Catbalogan City – The Regional Development Council VIII-Regional Project Monitoring Committee (RDC VIII-RPMC) facilitated the conduct of a problem solving session (PSS) on roads and bridge projects funded under the Payapa at Masaganang Pamayanan (PAMANA) Program of the Office of the Presidential Adviser on Peace Process (OPAPP) in Samar Island on 3 May 2018 at the 8th Infantry Division – Philippine Army, Camp Vicente Lukban, Catbalogan City.

The activity supports one of the priorities of the RDC VIII which is to connect “roadless” and conflict-stricken municipalities to the rest of Samar Island. The Council has consistently been pushing for this through issuance of several resolutions as far back as 2011 and 2012. Once completed, these road projects will open up socio-economic activities among these towns and provide easy access to basic social services. This would result to the reduction of insurgency incidence. In the long run, this would greatly contribute to economic growth and poverty reduction in these areas.

However, Samar Island will not be able to develop because of the major delays in the implementation of the PAMANA projects. In the 1st Quarter 2018 meeting of the RPMC VIII, it was reported that said projects were incurring high negative slippages reaching up to 70-80%. Some were even abandoned, suspended or terminated, thus, the agreement to conduct the PSS.

During the PSS, extensive discussion on the issues hindering the completion or implementation of these PAMANA projects were undertaken. Recommendations to expedite rebidding and subsequent completion of delayed projects were also identified.

Said activity was presided by the RPMC VIII Chairperson and NEDA VIII Regional Director (RD) Atty. Bonifacio G. Uy, and attended by the RDC VIII Co-Chair and PSR for Agribusiness Atty. Roy Bernard C. Fiel, the 8th Infantry Division (ID) Commanding General of the Philippine Army Major General Raul M. Farnacio, Northern Samar Gov. Jose Ong, Jr., Eastern Samar Gov. Marcelo Ferdinand Picardal, DILG Samar Provincial Director Judy Batulan representing Samar Gov. Sharee Ann Tan- delos Santos, OPAPP-National Program Management Office (NPMO) Director Atty. Sherwin D. Vizconde, OPAPP Program Manager for Eastern Visayas Imelda Bonifacio, Presidential Management Staff RD Evelyn D. Clarin, other members of the RDC VIII-RPMC, DPWH project engineers and representatives from the regional office and district offices of Samar Island, project contractors, the PNP Regional Office VIII, RDC VIII private sector representatives, provincial and municipal local government units, and other stakeholders.

In their opening messages, the principal guests from the province and 8ID emphasized the significant contribution of the PAMANA projects to provincial and regional development. Governor Ong shared that this project is the reason why the only remote town in Northern Samar, Silvino Lubos, is now connected to the province. Maj. Gen. Farnacio emphasized also that these roads will help address the most potent threat in the region which is insurgency.

“Economic growth would not be achieved and sustained if these road projects would not be provided and completed”, RPMC VIII Chairperson and NEDA VIII RD Uy also said.

To ensure resolution of issues involving these critical projects, follow through actions and recommendations were further discussed during the 2nd Quarter 2018 meetings of the RPMC VIII and RDC VIII in June 2018.

Mary Fretzie R. Basal and Lucille B. Gajutos, PMED, NEDA VIII