TACLOBAN CITY- The dubious distinction attained by Eastern Visayas as the country’s poorest region was not at all a surprise. Thus said Leyte Governor Leopoldo Dominico Petilla, who also chairs the Regional Development Council. According to Petilla, when supertyphoon “Yolanda” devastated the region, they already anticipated its economy will suffer a hard blow. Based on the report of the regional National Economic Development Authority (NEDA), the region posted a poverty record of 54.9 percent. Before Yolanda pummeled Eastern Visayas, particularly Leyte and the provinces of Samar and Eastern Samar, the region was the country’s second poorest region with a poverty level of 45.2 percent. “I was already anticipating that our poverty level will decline further after we were hit by Yolanda. We were not surprised at all but though this is alarming,” Petilla said.

NEDA reported that the region posted damages to infrastructures and livelihoods at P130 billion. The national government, under its Reconstruction Assistance on Yolanda (RAY) has allocated P361 billion of which P34 billion was set aside for Eastern Visayas. The Yolanda Regional Investment Program, approved by the Regional Development Council, estimates of P96 billion needed for the region to cover the repair of infrastructures destroyed and create livelihood for those displaced due to Yolanda.

Petilla said that “necessary interventions” are being undertaken to somehow arrest the poverty level of the region, particularly in Leyte. The governor said that before Yolanda struck Leyte, his administration had already formulated its economic development plan. He said that he is hopeful that the region will recover soon once the rehabilitation works will really come into full swing as this will help create jobs and more money in circulation.
Among these program includes the P2.5 billion set aside for the rehabilitation of the coconut industry targeted to help recover the region’s more than 1.1 million coconut farmers from the devastation of Yolanda.(Lizbeth Ann A. Abella)