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First State of the District Address Deputy Speaker Loren Legarda

August 2, 2019

First State of the District Address

Deputy Speaker Loren Legarda

Friday, 2 August 2019

Binirayan Gym, San Jose, Antique

 

Mga kababayan, fellow Antiqueños:

Good morning.

I am very pleased to join you today and I am privileged and honored to deliver to you my first State of the District Address.

This day is like no other. As the first woman Representative of our dear province to be elected to the House of Representatives and the first Antiqueño Deputy Speaker, I am truly humbled, and I consider this opportunity to report to you a huge and bold step in our journey together.

The trust that you have reposed in me is sacred, which I sincerely value and appreciate, and which I aim to repay only with service, with integrity and compassion.

Standing before you today, I recall the day on February 2, 1954, when President Ramon Magsaysay received the late Antique Representative Tobias Fornier, who was to be known as the most powerful chairman of the House Appropriations Committee, to discuss a five-year program for the concreting or construction of roads, with an initial appropriation of P2 million, a huge amount during those times. With Representative Fornier in that meeting was then Central Bank Governor Miguel Cuaderno, who then chaired the President’s highway financing committee, then Ministry of Public Works Undersecretary Vicente Orosa, and Representative Florencio Moreno, Chairman of the House Committee on Public Works.

In my last four years in the Senate, I was the chairperson of the Senate Committee on Finance, and I presided over the crafting of the annual General Appropriations Act involving trillions of pesos. It was difficult to imagine that I could equal, or even surpass, the track record of Representative Fornier, who served continuously as Antique Representative in the Second to the Fifth Congress, but I see parallel tracks that he and myself have traveled, though separately, as members of the Houses of Congress.

As your Representative now, I see the immensity of the challenge that Representative Fornier had seen during his time, and it is this challenge—of putting Antique on the map of prosperous provinces—that I want us to talk about today as we engage in a provincial, or as I call it, a district, conversation.

I shall begin with what I said our vision for Antique was during my inaugural address. I said then that I would want to mark this year as the start of the Golden Age of Antique, an age when our province shall become inclusively progressive, peaceful and orderly, resilient and sustainable; a province which empowers the vulnerable and dispossessed, which stands as a responsible steward of its environment, and which proudly respects its rich historical and cultural heritage that defines its unique identity.

But before we go to that long march to realize these aspirations, first things first: where and how are we today in the national and global scheme of things?

The fact is Antique is still a poor province.

An overwhelming 92 percent, or 504,638, of our 546,031 population still live in the rural areas.[1] While we have reduced poverty incidence from 27 percent to 18.3 percent between 2015 and 2018, Antique still has the highest poverty incidence among the provinces in Panay Island.[2] Even with this decline, many families continue to subsist below the poverty line.  Based on data from the Provincial Statistics Office, a family of five needs almost P10,000 to sustain their basic needs every month. Unfortunately, an Antiqueño earns only an average of about P5,000 a month and could barely scrape by. With an income gap of 25.5 percent, we have the highest average income shortfall of poor families in the region.[3]

In 2016, we registered 121 infant deaths and registered 11 maternal deaths.[4] Compared to that of Aklan’s, which had a record of 85 percent of live births attended by a health professional, our record of 86 percent is lowest in the region.[5] This tells us that in this modern age of technology, access to health facilities and services by our people is still sorely lacking.

Malnutrition is also still prevalent. Among Antiqueño  children aged 0-5, 29.9 percent are underweight, 44.7 percent are stunted, and 13.6 percent are thin. This situation worsens as our children grow. Among children aged 5-10, 49.4 percent are underweight; 41.2 percent are stunted; and 9.4 are thin.[6]

Almost 13,000 households are still without sanitary toilets.[7] I was actually shocked to learn about this from my father who told me after he visited Barangay Calacja 2 in Hamtic during the campaign that residents there did not have toilets in their homes.

Another basic necessity that Antiqueños  are in dire lack of is safe water. All throughout the last campaign, many residents, particularly those from upland barangays, clamored, if not begged, for Jetmatic water pumps and hoses so they could have water. Still, some barangays have had to wait for water rations to reach their areas just so they could bathe and have supply for their daily needs.

While our literacy rate is a high 97.7 percent, we still have many kasimanwa who have not gotten proper education—17,444 of them among the household population aged five years old and over, which has reached 487,367 as of 2015[8].

Our elementary school graduates have only reached 199,522; high school graduates, 178,010; and 13,888 who have reached post-secondary education. Our college undergraduates are a high of 38,153.[9]

According to the Deped Schools Division of Antique, we have more than 21,000 out-of-school youth at regular school age bracket.

As we await the results of the Labor Force Survey (LFS) conducted in the province by the Philippine Statistics Authority (PSA) last April, available data tells us that in 2015, the PSA placed our employment rate at 97.6 percent of the province’s total labor force, or an unemployment rate of 2.4 percent. Only 59.2 percent of our labor force is in the labor market. Guimaras, among the provinces of the region, has a lower labor force participation rate of 52.4 percent.[10]

The lack of remunerative and decent jobs is driving our kasimanwa, our foremost richest resource, to seek greener pastures elsewhere, illustrating the urgent need for our economy to create jobs here in the province so they could stay and avoid the social cost of migration, such as family separation. As of 2015, 13,495 of our people are abroad, with almost 50% of them being academic degree holders.[11]

Blessed with abundant natural wealth from the mountains to our seas under the stewardship of a highly-resilient, hard-working, creative, and amiable people, I sometimes find it hard to comprehend why Antique should not be able to join the ranks of the country’s most prosperous provinces within this decade.

We have a lot of catching up to do. We have to have better ideas, stronger commitment, and we have to work harder if we are to realize a better life for each and every one of us and, more importantly, for the future generation of Antiqueños.

This is why in this, my first, State of the District Address, I seize the opportunity to let you know that from Day One of my being your Representative, I have laid laser-like focus to our vision and, with sleeves rolled up, jumpstarted the hard work at hand.

On 1 July, I filed my first 10 priority bills as Representative of Antique.

First among these is House Bill No. 631 that seeks amendments to R.A. No. 8759, the Public Employment Service Office Act of 1999. I will tell you why.

During the campaign, my office has been beseeched by Antiqueños  from all walks of life asking for jobs. Being a Senator then, I could only sigh in disbelief that government employment promotion and facilitation programs are not reaching the poorest of the poor of Antique.

Now, under my proposed measure, I would like that each of the country’s over 42,045 barangays, including Antique’s 590 barangays, would have a Public Employment Service Office. The PESO, as you know, is a successful model of employment facilitation. With a Barangay PESO, job seekers even in the far flung areas of our province would have the same opportunity over a job vacancy available only before to a city dweller.

In addition, my proposed measure seeks to include entrepreneurship services under the PESO law’s coverage. If this amendatory measure becomes a law—and I will push for it with all my might—our kasimanwa who have the inclination to go into entrepreneurship or small business will have an office to assist them.

I have also filed bills that seek to create the Antique High School for the Arts (House Bill No. 633) and the Northern Antique Protected Seascape and Landscape Act of 2019 (House Bill No. 632).

You all know that I am a cultural warrior. By filing these bills, I seek to ensure that the exceptional talent of young and highly-gifted Antiqueños  are recognized early, developed, and nurtured, thereby preserving and promoting the unique identity of Antiqueños in particular, and Filipino heritage in general.  To complement this, I also provided funding support for the conduct of an expanded Festival of Talents this year, under the Schools Division of Antique.

Antique is embarrassingly rich in culture and traditions, evident in the existence and usage of the great Kinaray-a language; the long-preserved performing arts of Komedya; and the traditional practices of indigenous peoples like the Atis and the Iraynon-Bukidnon, to name a few of our cultural assets.

A parallel measure, House Bill No. 634, seeks to create the Department of Culture. If Egypt and other Middle Eastern countries, as well as other developing nations of the world, could have separate Ministries of Antiquities or similar cabinet-level national agencies, I believe that we must have our own department attending to our cultural heritage and responding to our cultural needs.

My inspiration for proposing to institutionalize by law the Northern Antique Protected Seascape and Landscape Act of 2019 is partly economic and cultural. By declaring the seascapes and landscapes located in the municipalities of Libertad, Pandan, Sebaste, Culasi, and Tibiao collectively as an ecotourism zone, we will put these municipalities in the priority development agenda of the Department of Tourism, Department of Environment and Natural Resources, Department of Public Works and Highways, and the Tourism Infrastructure and Enterprise Zone Authority.

Antique’s economy, now mainly agricultural, will immensely get a boost from the influx of local and foreign visitors once these municipalities appear on the country’s must-visit sites. Tourist arrivals in Antique in 2018 reached only 224,743, half of whom went for a same-day visit. Our goal is to make visitors stay longer, and appreciate the beauty and charm that our province has to offer.

The municipal governments covered under the proposed law will receive adequate national support to realize their vast potential economic and tourism hubs that are ecologically sustainable, culturally sensitive, economically viable, and ethically and socially equitable for the people not just of the covered communities but also the rest of Antique’s  population.  The proposed law will likewise complement the existing laws governing our own protected areas: Republic Act No. 7586, the National Integrated Protected Areas System (NIPAS) Law, and its expanded version under Republic Act 11038 which established the Northwest Panay Peninsula Natural Park, and the Sibalom Natural Park.

The other bills I have filed are all culture- and heritage-related, all seeking to install culture and the arts, history, and traditions in the altar of our identity as Filipinos. There is House Bill No. 636, which provides for the development and protection of the Philippines’s handloom weaving industry; House Bill No. 638, which seeks to institutionalize the Philippines’s participation in the international exhibitions of the Venice Biennale; and House Bill No. 639, which protects and strengthens the indigenous peoples and local communities’ declared conserved and protected areas.

As a strong advocate of the environment and a leading crusader against the worsening impact of climate change, I have filed a measure, House Bill No. 635, which seeks to regulate the manufacturing, importation, and use of single-use plastic products in the Philippines. Every single day, you and I know that we are getting strangulated by single-use plastic products that not only pollute our waters and the air, but also create horrendous mountain-piles of garbage that not only are a blight but also spawn vector-borne diseases.  Alongside this, I urge all local government units to strictly implement Republic Act No. 9003, the Ecological Solid Waste Management Act which I authored in 2001.  This will help keep our surroundings, our province, safe, clean, and healthy, and perhaps help prevent another Dengue crisis such as the current problem we face.

Relative to this, I also filed H. B. No. 637, which promotes food forest gardening in the country to make our communities self-sustaining, while promoting good health and nutrition.

As your Representative in Congress, I am aware that many Filipinos, including our kasimanwa, are often the victims of economic and public accommodation-related acts of discrimination against people based on their sexual orientation, gender identity or expression (SOGIE). I seek to end, once and for all, all forms of discrimination that foster inequality, and I filed H.B. No. 640, an anti-discrimination bill based on SOGIE. I will strongly push for the passage of this measure.

It is, however, the economy of our province that occupies a large part of my day-to-day worries. Apart from ensuring that Antiqueños  are heard in the halls of Congress, I have made it my commitment to try to get as much support for our development needs. In recent years, we have poured in resources and investments for agricultural productivity, infrastructure development, socio-economic growth, and improved basic services. We have been working closely with national government agencies to ensure that their programs and services reach and redound to the benefit of our own local communities.

We have the results to show for it.

Last year, we have secured over P116 million from the Department of Agriculture for our agriculture and fishery projects. We have established 12 community fish landing centers and distributed 444 fiberglass boats to our fisher folk.  According to the Bureau of Aquatic and Fisheries Resources (BFAR), motorized boats will help Antique fishermen increase their fish catch from 1 to 3 kilograms to a minimum of 3 to 5 kilograms per day.

After we launched the Antique Dairy Development Program in January 2018, we are witness to many Antiqueños  now happily engaged in income-generating livelihood through livestock farming.

We have set aside an initial amount of P30 million for this program through the National Dairy Authority for the purchase of breeding stock. As of date, the NDA has distributed 68 heads of pregnant dairy heifers to 30 dairy farmers who have produced 22 calves and 29,379 liters of milk.

The Antique Dairy Development Program aims to boost our province’s local milk production, build the capacities of farmers for profitable dairy farming, and support the set-up of milk and dairy enterprises. One great benefit of the program is its potential for providing support to the province’s feeding program for children.

Aside from dairy and livestock, I have allocated funds for rice, corn and high value crops development programs for this year as well.

As former chairperson of the Senate Committee on Finance, I have caused the Department of Labor and Employment (DOLE) to set aside funds for its highly-successful program, the Tulong Panghanapbuhay para sa Ating Disadvantaged/Displaced Workers (TUPAD) Program. The TUPAD is an emergency employment that seeks to address the income gap of people displaced from their jobs or victimized by calamities. For at least 10 days, TUPAD beneficiaries could work at minimum wage rates on any community-identified projects.

The good news is over 25,000 Antiqueños have already benefitted from TUPAD since we started implementing the program here in the province in 2017.   The better news is that we aim to help at least 77,000 more Antiqueños this year, as I continue to work with the DOLE to make TUPAD accessible even to the hinterland-dwellers of Antique.

In 2017, I have caused the Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD), through its Sustainable Livelihood Program, to expand its reach in the province. As a result, more than 4,700 Antiquenos have established small livelihoods that today provide them additional incomes.

We have been working almost non-stop to catch up with other provinces in attaining economic prosperity for our people.

We continue to collaborate with the Department of Science and Technology (DOST) on nutrition programs and technology support for micro, small and medium enterprises (MSMEs). Just yesterday, we launched the Sibalom Technology and Livelihood Support Hub (TechnoHub) under the Community Empowerment through Science and Technology (CEST) program of the Department.

With the Department of Trade and Industry (DTI), we are helping to boost our local MSMEs through the National Arts and Crafts Fair, Manila FAME, and the Center for International Trade and Exposition Missions (CITEM).   We also continue to support our shared service facilities (SSF), through which we hope to realize soon our aim to operationalize our very own tuna highway, complete with support facilities for fish processing, product marketing and development, among other SSF projects.

Even caring for the environment has generated jobs for our kasimanwa, under the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR)’s Community-Based Forest Management-Comprehensive Agrarian Reform Program, the National Greening Program, and this year’s Bantay-Dagat and Bantay-Gubat programs.

With the Department of Health (DOH), we are working for its continued delivery of medical assistance as well as for a share of scarce financial resources to complete the construction and improvement of the existing eight (8) hospitals.  To improve access to health services, among other government services, we provided funds for the purchase of ambulance and responders, down to the barangay level.

Aside from this, we will also put up Botika sa Barangay funded this year under the national budget, and start conducting medical missions in the 18 towns, prioritizing the hard-to-reach barangays.  Through my intervention, Antique has been chosen as one of the advanced implementation sites for the Universal Health Care Act (RA 11223).

To help address the problem of water supply and sanitation, I submitted to the House Committee on Appropriation my proposal to fund the construction or rehabilitation of water supply systems for select barangays in every town.  This will complement the effort of our various water districts in improving the delivery of water supply to our homes.

To boost tourism, we are collaborating with the Department of Tourism and the National Commission for Culture and the Arts (NCCA) through the Antique Harvest Fair.  This is also why I am working hard to speed up the expansion of the Antique Airport, and the operationalization of the Caticlan-Culasi-Caluya RoRo route.

In pursuit of our education agenda, we have been repairing classrooms and building new learning facilities, believing that access to education is a human right, even as we are seeking more funds this year for teacher training and school and laboratory equipment. Moreover, we have asked the Department of Education (DepEd) to reclassify the Schools Division of Antique from “small” to “medium”, to enable it to have more funds, personnel, and facilities.  We shall also explore the possibility of a convergence with other government agencies to address the problem of our out-of-school youth.

We have provided 8,569 scholarship grants under the Commission on Higher Education (CHED) since 2016, and 12,344 under the Technical Education and Skills Development Authority (TESDA) various training programs in the past three years alone.  Under CHED-Tulong Dunong program, we are targeting to benefit more than 3,000 scholars for this year, and 11,000 more scholars under the University of Antique system.

We have been supporting our weaving communities in Tibiao, Bugasong and Pandan, and have launched cultural projects to help preserve our cultural heritage, including the rehabilitation of Gabaldon school buildings, the revival of the Komedya, establishment of the Kinaray-a Center, and the hosting by the various municipalities of the performances of Rondalla  and the Philippine Philharmonic Orchestra.

Yet, I hear what you are saying: “Napakarami pa nating dapat gawin at tugunan, Congresswoman Loren. Napakarami pa nating dapat isaayos at itama.”

You are correct, and I agree. There is still much that needs to be done. Hard work is still ahead of us, for we continue to face unrelenting challenges as our province marches towards the future.

The new normal now is the increasing climate and disaster risks bearing on our very survival.

As we all know, Antique is under a state of calamity due to the impact of El Niño, which has devastated our rice production to the tune of P10.5 million pesos in losses.[12] It has been reported that a farmer who used to harvest 32 sacks of palay from a half-hectare farm was able to harvest only 12 sacks this year, a decline of more than 60 percent.[13]

Our fisheries production has also declined by 4.5 percent from its year-ago level, with municipal fisheries suffering the biggest decrease, at 17.5 percent.[14]

Dengue cases in the province increased by 126 percent, from 494 cases from January to July 2018 to 1,117 for the same period this year.[15]

In 2013, Antique was ranked eleventh among provinces with highest susceptibility to landslide by the Mines and Geosciences Bureau of the DENR.[16]   We therefore need to be aware of these landslide-prone areas as identified in the geo-hazard maps of our towns. Disaster risk reduction measures, including early warning-early action systems, must be put in place to ensure that people and structures are kept out of harm’s way.

Without doubt, it is climate change that has brought these disasters upon us. The latest available science tells us that climate and disaster risks will have far-reaching impact on water supply, crop yield, food production, and ecosystem functions.[17] Increased temperatures and variability in rainfall could likely be a factor in the spread of dengue, and possibly for other vector-borne diseases like malaria. Sea level rise, projected to be at three times the global average and which must be studiously monitored, could be devastating to our coastal towns.

We should not only recognize, but also be able to adapt to, climate change to be able to mitigate its deleterious effects, for these threaten to erode our economic and development gains. To prepare our people and our communities, we have established multi-purpose evacuation centers in every town, established as well the regional evacuation center in San Jose.  We continue to improve roads, bridges, ports, and other infrastructure that could mitigate the impact of climate change, while supporting our development efforts.

We have a blue-print called A-N-T-I-Q-U-E for which we are seeking to realize seven outcomes.

A is for AGRICULTURAL resilience. We must enhance the resilience of our agricultural and fishing communities amidst climate change.

N is for NATURAL environment, which we should sustain to support our long-term growth.

T is for TOURISM, which we should make vibrant and green, anchored on our rich cultural and ecological heritage.

I is for INTEGRATED rural development that delivers sustainable jobs, incomes, and livelihoods both inside and outside agriculture.

Q is for a better QUALITY of life for all. Every Antiqueño will live a healthy, secure, and productive life.

U is for an empowered and UNITED citizenry committed to advancing the best interests of the province.

E is to END the vicious cycle of disasters and poverty.

So here we come at the crossroads of Antique’s colorful history.

When I told you during the campaign that our path to a bright future is not paved and plain, but strewn with rocks and other hurdles, some of you might have winced and probably felt disheartened.

Many of you, however, who believed and thus brought us to victory with an overwhelming mandate, realize that bringing about Antique’s Golden Age is a community enterprise, a team work, a united front, a cooperative endeavor.

That is my challenge to you now, for all of you to continue believing that by staying with me and working by my side as your Representative, we can get things done, as we have got things done for Antique in the not so distant past.

I urge you to continue towards our destined course and work towards a future where our province is able to meet our essential needs for food, water, energy, health and sanitation, improved housing, better quality education, and decent jobs with remunerative incomes; a future where all of us are partners in natural resource conservation and care; a future where we are able to manage climate change and mitigate disaster risks.

Through our collective effort, we have already identified our problems and formulated the appropriate, effective solutions thereto. The remaining task before us now is to implement these solutions with vigor and undiminished resolve.

Fired up with our pride of our history and culture, steeled in the strong conviction and commitment of our leaders and our people, humbled by the lessons of our past, and inspired by our dream of a prosperous Antique, I believe there is no hurdle we could not surpass and no challenge we could not surmount to achieve a bright, peaceful, and secured tomorrow.

Every Antiqueño deserves no less than the just reward of our honest labors.

Duro-duro gid nga salamat!  Palangga ko kamo!

[1] Quickstat Antique, As of June 2018: Philippine Statistics Authority

[2] First Semester 2018 Poverty Incidence data from the Philippine Statistics Authority (PSA)-Region VI

[3] First Semester 2018 Income Gap data from the PSA

[4] Number of Registered Infant and Maternal Deaths 2016 PSA

[5] Number of Live Births by Place of Occurrence and Attendant at Birth 2016 data from the PSA

[6] 2015 National Nutrition Survey of DOST-FNRI

[7] Data from Dr. Ric Naciongayo, head of the Integrated Provincial Health Office (IPHO)

[8] Quickstat Antique, As of June 2018: Philippine Statistics Authority

[9] Ibid.

[10] Estimates of Unemployment Rates and Labor Force Participation Rates by Region and by Province: July 2015, Tables 1 & 2: Philippine Statistics Authority

[11] Quickstat Antique, As of June 2018: Philippine Statistics Authority

[12] National Disaster Risk Reduction Management Council, SitRep No. 21 re Preparedness Measures and Effects of El Niño, http://www.ndrrmc.gov.ph/attachments/article/3676/SitRep_No_21_re_Prepareness_Measures_and_Effects_of_EL_Nino_Issued_on_21June2019_5Pm.pdf

[13] PNA- Antique under state of calamity due to El Niño https://www.pna.gov.ph/articles/1072276

[14] Fisheries: Volume of Production 2015-2018 data from PSA

[15] PNA – Antique records more than 1K dengue cases, 7 deaths https://www.pna.gov.ph/articles/1076144

[16] Philippine Development Plan 2013 –http://www.neda.gov.ph/wp-content/uploads/2013/09/CHAPTER-10.pdf

[17] IPCC SR 15 on the impacts of global warming of 1.5: Summary for Policy Makers