MATUGUINAO, Samar- Just like a beautiful butterfly coming out from its cocoon, this town is slowly shedding its image of poverty and haven of insurgency.
Matuguinao is considered to be one of the poorest towns in the province with its massive problem on poverty partly blamed to the presence of the outlawed New People’s Army (NPA), the armed wing of the Communist Party of the Philippines.
And this is what Mayor Aran Boller would like to change saying that he would like to see the more than 8,000 people of Matuguinao both secured and happy.
Boller said that while it appeared that politicians of the town in the past have courted the support of the rebels just to win during elections, he chose not to ask for their support.
“That is why, I always lost in previous elections. I never asked for the support from our friends in the other side of the fence. And just like in the past elections, I did not asked for their help during last elections,” he said.
According to Boller, his poll victory could be attributed to the desire of his people to see their town transformed into something where there is peace and progress.
“And we can only have change and development if our town is peaceful…free from insurgency,” he said.
The town mayor said that in previous years, every time Matuguinao is mentioned, what came into the minds of the public is its massive poverty and insurgency; in 2012, members and officials of groups affiliated with the communist group have even conducted their regional meeting in the town,he said.
Boller said that both problems on insurgency and poverty freely coexisted in the town for so many years, to the extent that it became a normal thing among its people.
“But our people are now tired. They want change and development,” Boller said.
Among the measures that he came up when he assumed his post June 30 of this year, is to address the insurgency of the town.
Boller made this by inviting members of the rebels who are from their town to surrender and join his government’s drive to transform Matuguinao into a peaceful place.
His campaign has resulted, so far, in the surrender of 15 regular rebel members. He provided them livelihood assistance, with some of them hired by the municipal government as job order workers.
“We have to assist them for them not to think of coming back to the mountains and join again the insurgents. We have now addressed our problem on insurgency. We have no report of ambush incidents like in the past. Our villagers now report to us if they see some rebels in their village unlike before,” the town mayor said.
And as part of his campaign to improve the lives of his people, where more than 800 families relies on government’s dole out and aid programs like the 4Ps(Pantawid Pamilyang Pilipino Program), Mayor Boller open up his town to outside world.
Reaching Matuguinao in the past could be struggle as one has to traverse through the sea using a motorboat which last to more than five hours of travel.
But thanks to the efforts of Office of Presidential Adviser on Peace Process-Payapa at Masaganang Pamayanan (OPAPP-Pamana), going to this town is now a breeze with the construction of a 21 kms concrete road starting from Gandara town leading all the way to the town center.
Slowly, this sixth-class town (income: more than P73 million), is attracting its share of tourists, even businessmen.
The town, as a tourist destination, offers 12 majestic caves and several water springs, for the delight of the tourists.
With the expected growth of the town, Mayor Boller said that he would construct needed facilities in the town.
This include constructing, for the very time, a public market and bus terminal.
He said that for the construction of the public market, to be located in Barangay Mabuligon, the local government has earmarked P5 million while about P4.5 million will be set aside for the construction of terminal, which is to be located in Brgy. Maduruto.
The young town mayor also said that he would implement zero waste management in their municipality by coming up with their own dump site.
Boller also said that he would also invest in improving the education quality of his people by constructing more school buildings and facilities and providing scholarships.
He is also giving priority on improving the health condition of his people, to include the nutrition problem of the town.
“We have now enough supply of medicine unlike before. For next year, we will be allocating P1 million for our health services from the current P500,000 budget,” Boller said.
Also in the pipeline are the construction of access roads to interior villages of the town to ensure that their delivery of goods will not be hampered and as way to end the insurgency, he said.
“I could now really say that the people of Matuguinao are happy and contended. I have discarded political colors in the town. I want to work regardless of political affiliations. Now, neighbors and families could now greet each other, no matter is their political color,” he said.
Mayor Boller said that all he want now is to see his beloved Matuguinao escaped from poverty and live under the atmosphere of peace.