Q & A with Bulacan Governor Wilhelmino M. Sy-Alvarado
PG: As governor, what is your vision for the province of Bulacan?
G: We envision Bulacan as a premier province with a vibrant economy, safe environment, and strong middle class. It is a province whose people have equal access to opportunities and services. We are pursuing programs that will boost the local economy of Bulacan, which will contribute to the overall progress of our country.
PG: How do you intend to achieve that?
G: It’s called “Bulacan Beyond Success.” It is a list which highlights the accomplishments and initiatives of the Provincial government in our bid to become known as The Most Business-Friendly Local Government Unit.
To create an investor-friendly environment, we have institutionalized the Streamlining Project in the Issuance of Business permit. We have also amended the Revenue Code, Investment Incentive Code and its Implementing Rules and Regulations, Schedule of Market Value and issued an Executive Order Designating the Local Economic Investment Promotions Officer (LEIPO).
We also established the Provincial Cooperative and Economic Development Office (PCEDO) that implements programs and projects on cooperative, enterprise, trade and investment. We maintained the first government-owned Bulacan Packaging Service and Toll Packing Center and run the Bulacan Pasalubong Center, which we are planning to expand to accommodate more products.
To promote trade and investment, we also organized and embarked outbound trade and investment mission to Tokyo, Japan and facilitated inbound mission from Ayabe City, Kyoto, Japan. Other initiatives include enhancing our collaboration with the Bulacan Chamber of Commerce and Industry (BCCI) and the Department of Trade and Industry (DTI) in promoting business in the province.
PG: I’ve heard that there were several trade fairs that Bulacan joined to promote its local products.
G: Yes. We organized eight exhibits in 2016 showcasing various Tatak Bulakenyo products and services. Close to 200 exhibitors joined. About 50,000 people visited these trade fairs and exhibits which resulted in more than Php 6 million in sales.
We also focused on increasing investment viability in Bulacan. We implemented 38 infrastructure development projects with an investment of more than Php 267 million, which is almost twice the cost of locally financed infrastructure projects in 2015.
These projects included new school buildings, hospital improvements, a hanging bridge, several multi-purpose buildings and road infrastructure improvements.
Business continues to grow. Bulacan was able to attract and register more than 6,600 new investments with a total capital infusion of more than P7.5 billion. This resulted in the creation of more than 37,000 jobs for Bulakenyos. With 40,289 registered business establishments and counting, the province of Bulacan has been dubbed by the Department of Trade and Industry as the MSME Capital of Central Luzon.
PG: The province hosts several important historical sites…
G: Yes. Bulacan has a proud role in Philippine history. That’s why we have created a new department called “Provincial History, Arts, Culture and Tourism Office where we established the Tourism Information and Assistance Desk.
The province also has the Singkaban Festival, which is a colorful celebration of Bulacan’s diverse culture and arts. This has been cited by the Department of Tourism and Association of Tourism Officers of the Philippines as Pearl Awardee for Best Tourism Month/Weeklong Celebration in 2016.
Aside from the Singkaban Festival, the province also has the Minasa Festival, the Kneeling Carabao, the Lenten Procession, the famous Fertility Rites in Obando, the Halamanan Festival, the Fiesta Republika and the Angel Festival, among others.
All these attracted almost half a million tourists to the province in 2016.
The local tourism industry is also enhanced by protecting the environment.
G: We have initiated several projects for the purpose of protecting the environment and our natural resources.
These projects include regular forest tree planting and mangrove planting in coastal areas. We also rehabilitate mined out quarry areas and restore them back to its original state.
We also conduct anti-illegal operations in collaboration with national agencies and non-government organizations to protect the environment. We have the SHINE program that empowers schools and communities with regard to disaster preparedness and mitigation.
We had implemented several DRRM programs particularly on disaster mitigation and preparedness where we were recognized as Kalasag Hall of Fame Awardee.
PG: As governor of Bulacan, what would you consider as part of your legacy?
G: In all modesty, I would say that this administration has achieved its goal of modernizing the Bulacan Medical Center and six district hospitals equipped with state-of-the-art facilities and hospital equipment. Particularly, in the Bulacan Medical Center, we have established an Oncology Unit, Hemodialysis Center, and Eye Center with modern equipment to serve our constituents. We have acquired modern diagnostic equipment to make them accessible to the poor such as CT scan and dialysis machine.
My term as governor, I believe, has removed the stigma associated with poor services when it comes to government hospital operation.
In education, we have constructed more than 2,200 classrooms from 2010 to 2016 to meet the province’s classroom backlog. Thus, my term as governor saw the improvement of classroom-pupil ratio to 1:37 in high school in 2015, the lowest ratio in 29 years.
I also prioritized the rehabilitation, concreting and upgrading of provincial roads to improve mobility in Bulacan. Thus, out of more than 332 kilometers of road classified as provincial roads, 87% are concrete roads and the rest are asphalt. These projects are very much felt by our constituents in their day-to-day activities when they go to school or work. No more rough roads, just plain and swift means to reach one’s destination.
The Bulacan Bulk Water System Project is now underway and is 23% accomplished. This Php 17 billion project will deliver water to the households in Bulacan without waiving the right of the province to claim its share from natural wealth under Section 7, Article 10 of the Constitution, equivalent to 1% of the gross sales of the Manila and Maynilad Water Corporations (Section 291 of the Local Government Code of 1991). Now that the project has come to its execution, our constituents will soon benefit from the water of Angat Dam for potable drinking water sources.
Also connected to this, my administration dauntlessly lobbied for the assessment and careful evaluation of the stability of the 43-year-old Angat Dam because I strongly believe that the safety of Angat Dam is a national security concern because it is the main source of potable water for Metro Manila. Aside from that, dam breakage poses an unimaginable danger to lives and properties of those living downstream of the Angat River System in case an earthquake affects the structural integrity of the dam since it was found out that underneath the dam is a splay. At present, the rehabilitation of Angat Dam is 55% accomplished.
In my agenda for good governance, the Provincial Government of Bulacan has passed ISO 9001:2008 Certification for the provision of public service to constituents. Likewise, 2015, 2016 and 2017 Seal of Good Local Governance passer—symbolizing the province’s journey towards good local governance upholding the standards of transparency, integrity and service delivery. Further, the PGB was awarded the most business-friendly LGU-province category.
PG: What are your future plans?
G: Our future plans include several projects.
Among them are the proposed Bayabas Dam project. This development is considered as one of the major water sources of the Bulacan Bulk Water Supply Project of BBWSP. The proposed dam is seen to generate enough water discharge that could be a water source potential for domestic use, irrigation purposes and possibly for power generation. The project is also seen as a major flood control facility to manage the inflow of water to the Angat River coming from the watershed. At present, the Provincial Government of Bulacan together with national government agencies are exploring and studying the implementation of the Bayabas Dam project.
I’ve mentioned the Bulacan Bulk Water Supply Project. With its implementation, people in Bulacan can finally enjoy its own water coming from Angat Dam. The project involves the delivery of surface water from the Angat reservoir to the cities and municipalities of Bulacan. The project’s benefits include the incremental economic value of water; improved health; savings in time storing water; reduced depletion of ground water; increased income and economic opportunities. After its successful bidding under a Public-Private-Partnership scheme in accordance with the BOT law, the project is expected to supply clean and reliable water to the municipalities of Balagtas, Bocaue, Marilao, Bulakan, Calumpit, Guiguinto, Paombong, Plaridel, Sta. Maria and the cities of Meycauyan, San Jose del Monte and Malolos for stages 1 and 2 by the year 2019. The rest of Bulacan will be served after the implementation of stage 3 of the project.
We also have the Bustos Dam Rehabilitation project. This dam is a key irrigation infrastructure in Central Luzon. It irrigates around 31,000 hectares of prime agricultural lands in the provinces of Bulacan and Pampanga. It also serves as a flood control structure that regulates the flow of flood waters from upstream of Angat River and as a water source for the Bulacan Bulk Water Supply Project. At present, the rubber gates are now quickly deteriorating, which poses a high risk to the safety of the dam structure. To ensure the dam’s integrity, the dam’s rehabilitation is now underway.
We also have the Integrated Flood Control and Coastal Defense and Expressway Project of Manila Bay. Bulacan is blessed with 46 kilometers of coastline rich in marine biodiversity found in the towns of Hagonoy, Bulakan, Obando, Paombong and the city of Malolos.
However, these coastal areas are exposed to the threat of flooding and storm surge which are intensified by climate change. It has long been my advocacy to promote the development of the Manila-Bataan Coastal Highway, which is now called the Integrated Flood Control and Coastal Defense and Expressway Project, as a major infrastructure project to protect our coastal areas from these hazards that persistently disrupt the socio-economic condition of coastal communities. At the same time, the project will promote economic growth by increasing the efficiency of transport and logistics between Cavite, Metro Manila and the provinces of Bulacan, Pampanga and Bataan and linking two industrial giants of SBMA, Olongapo, Zambales and Sangley Point, Cavite and cut travel time by one hour.
It will also provide more space to accommodate urban growth which is an alternative to the continued congestion of Metro Manila. The project is also expected to enhance the coastal ecological system particularly the proliferation of our mangrove forest. The project is now under evaluation of the PPP Center and the DPWH.
Aside from projects focusing on environmental protection, safety and water resources, we also have what is known as PRIDE or the Bulacan Program for Rapid Industrialization and Development.
Under Bulacan PRIDE, we have the Bulacan Technohub and Technology Research and Innovation Center. The project will be built in Malolos to serve as the nerve center for the development of technologies and the efficient use of information and communication technology to support Bulacan’s industrialization and economic development. This will have two satellite laboratories, one for an Agro-Industrial Hub in San Rafael-San Idelfonso to develop food production and processing and another one in the proposed Mineral Processing Center for mineral products. The project is now underway under a PPP scheme in accordance with the Bulacan PPP Code.
There’s also the Bulacan Agro-Commodities Exchange Center. San Idelfonso and San Rafael are a primary agricultural hub in Bulacan, producing high-value crops. It is not enough, however, that these crops are marketed raw. They have to be processed to prolong shelf life and increase value. This area is ideal for development of agro-industries, using the “smarter agriculture” approach. The projects will establish food processing and packaging facility that will not only prolong shelf life, but also add value to Bulacan’s products and allow it to reach the international market.
We also have the Urban Hub and Central Business and Financial District. Bulacan PRIDE recognizes that urbanization needs to be carefully planned to ensure quality lifestyles in urban hubs. The Pulilan-Baliwag-Plaridel Growth Corridor will be transformed into a highly urbanized district to support population growth and the commercial needs of a growing province. Within this urban triangle will be created Bulacan’s Business and Financial District to support trade and commerce.
Under Bulacan PRIDE, we also focus on Full-Value-Chain Mining Industry. San Idelfonso, Norzagaray and Dona Remedios Trinidad are rich in iron ore, marble silica and other minerals. It is not enough, however, that these minerals are extracted and then exported. Extracting these mineral resources for industry and economic development can be balanced with environmental and ecological preservation using the “smarter mining approach.” A well-planned sustainable mining sector can fuel industrialization and economic growth. A mineral processing center and downstream manufacturing plants will be set up to enable Bulacan to produce value-added goods for both industries and consumers.
Bulacan PRIDE also has a project for an Eco-Tourism Hub and Satellite Government Center. Dona Remedios Trinidad is targeted for development into an Eco-Tourism Hub for nature lovers and adventurous. Within this Eco-Tourism Hub is also a plan for a Satellite Government Center to bring government services closer to the Bulacan’s people. Not only will this improve service delivery in faraway towns, it will also contribute to the development of the eastern portion of the province through investments in ecotourism activities. The government center will host provincial government offices as well as satellite offices of national government agencies. There will also be buildings for ancillary services such as food shops, bookstore, convenience store, ecumenical chapel, convention and exhibition hall and a district hospital.
And finally, we also have the Eastern Bulacan Expressway (North Luzon East Expressway Alignment or NLEE) and the New Growth Center. The NLEE road project is a limited access toll expressway designed to provide an alternative route to the existing North Luzon Expressway (NLEX) and Pan Philippine Highway (PPH). The NLEE project consists of a more than 50-kilometer road that will run northward. Serving as a modern highway facility, it will certainly improve access between the National Capital Region and the Central and Northern part of Luzon. New growth nodes are also anticipated to develop within the designated openings for entry and exit along the path of this expressway.