From being mecca of illegal drugs  

ALBUERA, Leyte- For months, this sleepy but quaint town hogged the news headline. But not for good reason, as wryly admitted by its residents and local officials.
Albuera, with its more than 42,000 people, had been tagged by some as the mecca of illegal drugs in Eastern Visayas as Kerwin Espinosa, considered the biggest drug lord in the region and is now detained, is from this town.
And this label is not being taken lightly by the officials of the town saying the “bad image” has affected Albuera, particularly in encouraging investors.
While Albuera, whose original name was “Albujera” given by a Spanish priest which means fresh water and became a separate town from Ormoc on January 1, 1918, depends on fishing and agriculture as its main sources of income among its people, the administration of Mayor Rosa Meneses wants to invite its own share of investors.
Alan Samson, municipal planning, and development officer, said that the drug-related issue that hounded the town was really a big breakdown to them.
“That controversy may have resulted for our town to become known in the country, even the world, but its impact was so negative,” Samson said.
“The image that was projected was that our peace and order was so bad; that shabu is so rampant and you know that investors do not come in to an area where there is a problem on peace and order, drugs,” the town official added.
In fact, the problem so tainted the image of Albuera and its potential as an economic site that an investor pulled out its plan to come in, Engineer Armando Meneses, town administrator, said.
Meneses, who is a nephew of the new mayor after Mayor Rolando Espinosa, Sr. was gunned down inside his cell at the Leyte sub-provincial jail in Baybay City on November 5,2016, was referring to a company that is on public sea transport business.
But slowly, the town is making efforts to “clean” its image, Meneses and Samson said.
On the aspect of drug-related issue, anti-drug council was activated in all of the 15 barangays of the town, ensuring that their campaign to eliminate the proliferation of illegal drugs in Albuera could be addressed.
“One of the actions taken by Mayor Meneses when she assumed the post, is to address that drugs in Albuera will be wiped out. She immediately established the municipal anti-drug council down to the barangays,” Samson said.
And so far, the campaign is paying off, said PO1 Harold Fernando, assistant investigator of the Albuera police station.
“We have been conducting our own operations against illegal drugs proliferation here in Albuera. So far, we have only arrested two individuals related to possession of illegal drugs,” Fernando said.
“What we have now are petty crimes like neighbors quarreling or illegal gambling,” the police officer said.
To ensure that peace and order of the town will not be affected, especially in the barangays, the town police regularly conduct their mobile patrols and heighten police visibility. The town has 22 police officers, including its chief of police, Senior Inspector John Rey Layog.
Town administrator Meneses said that electrification in barangay streets and public facilities like market and gymnasium is also a priority under the new administration.
“If our streets and market are well-lighted, our people would no longer be afraid to come out,” he said.
“We encourage our people to even play at night at our gymnasium as a way to show that we have a peaceful town now,” Meneses added.
Unlike before, people could still be seen roaming in the streets even past 12 midnight.
Samson said that now that their town is in the process of shaking off the bad image it unfortunately earned, they are making some moves to entice investors and even tourists.
For one, they are now in the finalization stage of their revised comprehensive development land use plan which will be used as a basis for identifying areas where potential investors could locate.
The village of Binolho, situated between the town and Ormoc City, has been identified as a possible investment site with about 50 hectares of land that could be offered to investors.
It was learned from Samson that a company is planning to put up its fuel depot at the proposed industrial site once it is available which could generate employment and income for the town.
At present, there are about 300 businesses operating in Albuera, mostly in the retail sector, generating around P30 million income for the town.
Aside from its local income, Albuera gets funding to finance its various programs and services from its share of its internal revenue allotment(IRA) of about P100 million.
Samson said that they have high hopes that Albuera will soon achieve its economic potentials, considering that it is located between the cities of Baybay and Ormoc, two areas in Leyte that are experiencing economic growth.(JOEY A. GABIETA)