The inaugural address of Occidental Negros Governor Alfredo Marañon, Jr. last June 28 appears to be like a clincher, the initial summing up of his first six years in office. The narrative of his achievements is like a prelude to more of the programs and projects to attain the objectives he laid out when he first took over in 2010.
I normally look at speeches from a perspective of history with an eye for little bits and pieces other than the great claims that stand out from the rest in terms of relationships with the past. In this way speeches become alive, statistics leap like warm bodies and assertions find meaning.
His opening statement brought us back in time to his first inaugural. He said he presented then “the framework of my NEGROS FIRST policy 11-point development agenda.” He recalled that he was at the time “full of optimism and hope knowing that I could make a difference in the lives of millions of Negrenses, especially the poor and the vulnerable.”
Indeed he made a difference. He laid down the framework of his programs and continues to pursue the same objective following what he called “a roadmap to maximize the potentials of our natural and human resources that will lead to economic prosperity of our people.”
Last Tuesday he cited the achievements of the Negros First Policy with plenty of statistics. A remarkable one is the doubling of our forest cover from 4.7 percent when he took over to 10 percent last year. The integrated social program continues because a 10 percent cover is still inadequate.
Indeed we have seen how his government went after illegal logging and abuses against our forests. While there are still violations, they had been reduced considerably resulting in less flooding but increasing our natural water source. This effort has been recognized with awards for the sound management of the environment.
Recognizing that “power plays a crucial role in economic developments, he initiated the Negros Occidental Economic Investment and Incentives Codes” and to implement this code he established the mechanisms to promote and make the province business friendly and competitive.
In pursuit of this energy self-sufficiency, the governor reported that Negros Island has already been named as the “biggest single island power producer in the Philippines”. The biggest solar farm in Southeast Asia is in Cadiz City. Negros is producing 132.5 megawatts of power from solar farms alone. With the new government abhorrence for coal-fired power plants, solar and wind energy source will become premium. Generating solar power has some disadvantages so that we need also to tap wind energy which we still don't have to insure complete energy independence.
He did not mention the development around the Capitol which will transform the surroundings of the area and at the same time open tremendous opportunities for employment and flow of investments that will overflow into the countryside. The multiplier effect of the Ayala Land is now being felt with hundreds of workers and the several small business that provide them with their daily needs.
Within two years, still within Marañon's term, the Capitol area will be a bustling business center. Bacolod will definitely be a big beneficiary, and the nearby cities and towns as well. It is time to consider the creation of a Metro Bacolod coordinating agency to spin this growth to nearby communities.
Talisay City is already benefitting from the growth. Megaworld straddles Talisay and Bacolod and the province has purchased lands nearby. A Metro Bacolod agency can swing this development south to Bago and east to Murcia lest they be left behind.
Tourism is considered the least costly of all government income-generating programs. Of course, but it can also be a drain if not efficiently and honestly handled. Governor Marañon mentioned the Mambukal Summer Resort. He had the facilities upgraded and expanded. The development yielded for the province and gross income of P266 million from 2010 to 2015 and posted a net profit of P75 million. In the past the province was losing P7 million annually from Mambukal.
The provincial tourism office has bagged several national awards. Its tourism program however can still develop because there are areas that wait to be tapped to lure tourists here. One foreigner, for instance talked about the “war road map” that draws millions to many countries in Asia, American and Europe.
I will cite other data in later columns but for now Gov. Marañon has already clinched his role in Negros history.*
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