The NEDA Board-Regional Development Committee (RDCom) for Visayas Area conducted its third meeting on November 3, 2015 at the Bohol Tropics Resort, Tagbilaran City. The high-level meeting was participated in by the Chairpersons of the Regional Development Councils (RDCs) and governors in the Visayas, namely: RDC VIII Chairperson and Leyte Governor Leopoldo Dominico L. Petilla, and RDC VII Chairperson and Bohol Governor Edgar M. Chatto. Governor Alfredo G. Maranon, Jr. of Negros Occidental was ably represented by the Provincial Planning and Development Coordinator, Marlin Sanogal. Also in attendance were: NEDA VI Regional Director (RD) Ro-Ann A. Bacal, Vice-Chairperson of RDC VI; NEDA VII RD Efren B. Carreon, Vice-Chairperson of RDC VII; and NEDA VIII RD Bonifacio G. Uy, Vice-Chairperson of RDC VIII and Head of the RDCom Visayas Secretariat.

For this year’s third meeting, presided over by Governor Petilla, the RDCom Visayas discussed issues pertaining to the establishment of the Negros Island Region (NIR) and amendments to certain provisions of COA Circular No. 2013-004. Resource persons from concerned agencies were also invited to apprise the Committee on their security measures being implemented in the Visayas ports. Consequential to the deliberation of these issues, a total of three (3) resolutions were passed, namely: (1) RDCom Resolution No. 17 (S. 2015), “Urging the Concerned Secretaries of Agencies Without Interim Regional Directors (RDs) in the NIR to Immediately Designate their Respective RDs or Officers-In-Charge”; (2) RDCom Resolution No. 18 (S. 2015), “Requesting MARINA to Set Levels of Classification Standards for Private Shipping Vessels”; and (3) RDCom Resolution No. 19 (S. 2015), “Requesting the Commission on Audit (COA) to Amend Certain Provisions of Its Circular No. 2013-004 Dated 30 January 2013, Particularly Item 2.2.4 of the General Provisions to Provide Exceptions.” The proposed amendment seeks to not limit the size of tarpaulin backdrops for meetings/other fora to only 4×12 feet but to make it proportionate to the size of the venue for said tarpaulins to serve their purpose.

During the meeting, the issue on the congestion of Matnog Port, which was previously brought to the attention of the RDCom Visayas was discussed anew following the positive actions done already by concerned agencies. The most significant development reported by the RDC V is the crafting of the Memorandum of Understanding (MOU), which officially compels the signatory agencies to act on the issue. The Committee will request the RDC V to report compliance to the MOU in the next RDCom Visayas meeting.

Another highlight was the launching of the “CELEBOSOLE” project during the meeting. “CELEBOSOLE” stands for Cebu, Leyte, Bohol and Southern Leyte, the provinces that have jurisdiction over the coastal waters of the Danajon Double Barrier Reef. The Danajon Bank is the only double barrier reef in the Philippines formed over the last 6,000 years, and is one of only three such sites in the Indo-Pacific region. It is a unique coastal environment of global ecological significance, being a priority area for the conservation of reef fishes, corals, mangroves and mollusks, and where a large, generally poor human population is highly reliant on for its fishery resources.

This launching was done to signal the beginning of a more integrated and more intense inter-regional and multi-provincial ecosystem management of the Danajon Bank Double Barrier Reef under the “CELEBOSOLE” Council, headed by Governor Chatto. He was awarded with a certificate of commitment amounting to PhP5.4 million by the Department of Agriculture Region VII to implement the Seaweeds Production and Marketing project of the CELEBOSOLE. Said project is envisioned to contribute to increased income of fisherfolks in the area and food security in the Visayas.

The meeting concluded with a cultural show, featuring the internationally acclaimed Loboc Children’s Choir, and a fellowship dinner hosted by Governor Chatto and the provincial government of Bohol.

Hiyasmin Batan Martillo, PFPD, NEDA VIII