CATARMAN, Northern Samar– With the easing up of the COVID-19 pandemic in 2022, the province of Northern Samar quickly bounced back from this global health crisis and made a steady stride towards its vision of a province that is ‘Marig-on, Mainuswagon, ngan Malipayon’.

Under the unifying leadership of Governor Edwin Ongchuan, whose overwhelming victory in the May 2022 elections clearly reflected the Nortehanons’ increased trust on his governance style, the province continued to strengthen in the areas of resiliency, good governance, and economic growth, through the provincial government’s ‘Padayon nga KAUSWAGAN or sustained PROGRESS development strategy which focuses on reducing poverty and promoting sustainability.

Building a resilient, healthy and strong foundation for Northern Samar.

A mark of the provincial government’s commitment to build a resilient province, Northern Samar was recently conferred the 2022 Gawad Kalasag Seal of Excellence in disaster risk reduction and management (DRRM) for being “Beyond Compliant”, the highest recognition given by the National Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Council (NDRRMC) to LGUs which have exceeded the standards in the establishment and functionality of their local disaster risk reduction and management councils and LDRRM offices as prescribed under Republic Act 10121 also known as the Philippine Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Act.

Towards the same end, the provincial government also partnered with the United Nations Development Program (UNDP) for the Strengthening Institutions and Empowering Localities against Disasters and Climate Change (SHIELD) Program designed to build institutional and community resilience to climate and natural hazards, to make people in our communities safer and more resilient to the impacts of natural disasters and climate change. Supported by AuSAID, the program will run in the province for 6 years.

The provincial government likewise carried out vital infrastructure projects this year, some with national government support, and in coordination with beneficiary-local government units (LGUs), which included road networks, construction of bridges, FMRs, evacuation centers, school buildings, health stations, electrification, water and sanitation facilities, among others.

Notably completed and turned over in June this year was the 4.27-kilometer road and the 150-meter Sulong Bridge along Mondragon to Silvino Lubos under the Payapa at Masaganang Pamayanan (PAMANA) Program. It used to take the people of Silvino Lubos 6-8 hours travel by boat to reach Pambujan and the rest of the province.

Improvement and upgrading of hospitals are also underway, working on procuring more medical equipment and laboratory machines, as well as increased human resources for better healthcare service delivery. Through the on-going PGNS Medical Scholarship Program, the Provincial Government was able to produce its first licensed doctor in November this year, from the initial batch of medical scholars.

On April this year, the province has likewise completed the preparatory phase of the Universal Health Care (UHC) program implementation.

Sustaining PROGRESS

Indicative of a favorable and enterprise-friendly environment in the province, the Philippine Statistics Authority has noted a significant increase in business establishments in Northern Samar from 3,578 in 2018 to 5,480 under its Updating of the List of Establishments (ULE) 2021 survey data which was released earlier this year. This indicates increased opportunity for income and employment of the people.

Tourism programs were also heightened in 2022, spurring economic activities and facilitating the recovery of micro, small and medium enterprises, while also promoting the physical and psychological well-being of Nortehanons adversely affected during the pandemic. The Summer Fest in April 2022, Rurumba Race Provincial Edition in September and the now continuing Karibhungan sa Pasko, did not only bring fun to people but also stimulated livelihood activities.

The series of Kauswagan Caravans, a landmark program under Governor Ongchuan’s leadership, also continued this year, bringing government services closer to the people, especially to the hard-to-reach areas in the province. The activity significantly served as a venue for the community to air their priority needs to the Governor and the Provincial Government, as much as leaders getting a first-hand experience of grassroots concerns made as inputs in policy and development planning.

Complementary peace initiatives were also carried out, to include the grant of livelihood assistance and other economic support to peacebuilders to facilitate their reintegration to the community, through a convergence of efforts strategy under the End Local Communist Armed Conflict (ELCAC), Balik Loob, Local Social Integration and enhanced Comprehensive Local Integration Programs, Support to Barangay Development Program (SBDP), among others. (PR)