EMERGING FROM THE CRISIS AND NAVIGATING THE NEW NORMAL

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𝘚𝘡𝘒𝘡𝘦 𝘰𝘧 π˜›π˜’π˜€π˜Άπ˜³π˜°π˜―π˜¨ 𝘊π˜ͺ𝘡𝘺 𝘈π˜₯π˜₯𝘳𝘦𝘴𝘴 𝘰𝘧 π˜”π˜’π˜Ίπ˜°π˜³ π˜“π˜ͺ𝘯𝘰 π˜–. π˜”π˜°π˜―π˜΅π˜ͺ𝘭𝘭𝘒 π˜₯𝘦𝘭π˜ͺ𝘷𝘦𝘳𝘦π˜₯ π˜₯𝘢𝘳π˜ͺ𝘯𝘨 𝘡𝘩𝘦 π˜™π˜¦π˜¨π˜Άπ˜­π˜’π˜³ 𝘚𝘦𝘴𝘴π˜ͺ𝘰𝘯 𝘰𝘧 8𝘡𝘩 𝘚𝘒𝘯𝘨𝘨𝘢𝘯π˜ͺ𝘒𝘯𝘨 π˜—π˜’π˜―π˜­π˜Άπ˜―π˜¨π˜΄π˜°π˜₯ π˜‘π˜’π˜―π˜Άπ˜’π˜³π˜Ί 19, 2022

Two years into the COVID-19 pandemic, yet we are not seeing signs of it generally slowing down. What we see is the rise in the number of cases every now and then caused by different variants that had appeared. Right now, the dominant Omicron variant has already caused another surge in cases in the National Capital Region and other parts of the country. Two days ago, the DOH 12 declared that two Omicron cases were recorded in the region, but added that the patients have already recovered. The question now is this: Is there already a transmission of the virus in our region?

 

As far as our city is concerned, after many weeks of having zero cases, we are once again recording new cases that started on January 12. As of January 18, we have 26 active cases. What does this tell us? It tells us that we must not lower our guard. We must not stop being cautious. More than five million people all over the world had already died because of COVID-19, and more than 52 thousand of those death cases were recorded in the Philippines. In our city, 62 of our loved ones had lost their lives, including our former mayor and my brother, Roncal.

 

Time and again, we are always reminded to follow the health protocols. The decrease in the number of cases in our city in the last few months has been a reminder that having the discipline in following the protocols has its rewards. Also, time and again, we are being reminded to get ourselves vaccinated. Believe me, vaccination works! Former Mayor Roncal has advocated for vaccination until his very last breath. Unfortunately, not enough vaccines were available during the time he needed it. Let us not forget his sacrifice to protect our city. We are fortunate now because there is vaccine sufficiency.

 

I am glad that, despite the few people in our city who still do not believe in vaccination, our city still records the highest vaccination rate compared to other LGUs in the region, particularly in the province of Sultan Kudarat. Per January 18 report of our City Vaccination Team, 71,254 eligible population in our city have been vaccinated. Based on the 85,808 target set by the DOH for Tacurong City, 83 percent of our eligible population have already been vaccinated. That’s way above compared to the average vaccination coverage for other municipalities in Sultan Kudarat which only sits at around 60 percent. On the other hand, we also recorded the highest number of individuals who already received their booster shots. Once again, I appeal to you that if you are eligible for a booster shot and you have already given a schedule, grab the opportunity. Rest assured that our government will provide the vaccines we will all need.

 

On the other side of our prevention efforts, we are still scaling up our contact tracing efforts to control the spread of the virus. Our isolation facilities are also ready in the event that they will be required to be utilized. Aside from our LGU facilities, the DOH has already completed the construction of another facility in Tacurong and another isolation facility funded by the Office of Civil Defense is undergoing construction. For 2022, our LGU allocated the amount of P30 million to fund operational expenses for the containment of COVID-19. We are assuring our people that our Local Government Unit are doing its best to address the challenges brought by the health crisis.

 

Continued response to impact of COVID-19 pandemic

 

While Year 2021 was relatively better for us compared to 2020, we still felt the damage done by COVID-19 to our lives, especially to our economy. If there is an area that was really hit hard by the pandemic, it’s the livelihood of our people, especially those in the informal sector. Loss of income and lack of job opportunities continue to pose as big challenges. The informal sector is still bearing the brunt of the pandemic — our vendors, drivers, laborers and many other non-wage workers. Community quarantine restrictions affected business with many of them retrenching workers and some came to the point of throwing the white towel and closed shops. Closure of shops and establishments also displaced our waged workers. Our government continued to provide amelioration programs but we know that those were not enough. Our LGU also responded by facilitating various interventions such as provision of temporary employment, livelihood projects, and skills training programs for our most-affected workers.

 

Last year, our LGU, through the City Social Welfare and Development Office, provided cash assistance to the indigent families in our city under the program Assistance to Individuals in Crisis Situation. There were 1,468 who benefited from the cash for work program of the Department of Social Welfare and Development amounting to P3.5 million. Another P2.8 million financial assistance were given to indigent families in the form of medical assistance, burial assistance, and disaster assistance for victims of calamities, and other forms of assistance.

 

The CSWDO also facilitated 16 skills trainings benefiting 284 individuals from various vulnerable groups such as the solo parents, rehabbed drug users, IPs, drivers, women, out-of-school youth, inmates, and persons with disability. The office also facilitated provision of capital assistance and starter kits to 15 groups and associations.

 

Meanwhile, the Department of Labor and Employment had been extending assistance to our informal sector by providing around P1.8 million worth of livelihood starter kits to 112 individuals. Another P1 million was given by the DOLE to our LGU in a form of TUPAD emergency employment that benefited 234 individuals from the informal sector, including workers from the personal care services sector, solo parents, rehabbed drug users, IPs, drivers, women, out-of-school youth, inmates, and persons with disability. On the other hand, through the facilitation of our Public Employment Service Office, our LGU allocated more than P1.2 million to provide emergency employment to 248 workers including the salon workers, barbers, massage therapists, and freelance artists, who practically lost their jobs during stricter implementation of community quarantines.

 

Our LGU also did its responsibility of taking care of our farmers and fisher folks. With the help of our partners from the national government, our farmers reaped several benefits in 2021. First, more than a thousand farmers and fisher folks affected by negative farming circumstances had received P4.8 million indemnity claims from the Philippine Crop Insurance Corporation. Through the Department of Agriculture, 3,200 farmers have received more than 6,000 bags of rice seeds along with more than 11 thousand bags of fertilizers. Our seed farm in Barangay Rajah Muda also continue to provide our farmers with good quality rice seeds.

 

Additionally, more than 800 farmers were also able to receive fertilizer vouchers amounting to P2.7 million. More than P3 million financial assistance were also distributed to 726 rice farmers under the Rice Farmers Financial Assistance Program. Several farmers’ associations also benefited from the mechanization program of the DA. Our city’s animal multiplier farm in Barangay Kalandagan is also gaining momentum in providing initial stock as alternative livelihood for our farmers. We also continue to give cash incentives to our organic farmers by maintaining more than 36 hectares of land dedicated to organic farming. Thanks to our Sangguniang Panlungsod for enacting our city’s Organic Farming Ordinance.

 

The things I mentioned were just among the many interventions our LGU and partner agencies gave not only to our farmers but to other informal sector workers as well. We have already restarted our local economy and we want to ensure that the most vulnerable members of our community are not left behind.

 

Infrastructure projects as driver of economic growth

 

Our LGU made sure that amid our battle against pandemic, we never abandon the implementation of our development programs and projects, and infrastructure development is one of them. To jumpstart our local economy, it is important to lean on infrastructure buildup. Infra projects bring multiplying effect in terms of job creation and inclusive growth that helps in boosting our local economy. More importantly, the infra projects we implemented serve the primary purpose of improving our delivery of services to our constituents.

 

Kindly allow me to highlight some of these projects implemented in 2021. First is the progressive construction of our People’s Dialysis & Diagnostic Center, the flagship project of former Mayor Roncal that I intend to finish the soonest possible time. Phase 1 of construction of the dialysis center amounting to P7 million was 100 percent completed in 2020. It included construction of footing, columns, tie beams, and embankment. The Phase 2 of the construction was completed in September 2021 with budget amounting to P10.3 million that included construction of floor slabs, CHB wall and partial tile works, electrical works, plumbing works, steel works and job orders. Another P10 million for Phase 3 was allocated and construction works are ongoing. The construction includes roofing works, ceiling works, enclosure of chairs, fire sprinkler system, and completion of tile works, plumbing & electrical works. The target completion date for the Phase 3 is May of this year. We also allocated P4 million for interior fixtures, furniture and other supplies for the center. Meanwhile, there is already a P14.9 million budget for the purchase of medical equipment for the dialysis center including dialyzers and accessories. Finally, we have another allocation of P10 million from our 2022 budget.

 

Furthermore, our city is continuing our construction project for the Development of Pioneer Avenue in Barangay Poblacion that we will utilize as common terminal of all tricycles under TODA. In other words, the roads surrounding our public market will eventually be cleared of stationary tricycles that will result to easing of traffic congestion. The Development of Pioneer Avenue will also include setting up of various food stalls to pump up the economy around the area. The amount of P4 million was already allocated and utilized for the construction of covered drainage canals and another P4 million for the concreting of Pioneer Avenue. An allocation of another P4 million has already been allocated for the partial construction of center island in the area, and for this 2022, we have an allocation of P5 million intended for the project.

 

Meanwhile, for the progressive Redevelopment of Magsaysay Park Project under the Green, Green, Green Program of the Department of Budget and Management that intends to develop open public spaces, a total budget of P30.5 million have been downloaded to us by the national government and 100 percent utilized for the project. There is another P12.4 million budget the construction of which is ongoing and is already at 67 percent. Another P4 million has been allocated and scheduled for bidding, and for this 2022, there is an allocation of another P5 million.

 

With regard to our national-funded P50 million-solar street lights project along our national highways, another flagship project of former Mayor Roncal, I’m glad to inform you that the project is almost 100 percent completed. Unfortunately, Toto Roncal is not here to see his legacy, but I know he is happy wherever he is right now seeing that the people of Tacurong are benefiting from it.

 

On the other hand, the center island project with embedded solar lights undertaken by the Department of Public Works and Highways along our national roads are also almost complete. It added more illumination to our national highway and many people from other places traversing our city during night time are appreciating our well-lighted roads.

 

With regard to our road concreting projects, I would like to report to you that the progressive concreting of the 13-kilometer East Bypass Road under the ROLL IT program of the Department of Trade and Industry is already at 52 percent. The East Bypass Road connects the barangays of San Antonio, D. Ledesma, Tina, San Pablo, and Kalandagan. For 2022, the national government has already allocated more than P180 million for the concreting of remaining roads. We hope that the 13-kilometer road will finally be completed this year. Primarily, the bypass road will be in support to palm oil and mango industries by providing them with alternate routes without traversing along our rotunda. In that way, we will minimize big trucks and other big vehicles in going through our rotunda, thus minimizing also the traffic congestion these big trucks cause, especially during rush hours. On the other hand, aside from the East Bypass Road project, the concreting of West Bypass Road Project has already commenced. Eventually, our city will have a circumferential road connecting the west and east bypass roads. What benefit can we get from this? Again, it will result to easing of traffic congestions in various roads within our city’s commercial district since big trucks and buses traversing the Barangay Poblacion area will be using our diversion roads.

 

On the other hand, our city also continues to undertake other projects such as concreting of farm to market roads benefiting not only the farmers but the whole population as well. There are many other infrastructure projects our city government undertakes using our local funds and funds from the national government as well. Our administration continues to provide the annual city aid to our barangays for our road concreting projects in the barangays. The DA also provided us P15 million for the concreting of farm to market road from along national highway of New Carmen going to Purok Pagkakaisa of barangay San Pablo. The FMR connects the national highway and a portion of our East Bypass Road.

 

For the construction of our LGU structures, we have a P20 million allocation for the progressive construction of the Legislative Building. I was informed by our City Planning Office that the project is now on its preparation-of-documents-for-bidding stage. This P20 million is an additional funding to the previous P15 million allocation that was already 100 percent completed. Meanwhile, the construction of the Executive Building is also ongoing. The construction of the P15 million budget for 2020 and 2021 is ongoing, while another P10 million is scheduled to be released in the last two quarters of this year.

 

The business outlook

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As I’ve mentioned earlier, 2021 has been a relatively better year compared to 2020 in terms of relaxation of community quarantine restrictions that subsequently resulted to slowly reinvigorating our local economy, especially our business sector. Let’s compare the number of registrations for 2020: There was a total of 2,497 registration in which 447 were new applications. In other words, despite the pandemic, many businesses and even new businesses have flourished. There was a slight increase in number of business registrations for 2021 with 2,504 registrants. A total of 426 were new registrations, which means our local businesses were back on their feet and new investments continue to come in. That would entail more jobs for our people. With our LGU’s holistic approach to development, we will continue to revitalize our economy.

 

We are also expecting bigger brands of investments to come in. NCCC Davao has already commenced the construction of its Hypermarket at the back of Dragon Complex in Barangay New Isabela. Meanwhile, aside from Gaisano that has already purchased a property in Tacurong City, Robinsons has also acquired a property in our city for their future investment. I am also fully aware that SM has been actively looking for a strategic area in our city for their bigger mall.

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Future Plans

 

For 2022, our city has a budget of Nine Hundred Fifty One Million Five Hundred Fifty Eight Thousand and Six Hundred Thirty Eight Pesos (P951,558,638.00), in compliance with Section 318 of Republic Act 7160. I am conveying my gratitude to the Sangguniang Panlungsod for approving our annual budget for 2022. This Budget holds the basic tenets and elements of our plans for continued development. As your new Local Chief Executive, it is my duty to see to it that our city maintains its economic activity so that we can have the means to sustain the needs of our people and the community. I am committed to provide for the urgent needs of my constituents and I give my assurance that this administration will prioritize keeping this city and its people safe – economically and physically. We included all sectors of the community in the planning and pre-budget operations to make sure that current and immediate needs are addressed, as initially stipulated in the Annual Investment Plan.

 

Let me enumerate a few of the projects that our LGU plans to undertake. In the pipeline is the installation of Digital Traffic System with traffic lights to be initially installed in four strategic areas of our central business district. Our city needs to keep up with the demands of the times and improving our traffic system needs to be given attention. We have an estimated budget for this project amounting to P30 million.

 

Another project is the construction of the so-called Super Health Center that will complement the facilities of our existing City Health Center. We are currently lobbying with the Department of Health for the allocation of P10 million for this structure that will house the facilities for X-ray, ultrasound, ECG, operating & delivery room, clinical laboratory, and pharmacy. This is indeed a Super Health Center that will provide access to our people, especially in the barangays.

 

We will also establish an Eco-Tourism Park in Barangay Calean near our P30 million evacuation center funded by the OCD and has just been completed. The proposed Eco-Tourism Park will have features that include a lagoon with boating, kayaking, and aqua biking. It will also have a fishing area, skate park, wall climbing structure, bike lanes, tree parks with business grove, and a clubhouse or cafeteria.

 

To enhance our sports development, we will construct a 6-court badminton facility inside Tacurong Pilot Elementary School that will also house a fitness gym, bleachers, and genderized toilet, shower and locker rooms. We estimated a budget for this project amounting to P7 million.

 

To promote the community-based reformation program of the Philippine Drug Enforcement Agency or PDEA, we will be constructing 20-bed Balay Silangan, a temporary shelter for rehabilitation of drug offenders. The structure will be established in Barangay Calean. PDEA has already committed P5 million for this project, while our LGU has an allocation of P3.8 million.

 

Finally, in our bid to save on electricity consumption, we will be installing 270 solar panels on the roof of Tacurong City Cultural and Sports Center intending to supply power to the whole city hall building. With this, we intend to save around P97 thousand monthly savings.

 

To my colleagues in the Sangguniang Panlungsod and the people of Tacurong, these are some of highlights of what we have done the past year and what we plan to do moving forward. Nagapasalamat gid ako sa mga myembro sang aton konseho sa pagsuporta sa mga programa sang executive department. Nagapasalamat man ako sang daku sa mga department heads kag sa mga empleyado sang kada opisina sang aton LGU sa pag-upod sa akon liderato. Sa aton mga barangay officials nga ginapamunuan sang aton mga barangay kapitan, madamo gid nga salamat. Ginapalab-ot ko man ang akon daku nga pagpasalamat sa mga civil society organizations nga nagabulig sa pagpauswag sa aton syudad. Sa aton business sector nga amo ang lifeblood sang aton local nga ekonomiya, madamo nga salamat. Sa aton kapulisan kag military kag iban pa nga myembro sang peacekeeping forces, madamo nga salamat sa pagbantay sang aton seguridad. Sa sektor sang edukasyon nga padayon nga naga-maintain sang quality education sang aton kabataan sa pihak sang mga hangkat sang pandemya, madamo nga salamat. Sa aton religious sector nga nagabulig sa pagpangamuyo para sa katawhayan kag aton kaluwasan, madamo nga salamat. Sa mga pinalangga ko nga pumuluyo sang syudad sang Tacurong, with all humility, nagapasalamat gid ako sa pagsalig, kooperasyon kag suporta nga ginhatag ninyo sa akon. Gina-promisa ko nga himuon ko ang tanan para protektahan ang aton pinalangga nga syudad. Ako si Lino Montilla, ang inyo Mayor. Madamo nga salamat. Maayong aga. May God bless us all!

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