Negros Oriental residents on Monday expressed gratitude to President Rodrigo Duterte for having done much to uplift their lives over the past five years of his administration.
As the Chief Executive delivered his sixth and last State of the Nation Address (SONA), the people in the province expressed hope that the remaining year of his term would bring more programs and projects to fruition and further improve the economy and the people’s standard of living.
In an interview with the Philippine News Agency, Dumaguete-based businessman Edward Du, the president of the Philippine Chamber of Commerce and Industry (PCCI) for Central Visayas, said three things in the SONA have made them hopeful of the economy bouncing back from the coronavirus disease 2019 (Covid-19) pandemic.
“I am happy that in his (Duterte’s) last SONA, he mentioned the e-governance law, plus the foreign investments amendment where restrictions are relaxed, and the creation of the national task force on job creations,” Du said in mixed English and Cebuano dialect. “If these three will be realized in the remaining 11 months or so of his administration, maybe next year we can recover already” from the economic slump brought about the pandemic.
It has been years since e-governance (electronic governance) has been discussed and “we have been pushing for it, but sad to say that local government units (LGUs) are still not going digital and it slows down business processes,” he noted.
Du cited as an example the e-BOSS or electronic Business One-Stop Shop where permits and other requirements are done online rather than through manual processes, which to date has not been introduced in Negros Oriental.
He hoped that LGUs would now heed the call of the President to go digital in order to make the country competitive in the global market.
Dr. Adolf Aguilar, chief of the Youth Formation Division of the Department of Education here, also expressed hope that Duterte’s “priority bill, the e-governance act will be approved into law”.
“This will greatly help improve the delivery of basic services and cut the red tape in the bureaucracy,” he said.
Golda Estrosas, an orphan who is a student of the Negros Oriental State University (NORSU) here, thanked the President for the free education that she now enjoys.
Estrosas and her siblings have to work odd jobs to tide them over, but she is determined to earn a college degree to alleviate their situation. She said it would have been impossible for her to enroll at NORSU were it not for the free tuition now being offered by the government.
“I look forward to seeing my other siblings also enrolling at this state-run university and we thank President Duterte for thinking of the less privileged who could not afford a college education,” Estrosas said.
Jimslyn Pelagio, a “kasambahay” (household worker), also thanked the President for the infrastructure projects that were put in place over the years by his administration.
Her family lives in a mountain barangay in Jimalalud town, which is some 100 kilometers north of this capital city. She said they are now enjoying easy access to the town proper because of concrete roads, a far cry from many years back when mountain villages were hardly accessible even by motorcycles.
Also, they are now enjoying electricity and water, necessities that were absent during the years prior to the current administration.
Farah Gentuya, provincial director of the Department of the Interior and Local Government (DILG), for her part, said “the SONA this year is a worthy, almost three hours long rundown of the legacy of change of the PRRD (President Rodrigo Roa Duterte) administration.”
One of the key areas the President mentioned is the whole-of-nation approach “in solving the decades-old Communist-Terrorist Insurgency through the NTF-ELCAC (National Task Force to End Local Communist Armed Conflict).”
“I believe that for a nation fighting the pandemic, this approach to end the insurgency inspires us to rise above it all,” she said.
And for soldiers fighting to keep the peace in the insurgency-affected areas in the country, they welcomed the President’s pronouncements of free legal assistance and a pension reform bill.
Col. Leo Peña, commander of the 302nd Infantry Brigade of the Philippine Army based in Tanjay City, Negros Oriental, said “kasama ko ang mga tropa na nanood habang nagsasalita si Presidente Duterte (I was with my troops when we watched President Duterte speak) during the SONA”.
He said hearing the Chief Executive speak about the free legal assistance for soldiers encouraged them as many among the troops who are summoned in court usually have to fend for themselves and pay for attorney’s fees.
What makes it worse, he added, is when the troops are transferred to another place and they have a pending case in their previous area of assignment. Peña said a soldier also has to pay for transportation expenses as well as for board and lodging.
“We hope this will happen soon as this is definitely a boost to the morale of our soldiers who are out there fighting the insurgency for the sake of peace,” he said in mixed English and Filipino dialect.
As to the bill on pension reform, the Army commander said he hopes that it will carry with it better arrangements than what is already currently stipulated in the law.
He cited what was being discussed in Congress “na pagtungtong mo ng 60 saka mo mapakinabangan ang pension mo, paano yung mga nag-early retirement, usually at the age of 45 o 50 (you can only start availing of your pension at the age of 60, and what happens then to those who want to avail of early retirement, usually at the age of 45 or 50)”.
“So they still have to wait for 10 to 15 years before they can avail of their retirement,” he said, citing that the main reason for a soldier’s early retirement is for him to enjoy his pension.
Meanwhile, Maj. Cenon Pancito III, the spokesperson of the Army’s 3rd Infantry Division, said it is heart-warming to hear the President speak of the insurgency problem early on in his address, which means that this is one of his priorities to achieve peace in the country.
“Talking about the ELCAC is a testament na hindi nag-iisa ang Armed Forces sa ginagawa natin na tapusin itong gyera laban sa Komunistang Partido ng Pilipinas-New People’s Army (that we are not alone in the Armed Forces in fighting to end the war against the Communist Party of the Philippines-New People’s Army),” he said. “There is intervention on the part of the national leadership, with no less than the President Rodrigo Roa Duterte being up front, (who is) also the chairman of the NTF-ELCAC, and this is where we see the need for political will by our current leadership to end the insurgency,” he added in mixed English and Filipino.
Fighting the insurgency does not mean engaging the insurgents in combat alone, but through other means, “at nakikita natin ang puso ng ating liderato (we can see where his heart lies) and we commit our service to the nation to further our efforts, knowing we have the backup of the President and so we have to push for this,” Pancito said. (PNA)