Our vision for the province is to fight poverty and make our province competitive by upholding discipline, teamwork, and solidarity among our people. This will stem from self-reliance and empowerment of our people to be able to participate in our TEA program – tourism, environmental protection, and agricultural development.
Our TEA program intends to harness our existing natural resources but without manufacturing or industries that will harm our environment, we will work on our plan to achieve economic development. We implement sustainable programs in our province. In 1998, we already graduated from being among the impoverished municipalities.
We started our environmental protection programs in 1997 and we are now reaping the benefits of our efforts. We are proud that our forest cover in Southern Leyte is increasing. We have a total log ban in the province because we believe that the sediments from our treeless mountain affected our rivers that eventually affected our coral reef and our marine resources. We stopped the sand and gravel processing near the shoreline because we found this driving away the fishes, particularly Mangko one of the species that is known to seasonally swarm near the bay of Sogod.
We have challenges in the implementation of environmental laws. Every electoral campaign, we will always encounter appeal for relaxation of implementation of laws to accommodate some sectors’ interest. Among these is to open marine protected areas to fishing during the season of influx of mangko and other fishes on the waters of Southern Leyte. However, we have to follow the law.
For our marine resources to continue to grow, we have mechanism for coordination among the local governments like the coalition that we formed on Sogod Bay. The mayors collectively monitor marine protected areas, implement livelihood programs for fisherfolk, listen to their grievances that have been affected by the legal instruments that the government needs to implement.
We have a permanent office on local governance, specifically marine protection programs for continuous mangrove seedlings nursery and tree planting. We conduct consultation with farmers and fishers and provide support for diversified livelihood, such as, distribution of banana and jackfruit seedlings. We adopt the whole-of-nation approach of governance and provision of services to our people. If our people are happy, we will have better livelihood and the peace and order condition improves.
Overall, we developed the infrastructure to sustain our environmental programs. We welcome Oceana and other groups of scientists who continue to help us gather data to help us strengthen our environmental protection programs and activities.
At this point when we need to address the challenges caused by the COVID19 pandemic, we continue to educate ourselves and inform our people on how to prevent the spread of the virus through hard work and discipline. We believe that if we have a clean and green environment we will be protected from pandemic like this.
I am looking forward to our people having the capacity to achieve some degree of self-reliance, even for basic needs of food and education for their family. I commit to continually help them to love our environment, especially our ocean. We believe we will achieve some degree of prosperity, one that is not dependent on the national government, and will be able to manage with whatever resources we have.