His tearful, impact valedictory State of the Province Address (SOPA) on Thursday did not only validate the rarity of Edgar Migriño Chatto, Bohol governor for nine years until noon of June 30, 2019.
The farewell report of the accomplished capitol chief executive summarized his achievements since 2010 that now more than pose a great challenge to who may succeed him.
Emotion overwhelmed the finale of the last SOPA delivered by the governor, who did cry, before the Sangguniang Panlalawigan in session on February 21, his 59th birthday.
Many consider the modern international airport and imposing new provincial capitol, Central Visayas’ biggest government building, as crown jewels of Bohol infrastructure in Chatto’s time.
Chatto thanked Pres. Rodrigo Duterte, DOTC Sec. Arthur Tugade and NEDA Sec. Ernesto Pernia for support to the airport project and other Bohol development programs.
He also thanked former Pres. Benigno Aquino III and the key officials of his administration who had hugely helped in ultimately realizing the airport dream 30 years after.
He cited the contributions of former governors Constancio Torralba, in whose time the modern airport was conceptualized, David Tirol, Rene Relampagos and Erico Aumentado.
Chatto inaugurated the new capitol after his SOPA ceremony, which lead witnesses included NEDA- 7 Dir. Efren Carreon, DA Dir. Salvador Diputado, Vice Gov. Dionisio Balite, Sangguniang Panlalawigan Members, Reps. Rene Relampagos and Arthur Yap, mayors, and Dr. Jose Abueva of the province’s University of the Philippines Advisory Council, and domestic and foreign investors, among others.
“Happy are those who dream dreams and are ready to pay the price to make them come true,” the governor opened his SOPA.
Chatto has been well-admired, too, for his extra-ordinary lead effort in the painstaking reconstruction and recovery of the island-province from the epic earthquake.
“We have always believed in shared leadership from the start, and this was clear in the way we crafted our plans and programs in consultation with the stakeholders,” he said.
Still, Chatto said, not all plans are self-fulfilling and the Boholanos had to grapple with the many unpredictable events and unforeseen challenges.
These included the great earthquake and super typhoon Yolanda in 2013, the Queenie, Ruby and Senyang typhoons that submerged parts of Bohol, and Abu Sayyaf incursion almost two years ago.
Under the Bohol Earthquake Assistance (BEA) project in partnership with DILG, we have completed 1,038 reconstruction and rehabilitation projects—city and municipal halls, bridges, markets, other government buildings, and schools, among others.
Even churches and heritage buildings were able to benefit from national government funding through the National Historical Commission and National Museum.
CHALLENGES FROM THE START
Chatto recalled some definite challenges at the start of his term in 2010 like the need to perform well in the sectors of health, education, agriculture, tourism, financial management, etc.
He had to address the concerns of the Panglao airport project, which had zero budget, and low investment in province-run hospitals, with the hospitals in Clarin and island town of Pres. Garcia facing closure.
There were governance trials, in light of the fact that Bohol was not even ranked among the top 10 best-governed provinces under the DILG’s Local Governance Performance Management System in 2009.
More challenges were indicated by high poverty incidence, low tourist arrival, moderate economic growth, and no fiber optic interconnection, which meant that Bohol was then not part of the communications highway.
There were sub-optimal production in agriculture, poor interior roads, educational challenges, and no Provincial Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Office and TaRSIER 117 responders for emergencies.
But, Chatto said, “our partnership and shared leadership have enabled us to rise above these challenges.”
“A true leader unites people. A true leader does not divide them. A true leader does not find faults. A true leader finds remedies. A true leader does not sow hate, but cultivate love,” the governor said.
INDICATORS OF DEVELOPMENT
Chatto presented “clear and verifiable facts and figures showing our consistently improving socio-economic indicators” resulting from shared leadership.
Investments in tourism, small and medium enterprises, agriculture, eco-zones, and medical facilities amounted to P21.2 billion from 2014-2018.
The Bohol One Stop Shop and Negosyo Center, in partnership with the DTI and other national government partners, was the first in the region to operationalize the concept of the Business One-Stop Shop (BOSS).
Since the start, it has maintained a client satisfaction rating of 99.97%, based on client feedbacks themselves.
The thriving banking industry posted a total deposit of P49.6 billion by June 2018, marking a yearly increase of 16%.
Micro, small and medium enterprises increased from year to year, with a total new investment reaching P2.17 billion in 2018.
Tourist arrivals hit 1.496 million in 2018, a staggering 32% increase over the previous year, while there were only a little over 200,000 tourists after the earthquake.
Chatto happily announced, “Our flights now include four airlines, Philippine Airlines, Cebu Pacific, AirAsia, and Air Juan. We expect that our daily flights will increase with our Bohol Panglao International Airport. AirAsia will soon offer Bohol as a hub for international and domestic flights, and the Taiwan-based Far Eastern Air Transport will start its international flights to Taiwan. Also, Air Swift is set to offer direct flights from Bohol to Palawan next month.”
Stable rice production of regional significance has been validated by the Department of Agriculture, showing that Bohol accounted for 86.4% of the region’s rice yield from 2016-2018.
There has been an increasing livestock and chicken inventory, with favorable indicators in the production of carabao, cattle, hog, goat and chicken meat.
The Bohol Dairy Development Program has produced a total of 1.8 million liters of raw milk since the start.
The Bohol Dairy Producers Association has earned P52 million in gross sales, which certainly means an increase in household income for the dairy farmers.
A major project being implemented in partnership with the World Bank and DA is the Philippine Rural Development Project.
“Through components, we have produced commodity investment plans for our priority agricultural products, with investments of P534 million, and P2.6 billion more in the pipeline; invested P532 million into 52 kms of farm-to-market roads and counting; invested P1 million each into 14 micro-enterprise projects; P9.2 million in dairy processing enterprise; P7.7 million in the native chicken enterprise; P9.7 million in global environment facility projects for seaweed production; and P23 million for marine protected areas,” Chatto reported.
Despite all these developments, passenger traffic and migration, Bohol’s crime incidence has consistently decreased from year to year, according to the Philippine National Police.
The employment rate has consistently increased, as shown by the Philippine Statistics Authority, to a record high of 96.3%.
The first large business process outsourcing or call center will soon open this year at Alta Cita, on the site of the old HNU campus.
Chatto said the investor, IBEX Global Solutions, a US-based company, will employ an initial 1,100 employees with competitive salaries and full health coverage.
Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas Gov. Nestor Espenilla, Jr. said Bohol’s economy has grown growing at an average of 9.1%, much higher than the national average of 6.7%.
(Note from this writer: Espenilla died yesterday, Sunday, February 24, or three days after the Bohol governor’s SOPA.)
Bohol had an extremely high poverty incidence in 2000 at 50.2% and was among the country’s 20 poorest provinces.
“Thanks to our combined efforts, we have succeeded in bringing down Bohol’s poverty incidence to an unprecedented 21.7% in 2015 (the latest available figure from the Philippine Statistics Authority) – our lowest ever, even lower than the regional average,” Chatto said.
From just 159 kilometers before his term, Chatto lengthened the concrete and asphalt provincial roads to 441 kms as of 2018.
In addition, 119 kms of provincial roads have been converted to national roads by virtue of his laws when he was congressman, ensuring that they would be widened and concreted.
Using other road improvement strategies and various sources of national and local government funds through the years, 192 kilometers of roads have been paved throughout the province.
“And we would like to say, without fear of contradiction, that in our term, we concreted the most number of roads in the province of Bohol, especially local roads.”
Chatto said “this is a great challenge for the next administration, to continue the work that we started, with our predecessors.”
NOT RESTING ON LAURELS
“We do not rest on our laurels,” Chatto said, as there are many ongoing infrastructure projects which completion “we will see in the very near future.”
Among them are:
* The offshore bridge connector between the Bohol Panglao International Airport and Tagbilaran City port, the first of its kind in Bohol, also known as the third Tagbilaran-Panglao island bridge
* Continuing port and terminal development
* Cebu-Bohol power interconnection project, which is set to be completed in 2020.
“On top of that, we are still pursuing the One Bohol Power Project for sustainable long-term power Supply, as well as the Bohol Bulk Water Supply and Sanitation Project,” said Chatto who is staging a comeback to Congress.
Other projects include:
* The construction of the new Loon hospital which is ongoing, as is the five-storey expansion of the Gov. Celestino Gallares Memorial Regional Training Hospital in the amount of P555 million
* The Bohol Youth Home, for children in conflict with the law, is also undergoing construction in Cortes.
* Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas full branch in Bohol, which is now in the procurement stage
MORE ASPECTS OF GOVERNANCE
The governor’s SOPA also highlighted some major or significant social well-being and shelter programs, including the construction, as of this January, of already 6,564 quake core shelter houses.
The modernization program for the province-run hospitals has resulted in the consistent increases in bed capacity and occupancy, an indication of people’s trust.
The number of Philhealth clients served has also been consistently increasing, consequently improving the income of the devolved hospitals.
Chatto made special mention of the surgical missions facilitated by the Gift of Life under the “resourceful and passionate leadership” of the foundation’s president, Francisca Baluyot.
The Chatto administration has supported education and skills development, augmenting the programs of DepEd and other national government agencies through many strategies.
Bohol’s innovation—the Education Center under the Office of the Governor to link all education initiatives in the province, is now becoming a model in the country.
“We continue to strengthen our campaign against illegal drugs and our overall campaign against criminality. Our Joint Task Force Dagon is active in many sectors,” the governor said of peace and order.
He felt “proud of how the entire Boholano community handled the Abu Sayyaf incursion into our beloved province, which gained national and international recognition.”
Chatto cited the “valuable partnership and leadership of the PNP and AFP” and all other law enforcers and peacekeepers, as well as the civilian volunteers.
The governor also cited the essence of interconnectivity, referring to the strategic and purpose-driven convergence with fellow public officials, NGAs, LGUs, CSOs, people’s organizations, private sector, and overseas development assistance (ODA) institutions, which he all thanked.
“And let me inform everyone here that, very soon, we will have our very own office of the Professional Regulation Commission. We are continuing our dialogue with the Department of Foreign Affairs to establish a branch office here in Bohol.”
Reforms in local governance have led to a sustained increase in local revenue collection and significant increase in the yearly capitol budget from just P1.6 billion in 2016 to P2.936 billion in 2018.
Already P150.9 million has been turned over to the province as its share or dividend income since the start of the joint venture on power and water.
“This means that we have practically earned back 100% of the value of both power and water utilities which have been turned over to our private sector partner” for management, the governor said.
“We do not aim for awards and recognition. However, whatever awards we get serve to affirm that we are pursuing the right goals and moving in the right direction,” Chatto said.
Among the province’s foremost awards/recognitions include the “Hall of Fame” for its three consecutive Seal of Good Local Governance (SGLG) Awards; DILG’s “Honor Roll” of 10 Governors in the country who have waged a relentless war against illegal drugs, and for exemplary leadership in good governance, transparency, business competitiveness and disaster preparedness; Most Business-Friendly Province Award from the Philippine Chamber of Commerce and Industry and Pres. Rodrigo Duterte; number one in Central Visayas and number 12 nationwide in DTI’s Competitiveness Index; and National Anti-Drug Abuse Council Exemplary Performance Award.
The Pag-asa Award, Dangal ng Bayan Award and Lingkod Bayan Award were all conferred to Chatto by the Civil Service Commission (CSC).
They are the three highest awards granted by the CSC to any public officials in the country.
Reputedly, this feat of Chatto has since not been equalled.
Chatto began closing his over-an-hour farewell SOPA: “I could not have done it without all of you. Clearly, God’s hands worked with us. We planned all of this from the start, and implemented it through God’s grace.”
Then he stunned all inside the Bohol Cultural Center, where he delivered his last SOPA, when emotion overwhelmed the last-termer 25th Bohol governor.
In tears, he said, “I believe that people may destroy your image, stain your personality, but they cannot take away your good deeds, because no matter how they describe you, you will still be admired by those who really know you better. We are not perfect in everything that we do. For things that I may have missed or, unknowingly, any hurt that I may have caused to anyone – my sincere apologies. Every failure is an opportunity to learn and become a better person.”
“Leadership is a gift from God for man to develop and share with others,” said Chatto who enjoined his audience to clap their hands for their “collective effort” for Bohol’s good.
The governor thanked his family, especially his wife, Pureza, who is the Balilihan mayor, and daughter Trisha, the “last in my list” for acknowledgment but definitely the “first in my heart.”