Garcia’s target: Cebu economy
Le Phyllis F. Antojado (The Freeman) - August 7, 2020 - 12:00am

CEBU, Philippines —  After more than four months of zeroing on preventive measures to combat the spread of coronavirus, Governor Gwendolyn Garcia is now ready to shift gears to focus on reviving Cebu’s economy while maintaining the same vigilance against virus transmission.

“We will do both at the same time – protecting the Cebuanos and revitalizing the livelihood of the people. Because a life needs livelihood,” Garcia said in Cebuano in a speech she dubbed as “message of hope” to mark the 451st founding anniversary of Cebu province yesterday.

Garcia, Vice Governor Hilario Davide III and some members of the Provincial Board led the flag raising ceremony yesterday at the Capitol grounds where social distancing was strictly the call of the day.

While admitting that it will be a “tough balancing act,” the governor vowed to continue implementing the strict health protocols while reviving the economy.

Garcia said the government cannot spend all its resources to sustain lockdowns. Thus, she said, businesses should be opened to resuscitate the economy.

She asked the Cebuanos to cooperate by instilling discipline in following the health protocols as the Capitol and other local government units (LGUs) strive to help constituents whose livelihoods have been affected by the pandemic.

In a bid to perk up the local economy, the provincial government is now focusing on agriculture and agribusiness, bringing countryside development to the towns and cities by also helping fund the small, medium and even large-scale farms.

Garcia said she has talked with representatives from the Development Bank of the Philippines, Land Bank of the Philippines and Philippine Veterans Bank for them to put up an agricultural fund that farmers can take advantage of.

Aid to LGUs, barangays

Garcia said each provincial board member will get P5 million to help their constituents put up micro and small enterprises.

The Office of the Vice Governor, on the other hand, will be allocated P15 million for the same purpose.

Towns and component cities will each get a total of P2.5 million to roll out several projects and programs for fighting COVID-19. This is broken down as follows: P500,000 for the implementation of the SugBusog program in the LGU level and another P500,000 for the installation of nursery in each of the towns and cities.

“This will be for the cultivation, propagation and eventual distribution of calamansi seedlings, turmeric and garlic,” Garcia said.

Another P1 million will be devoted for the purchase of vitamins like Vitamin C with zinc, Vitamin B complex and Vitamin A, which will be distributed to the constituents.

“The purchase of these vitamins will be subject to the guidelines of Provincial Health Office and Provincial Social Welfare and Development Office (PSWDO) and subject to price ceilings,” Garcia said.

The remaining P500,000 will be used to buy air purifiers with hepa-filters, ionizers and ultraviolet sterilizing lamps to be distributed to all public offices, such as municipal or city halls, barangay health stations and barangay halls, among others. These will still be subject to the specifications of the PHO and price ceilings.

Meanwhile, the 1,066 barangays in the whole province will each be given P100,000 under the SugBusog program.

“The message is, the only way we can fight this pandemic is, first of all, to boost your immune system. Boost it with what you take in to your body, Vitamin C, anti-inflammatory, healthy lifestyle, healthy diet with vegetables,” Garcia said.

Aside from boosting the immune system, she said the use of air purifiers will also serve as additional protection.

Assets increased in 2019

Garcia also disclosed that Cebu province’s assets hiked by P168 billion in 2019 to finish the year at P202.9 billion from a beginning figure of P34.5 billion.

The increase was attributed to the reappraisal of the existing provincial properties.

Garcia said the figure would ring hollow if not translated to services for the constituents, especially those in far-flung barangays and islets.

She also said that despite the pandemic, the Capitol continues to implement infrastructure projects such as road concreting, construction of bridges and water systems, which are under the 2020 budget.

“All of the seven districts have ongoing road concreting projects and we hope to complete by the end of this year over 250 kilometers of provincial roads,” Garcia said.

She added that bidding for water systems is also ongoing.

“Rest assured, hope that we are doing our best. We know that most of you are wondering when this (pandemic) would end. Give us a little time. We are doing everything humanly possible, in spite operating with only 50 percent workforce, to achieve all of these projects because you have long deserved this,” Garcia said.

Davide’s message

Garcia describes the present experience as a “horrific challenge” but sees “admirable unity” among the leaders who, according to her, have set aside party lines and personal interests to join in the efforts to suppress the virus.

She thanked the Provincial Board, headed by Davide, for supporting her measures by adopting her executive orders on community quarantine protocols.

“For as long as this governor stands, and for as long as we have the active support of Vice Governor Junjun Davide and all of our provincial board members, may I tell you all Cebuanos, the state of the province is strong still,” Garcia said.

As for Davide, unity is the call of the times.

“The only way to defeat COVID-19 is to unite. We in the legislative department are always very, very supportive to the governor,” he said.

“I know the governor is doing her best,” he added.

Currently, Cebu is under modified general community quarantine, where less strict restrictions are imposed and more businesses are allowed to open, this after several months of strict community quarantine protocols. — JMD (FREEMAN)

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