DOC/CBD/eds