Opinion: Who is for the development of Samar?

Samar’s Sanguniang Panlalawigan member Atty. Alma Uy-Lampasa is superficially against the development of her province. 

SP Member Alma Uy is against the P800 million proposed loan of Samar province. (Photo grab from Facebook)

Uy is the only member who opposed the SP Resolution authorizing Gov. Sharee Ann Tan of Samar to enter into a loan agreement with Land Bank of the Philippines (LBP) amounting to P800 million. In favor of the resolution are: Lee M. Zosa, Alan A. Diomangay, Salvador T. Cruz, Erdie L. Delos Santos, Lolita M. Daguman, Luzviminda L. Nacario at Carlo R. Latorre. Alvin Albejuela abstained because according to him he doesn’t know what the loan is all about. It is her inherent right as a member of the august body to agree or to disagree to any subject being treated in the Sangunian. Clearly, however, majority prevails. 

Uy is opposing it but has not provided an alternative means in uplifting the economic status of the province. All she speaks is that debts will be paid in 15 years by Samarnons at an interest rate of 5% per annum. “We will wallow in this debt for 15 years,” she said in her Facebook account. If indeed the honorable board member cares for the people of Samar, she should furnish the public her development plan for the province instead rather than using the whole SP organization and Office of the Governor as her chopping board. 

VISION FOR SAMAR 

Governor Sharee Ann Tan, on the contrary, has a vision to bring Samar into new economic heights. In a discussion with members of media recently, she foresees a P700 million worth hospital as endorsed to her by the Department of Health (DOH). Completion of this will seal Samar Provincial Hospital as one of and probably the most technologically advanced and modern medical center in the region more than enough to eradicate its poor image in terms of servicing health needs of the people of the province. “I see that as a need and priority and we need funds to spark activity for that,” Tan referring to building a new medical structure. P200 million of the initial P350 million will be earmarked for the first phase of the construction. 

Governor Tan, on the contrary, sees an interconnected towns and villages including unreachable areas through farm-to-market roads (FMRs) and various access roads. Around 50% of its 24 municipalities and 2 component cities are outside the Maharlika Highway loop and are located either in islands, inlands or uplands. Most of those are either 6th or 5th class municipalities. 

Significant numbers of barangays are still inaccessible to land transportation and are far behind in term of social progress because of infrastructure and livelihood factors. “We are making progress in connecting San Jose de Buan and Matuginao with roads through Payapa at Masaganang Pamayanan (PAMANA) assistance,” she said. “But what about the other LGUs that are obviously lagging behind in terms of trade and commerce,” Tan was raising a point in a form of question. “The people have entrusted us to lead them and we will respond and act according to that trust provided us,” she said in native tongue. The FMRs and other road-connectivity projects will be financed from the P800 million proposed loan. 

Also coming her way is the P1 billion Philippine Rural Development Project (PRDP), a World Bank funded project, which will be utilized by the province as a grant, in other words, at no cost to the provincial LGU except the 10% counterpart. For this project, the province will shell out P100 million but will be downloaded P900 million for various projects to include infrastructure, facilities, technology, and information that will raise incomes, productivity, and competitiveness in the countryside. The counterpart will be taken from the proposed P800 million credit. “We are after the value chain,” she said. “We want to make inaccessible areas accessible and we want economic activity to flourish in their respective communities,” she explained. 

The 7 board members who voted in favor of the resolution share the vision of the lady governor. 

Lending facilities are lawfully provided for Local Government Units (LGUs) in order for them to push through effectively and efficiently with their development programs and projects that are too huge to be funded by their Internal Revenue Allotments (IRA) and local collections. The Bureau of Local Government Finance (BLGF) of Department of Finance is the agency that oversees credit activities of the LGUs. 

This same loan principle is being used by the national government. The Philippine government is literally in debt for decades and Filipino, present and future generations, will be paying for it and the future loans the national government will enter into. As of October this year, the Bureau of Treasury records the country’s loan to a whopping P5.898 trillion, almost double than the recently approved government’s spending for 2016 pegged at P3 trillion. Nobody labelled the Philippines as a “pawned (prendado) country.” Even countries with rich governments like the United States of America are entering into loan agreements. 

Rich LGUs like Makati, Quezon City, Cebu and Davao are amortizing loans. They do this so that projects and programs will be fast tracked within their agreed time frames. 

However, loan facilities are only being offered to LGUs with good fiscal standing. LGUs with history of non-payments usually are being turned down or snubbed by financial institutions. 

Gov. Tan: “The people have entrusted us to lead them and we will respond and act according to that trust provided us.” 











SAMAR PLGU IS IN GOOD FISCAL STANDING

The provincial government of Samar obviously carries a good fiscal standing. To support this, LBP and DBP (Development Bank of the Philippines) had been courting Gov. Sharee Ann Tan few months after she took the reign of the highest seat of the province to avail of the credit facility. That time, it was the then neophyte governor who snubbed the banks. “We can still improve the province little by little (with our annual revenues),” she told the bank agents then. 

Now on her 2nd term, armed with data from numerous assessments of the province’s previous and on-going engagements with the constituents, the provincial executive finds the need to put more funds in the coffers of the province. “Of course not for the 2016 elections,” she stressed referring to allegations of her political detractors that she will use the fund as campaign pool. The loan has long been conceived and SP knows about it according to Tan. “I have even asked LBP to make the process faster as this loan is being used against us,” she laments. 

The Department of Interior and Local Government (DILG) cited the Province of Samar as among the provincial governments in Region VIII with Seal of Good Financial Housekeeping (GFH) for 2014. This seal is given to LGUs that meet the minimum criteria, namely: that a local government must have an Unqualified or Qualified COA Opinion for the previous year, and full compliance with the Full Disclosure Policy (FDP). 

Undoubtedly, the Province of Samar is qualified to enter into a loan agreement. On payment, LBP knows that Samar is highly capable of paying its borrowings otherwise, it’s the bank itself that could have turned down the proposal. Given all possible calculations, the yearly adjustment of IRA is already enough to pay for the credit. To allegations that other services of the province will be affected, the answer is evidently no. 

The process is above-board aside from the the fact that loan agreements such as what the province intends to enter into with LBP is a dynamic sign that economy is vibrant and that great things are about to happen in Samar. Should there any complains, surely signature campaign is not the outright antidote for Samar’s development. The best way to counter a development effort is to offer a better alternative. As for now, Gov. Tan has the only concrete offer while her hecklers offer none but a clang.
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