Inaugural Speech of Hon. Loren Legarda as Representative of the Lone District of Antique

June 30, 2019

Inaugural Speech of Hon. Loren Legarda

as Representative of the Lone District of Antique

30 June 2019 | San Jose de Buenavista, Antique

In 1998, when I received my first mandate from the Filipino people as Senator of the Republic, I came home to Antique, in Pandan, and took my oath of office before the town’s mayor. Pagkatapos kang biyente uno ka tuig. Nagpanumpa ako sa pagserbisyo sa akun pinalangga nga probinsya, sa liwat pagkatapos nga ako gintugruan kang mandato bilang inyo representante sa Kongreso, nabatyagan ko nga ako tapus kag angay gid nga magserbisyo kaninyo.

The decision to enter politics and run for the Senate in 1998 was not easy. I had a fulfilling career as a journalist and I was a mother to two very young sons. But I knew in my heart that it was a step towards the right direction. It was a path laid down to me by my ancestors—my great grandfather, Ariston Gella, who was the province’s first pharmacist and delegate to the Malolos Congress that crafted the first Philippine Constitution; my great grand uncles Vicente Gella, who served as a governor of the province, Pedro Gella who was a mayor of Sibalom town, and Bartolome Gella who served as governor too. Their commitment to be of service to the people fueled my own passion.

Before I entered politics, I was a broadcast journalist for 20 years and I exposed and documented the ills of society. I envisioned that by becoming a senator, I would be able to contribute by providing solutions to these problems through policy legislation, which I did.

As an environmental advocate, I pushed for the passage of laws on environmental protection, climate change adaptation and mitigation, and disaster risk reduction and management. These laws include the Clean Air Act, Clean Water Act, Ecological Solid Waste Management Act, Wildlife Resources Conservation and Protection Act, Environmental Awareness and Education Act, Renewable Energy Act, Climate Change Act, National Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Act, People’s Survival Fund Act, and the Expanded National Integrated Protected Areas or E-NIPAS Act.

I also authored and sponsored laws that promote inclusivity and equitability such as the Free College Education Act, National Health Insurance Act, Anti-Violence Against Women and Children Act, Magna Carta of Women, Anti-Child Labor Law, Anti-Trafficking in Persons Act, Expanded Senior Citizens Act, Magna Carta for MSMEs, Barangay Kabuhayan Act, and Agri-Agra Reform Credit Act, among many other vital pieces of legislation.

Moreover, as Chair of the Senate Committee on Finance, I made sure that the national budget is one that is pro-people, supporting the national government’s priority programs while also ensuring that social programs are adequately funded. Under my watch, we were able to fund free college education, free irrigation for small farmers and universal healthcare. We were able to double the salary of soldiers and police, increase the cash allowance of teachers, pay the pension of war veterans, fund more livelihood programs, stronger support for MSMEs, and provide more funding for art and culture projects, as well as environmental and resilience programs.

I also have my international work. As I chaired the Senate Committee on Foreign Relations and sponsored the Senate’s concurrence in the ratification of 33 treaties that promote our country’s interests and provide stronger protection for overseas Filipino workers (OFWs), I also did, and am still doing, pro bono work for international organizations mainly on the climate and disaster resilience sphere. The United Nations Office for Disaster Risk Reduction (UNISDR) appointed me as its Global Champion for Resilience and the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) designated me as a National Adaptation Plan Champion. The Global Commission on Adaptation, led by former UN chief Ban Ki-Moon, Bill Gates and World Bank’s Kristalina Georgieva, made me one of its Commissioners.

All these work and positions I held in the last two decades shaped me into a well-rounded public servant ready to serve mykasimanwas.

Before I decided to run as Representative of the Lone District of Antique, various positions were awaiting me upon the end of my term. I was offered a cabinet position and an ambassadorial post, and was encouraged to further my work on climate resilience in the global arena. To be honest, these are positions I know I could easily handle, owing to my vast experience. But I had to choose a different path. I could not simply turn my back on my beloved home province.

I have always marveled at the natural richness and beauty that abounded our province. But it struck me that amid this natural bounty, many of mykasimanwas have remained poor and our province is among the poorest in the country. Among the provinces in Panay Island, Antique has the highest poverty incidence at 18.3%, followed by Iloilo at 15.8%, Aklan at 14.6%, and Capiz at 5.9%.[1]

Malnutrition is also prevalent. Among Antiqueño children aged 0-5, 29.9% are underweight, 44.7% are stunted, and 13.6% are wasted; while among Antiqueños aged 5-10, 49.4% are underweight, 41.2% are stunted and 9.4% are wasted.[2]

It is unacceptable that our province is blessed with so much natural resources from the mountains and the seas, yet it is the poorest in the region. We should not allow our people to live in poverty. And so I thought it was time for me to focus on Antique. I have already served my country well and I would not want my home province to be left behind. It is not enough that there are projects or funding, I have to make sure that Antiqueños are really benefitting from government services that are available to them.

Today, we mark the start of the Golden Age of Antique. The past few years served as preview of what we can and will offer to our people.

We have already started to uplift the lives of many Antiqueños by ensuring the implementation of government programs such as training programs under TESDA that benefitted 8,650 Antiqueños in 2017 and 2018; and aside from the free tuition in state universities and colleges, we have provided 9,390 scholarship grants under CHED in the past two years alone.

We have established community fish landing centers in all coastal municipalities and provided boats and fishing gear for fisherfolks under the BFAR. We have already distributed 444 fiberglass boats since 2017. The Antique Provincial Fisheries Office has recorded 14,022 kilograms of fish yield from the beneficiaries of these boats for the period January to April, 2019. In 2018, the total fish yield was 48,339 kilograms.[3]

In terms of rice production, we are self-sufficient. Rice production in 2018 was 230,396.96 metric tons even with the damage to rice crops caused by the southwest monsoon rains. This is more than enough for our population because our per capita consumption is 120 kilograms per year.[4]

In dairy farming, we have already produced 88,559 liters of milk from January to May this year. In 2018, the total milk production was 68,205 liters for the whole year. This is because of our Antique Dairy Development Program in partnership with the National Dairy Authority, which has distributed 68 pregnant cows to 30 farmer beneficiaries in the province. These cows have already produced 50 calves in total. We see a promising industry for our dairy farmers.

We have also guaranteed that our communities will benefit from the various livelihood programs of the government.

A few years back, I was surprised to learn that the DOLE TUPAD Cash-for-Work program was unknown to Antiqueños. Now, more than 16,000 Antiqueños and their families have benefitted from it last year, and another 16,000 workers this year.

Last May, together with DOLE Secretary Silvestre Bello III, I visited the Association of Differently Abled Persons in Bugasong. Their canteen in Barangay Ilaya received assistance through DOLE. It was heartwarming to hear their stories. I am proud of them because their physical limitations did not hinder them from building their livelihood and helping others in need. They are supporting four scholars—two high school and two elementary students—and they also provide medical and burial assistance to their members.

The livelihood support under the Department of Trade and Industry’s Shared Service Facilities (DTI-SSF) has helped many MSMEs including those in Tradetown Dalipe. The Food Processing and Toll Packaging Center has allowed vendors to re-process their unsold food and fruit products into pies, empanada, and other food products that they can sell again. We have less wastage and more income.

Under the DSWD Sustainable Livelihood Program  (SLP), we had 2,076 beneficiaries from 41 SLP Associations in 2017 and 2,719 beneficiaries from 107 SLP Associations in 2018. One of the associations I was able to visit is the Free Range Chicken Egg Producers Association (FRCEPA) in Patnongon. They are able to harvest 7 to 8 trays of organic eggs a day from 250 heads of free-range chicken.

These and many other programs and initiatives—such as the nutrition programs and technological support under the DOST; medical assistance programs and improvement of health facilities under the DOH; the repair of classrooms and building of new ones; the creation of multipurpose evacuation centers in every municipality; and the improvement of roads, bridges, ports and other infrastructure—have been changing the lives of many Antiqueños.

This is just the beginning. Imagine what we can do if we empower every Antiqueño. Imagine what we can accomplish if we will unite to push our province towards its long overdue progress.

This is what we envision for Antique: a progressive, united province that is inclusive, peaceful and orderly, resilient and sustainable, empowers the vulnerable, and respects its environment and heritage.

We will prioritize the provision of livelihood opportunities in all the 590 barangays of the province so that all Antiqueños have source of income or additional earnings.

I will continue to help our fisherfolks by providing boats and fishing gears they need and the establishment of a tuna processing facility, as well as our farmers in the upland by fixing their source of water.

I will make sure that all barangays have water, which is a very basic need, and we will achieve zero open defecation status by making sure that homes have their own sanitary toilets. As of now, 12,975 households are still without sanitary toilets.[5]

Aside from ensuring that we provide free education and additional allowance to students, we will also address malnutrition among our children.

We will continue to improve our hospitals and rural health units, aside from providing free medical assistance and medicines.

We have improved and reopened our airport and the Philippine Airlines is now flying three times a week to and from Antique. I hope we can patronize these flights whenever possible. We will further improve our airport and strive to have more airlines fly to our province.

FastCat had its ceremonial Culasi-Caticlan voyage last May. This route will soon be available and there will also be a route from Culasi to Caluya to Mindoro and Batangas.

We will make sure that the environmental laws I authored will be implemented by the provincial government and every municipality. We need to preserve our natural resources especially our protected areas—the Northwest Panay Peninsula Natural Park (NWPPNP), the Sibalom Natural Park (SNP), and 39 marine sanctuaries. Our province is home to the cleanest rivers, verdant peaks, magnificent beaches and caves. We will take care of these resources and make Antique a premier ecotourism destination with sustainable livelihood that will bring jobs to our people. We will have tourism and trade centers and TIEZA hostels as part of our tourism development efforts.

The preservation of Antiqueño heritage is also a big part of our plan not only to boost tourism in the province but also to ensure that our culture and traditions will be passed on to the next generations of Antiqueños. That is why we have been supporting our weaving communities, primarily the Bagtason Loomweavers Association, the Malabor Abaca- Piña Weavers Association in Tibiao, and the Sto. Rosario Multi-Purpose Cooperative; as well as the School of Living Tradition (SLT) of the Pantad Ati Indigenous Community in Sitio Pantad, Igcalawagan, Tobias Fornier that teaches the Ati Language, nito and buri weaving, and the Meroy Kareñosa dance to the youth of the community.

We have introduced various cultural projects in the past years that will help preserve our heritage. Among these programs are the renovation of the Old Capitol building to be repurposed into a textile gallery, museum and library; the restoration of the Gella-Azurin heritage house, which is the only remaining bahay na bato in Antique; the installation of the first Bantayog-Wika in the country, the Kinaray-a Language Marker; performances of the Philippine Philharmonic Orchestra and Rondalla groups; and the hosting of the 2019 Pista ng Komedya.

The National Arts and Crafts Fair with DTI and the Antique Harvest Fair with DOT and NCCA are two projects that highlight our cultural heritage while also helping promote and boost our local enterprises. We will continue to conduct these cultural trade fairs so that we showcase our local products to more people, allow our cultural enterprises to generate more income, and open more opportunities for growth.

I can go on and tell more about what we will do for our province and how we will do it. We will build partnerships with government departments and non-government institutions. We will utilize our ties with international contacts to seek grants, technical assistance and development cooperation. I offer you two decades of my work and expertise as a three-term senator.

But I tell you this: I can only keep my side of the promise. In order to achieve our vision for our province, I need all of you to make a promise: let us help each other, let us help our leaders, let us be part of the solution.

I hope we can also embrace this very important virtue: “Malasakit”; in Kinaray-a it is “pag-ulikid.”

Malasakit is such a beautiful Filipino word. When you havemalasakit, you think of someone or something as if it were your own. Your actions are dictated not only by the mind but also by the heart; you do things out of care and respect—malasakit sa kapwa; malasakit sa trabaho; malasakit sa kalikasanmalasakit sa Inang Bayan.

Ang aking malasakit sa aking mahal na probinsiya ang nagtulak sa akin at nagpatibay ng aking desisyon na tumakbo bilang inyong Representate. Kung tayo ay may malasakit sa isa’t isa at sa ating bayan, marami tayong magagawa at malayo ang ating mararating.

We will face many challenges along the way, but my mantra has always been: “There is no such thing as ‘It cannot be done.’” We can find a solution to every problem and we can turn every challenge into opportunities for growth and development. This will be our mantra in our province.

At this point, please allow me to take this opportunity to thank everyone who was part of my journey—my first local campaign. First and foremost is God who is the source of our strength, wisdom, peace, and life itself. The Lord’s graciousness has allowed me to achieve everything that I have now. I am eternally grateful.

Thank you to my family, especially my Papa who represented me in many events I could not attend and who never complained despite his age; my late Antiqueña mother, who pushed me to pursue my dreams and passion and who continues to watch over me; my Nanay Fely whose presence always calms me; and my two sons, my greatest source of inspiration.

Thank you to all Antiqueños—to my fellow candidates in “Team Arangkada, Antique”, thank you for helping me through my first local campaign, I have learned from all of you; to my staff and volunteers, friends and personal supporters, to Rhoda Pon-an and Loren sa Barangay volunteers, and to Atty. Irene Alcobilla and the Inday Loren Movement, I could not have survived the grueling campaign without your help; to the provincial media and the regional media, thank you for your support, especially in letting the people know about the truth; and, of course, to each and every Antiqueño who voted for me, duro duro gid nga salamat! Palangga ko kamo!

Kadya nga adlaw, ginaimbitar ko kamo tanan sa pagselebrar kaimaw ko ka atun kadarag-an. Kag sa rum-an umpisa run kita obra, agud dyang kadarag-an mabatyagan ka kada Antiqueno.

Duro duro gid nga salamat! Kruhay, Antique!

[1] First Semester Poverty Incidence data from the Philippine Statistics Authority-Region VI

[2] 2015 National Nutrition Survey of DOST-FNRI

[3] Bureau Of Fisheries And Aquatic Resources VI – Antique Provincial Fisheries Office

[4] Antique Office of the Provincial Agriculture; PNA – Antique’s rice production in 2018 more than sufficient

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