Gov. Ongchuan made the declaration during his SOPA

OUT OF POVERTY. Northern Samar Gov. Edwin Ongchuan delivers his state of province address (SOPA) on Monday (June 17) wherein he reported that the province is on its way to becoming a first-class province, an indication, among others, that Northern Samar is improving its economic condition. Also in photo is Vice Gov.Clarence Dato. (THE PROVINCIAL GOVERNMENT OF NORTHERN SAMAR).

TACLOBAN CITY-Northern Samar is now a first-class province in terms of income classification, an indication that his administration is on the right track in uplifting its people from poverty.

This was declared by Governor Edwin Ongchuan during his state of the province address (SOPA) on Monday (June 17) at the newly-refurbished provincial gymnasium in Catarman.
In his report before his people, Ongchuan said that he is happy that the province is slowly marching towards a ‘sustained’ economic development.

“Mga minamahal ko pong kapwa-Nortehanon, pagkalipas ng limang taon ng aking panunungkulan, Ipinagmamalaki ko pong sabihin na nasa maayos at malakas na estado ang ating probinsya,” he said in his speech.

“Ang Northern Samar ay patuloy na umuunlad at nakikilala hindi lang sa Region 8 kundi sa buong bansa,” Ongchuan asserted.

The event was attended by top officials of the province who included Reps. Paul Daza and Harris Christopher Ongchuan, representing the province’s first and second congressional districts; members of the provincial board headed by Vice Gov. Clarence Dato, municipal mayors, and barangay officials, among others.

In his speech, Ongchuan said that for the last three years, the province was able to generate an income of more than P2 billion, higher by P1.5 billion income collected by a province which belong to the first-class income classification.

“Bagama’t wala pang implementing rules and regulation ang Republic Act 11964, o ang Automatic Income Classification of LGUs Act of 2023, tataas po ang income class ng Northern Samar mula second-class hanggang first class, base na rin sa kabuuang kita ng ating provincial government sa nakaraang tatlong taon kung saan ang ating probinsya ay nakapagtala ng average annual regular income na halos dalawang bilyong piso, mas mataas sa minimum na P1.5 billion para maging first-class province,” the governor said.

He also said that based on the 2023 Cities and Municipalities Competitiveness Index, Northern Samar’s ranking has increased by 18 notches from 73 to 55th place of said year.
The province’s local income has also increased in 2023 at P216 million, higher by 28.6 percent compared to 2022, the governor added.

Ongchuan also disclosed that based on the data from the Bureau of Local Government Finance, Northern Samar ranked second among the provinces in the region in terms of collection of real property and of business taxes and ranked third in the collection of fees and charges.

Under his leadership, the province also got its first ever seal of good local governance (SGLG) last year. The SGLG, awarded by the Department of Interior and Local Government (DILG), is considered the highest recognition being bestowed to local government units.
“Ibig sabihin po ay naipasa ng ating probinsya ang sampung governance area. Ito po ay pagpapakita ng provincial government of Northern Samar sa ating mga kapwa- Nortehanon ng ating kahusayan at katapatan sa serbisyo at pamamahala,” Ongchuan said.

The governor said that the economic development that is slowly being experienced by the province could be attributed to various programs and interventions being implemented by his administration with the help of the national government and its various offices and agencies.

He narrated that Northern Samar is the first province in the country to put up a ‘green lane’ wherein the processing of needed documents by big investors would directly deal with the provincial government, cutting possible occurrence of red tape.

This resulted, Ongchuan said, to the coming in of big- ticket investments, especially in the energy sector like the Copenhagen Infrastructure Partners and Aboitiz Infrastructure on their offshore wind power project and Energies PH Inc. for its tidal energy project.

He, however, acknowledged that despite the economic gains, poverty remains to affect many of its people, particularly in the agriculture and fishery sectors.

And to help address this problem, his administration has come up with several programs and projects to help them raise from poverty and has come up with a seven-year modernization road map for the agri-fishery sector, Ongchuan said.

Among these programs include the rice production enhancement program wherein identified farmer-beneficiaries were taught training on climate-resilient method of farming as the distribution of rice seeds and fertilizers to farmers aimed at increasing their yields.
Farm-to-market roads are also being constructed across the province to help the local farmers trade their produce, the governor said.

A four-year provincial rice industry development plan, has also been implemented beginning this year, Ongchuan said, adding that this program is anchored on the MaSaGaNa Rice Industry Development Program of the Marcos administration.

“Sana po ay tangkilikin ng ating mga rice farmers ang mga makabagong teknolohiya sa pagsasaka upang mas magkaroon tayo ng sapat na supply sa ating probinsya at mapababa pa natin ang presyo ng bigas,” he said.

Ongchuan also said that he is offering scholarship program for students who will take agriculture as their course to help the young people to go into farming which they feel not attractive and lucrative as a livelihood.

In the fishery sector, several programs have also been put in place to help the fisherfolk improve their economic conditions, Ongchuan said.

His administration is also giving focus those in the abaca sector and those in the seaweed production, noting that Northern Samar is one of the leading abaca and seaweeds producers in the country.

In his SOPA, Gov. Ongchuan also addressed one of the biggest problems of the province-insurgency.

He disclosed that through their local initiatives, several members of the communist armed group, the New People’s Army, have returned to the fold of the law.

A village for them was constructed where they could live a normal life and also, encourage those in the active communist group to abandon their armed struggle.

“Sunod-sunod po ang nangyaring pagdedeklara ng stable internal peace and security sa ating mga bayan at mismo pong ang ating DILG Secretary Benjamin Abalos Jr. ang nagsabi na ang Northern Samar ay isa nang insurgency-free province,” he said.

The governor has also tackled in his SOPA in helping the education sector of the province and promoting further its tourism industry as well as ensuring that his people, particularly, the children, will be healthy and not nutrient-deficient and enjoy potable drinking water.
Gov. Ongchuan also acknowledged the support of President Marcos to the province with the completion of the Samar Pacific Coastal Road or also known as Simora Road, connecting several Pacific towns to the mainland.

“Noong July, kasama natin si Pangulong Marcos sa inauguration ng SPCR 1. Sa pagkakataong yoon mismo din nya kinumpirma na popondohan ng national government ang konstruksyon ng SPCR 2 na binubuo ng dalawang tulay na magdudugtong sa isla ng Laoang sa mainland ng Northern Samar. Inaasahan po natin na magkakaroon ng groundbreaking ang SPCR 2 Project ngayong November 2024,” Ongchuan said, connecting the island towns of Laoang and Palapag to the national road network.

“Tayong mga Nortehanon ay patuloy na nagsusumikap. Nalampasan natin ang pagiging isa sa pinakamahirap na probinsya at iba pang mga pagsubok. Ngayon pa na napatunayan natin na kaya nating magkaisa at magtulungan para sa patuloy na ikakaunlad ng probinsya,” the governor said.