THE House of Representatives on late Thursday evening approved on second reading a proposed law seeking to create the Eastern Visayas Development Authority (EVDA) to spearhead investment promotion and implement economic development strategies in Region VIII.
House Bill (HB) 6869 under Committee Report No. 339 of the House committee on government enterprises and privatization chaired by Parañaque City Rep. Eric Olivarez was approved following a seven-hour session that began 3 p.m. and lasted until 10:07 p.m. Thursday.
Tingog party-list Rep. Yedda Marie K. Romualdez and her husband, House Majority Leader and Leyte Rep. Martin Romualdez, are the principal authors of the approved measure or an Act Creating the EVDA, Defining its Powers and Functions, Providing Funds Therefor and for Other Purposes.
The Romualdez couple thanked their colleagues for acting on the passage of the bill aimed at ensuring significant and widespread development in Region VIII to be felt by ordinary people.
“With EVDA, we can ensure that our investment priorities and promotion strategies are in sync with our development needs and our regional strengths such as our geographical location, our skilled human resources, and our immense tourism potentials,” said the Romualdez couple.
The couple said the proposal will also serve as proof of their commitment to empower the local government units (LGUs) in the Eastern Visayas.
“For example, a foreign investor interested in investing in Eastern Visayas need not go to all the local government units in the regions or to a disinterested national government agency. He doesn’t even have to be in Tacloban. But through EVDA, one can get the right and concise information and support that he or she needs,” they said.
There is a need for the people of Eastern Visayas to “build our confidence in the future,” according to them.
They cited that Eastern Visayas is very important to the country’s economy being located at the very heart of the Philippines, with the islands of Samar and Leyte serving as island bridges between the country’s northern island of Luzon and the southern region of Mindanao.
“One of the most ecologically diverse regions of the country, the three islands of Samar, Leyte, and Biliran are blessed with land, mineral, energy, and marine resources, making it favorable for agricultural, fishery, and industrial potentials. Its geothermal resources have also been tapped, producing electricity for the national power grid. Its coconut, abaca, and other agricultural produce have contributed toward increasing the national economic supply. But in spite of its immense potentials and vast resources, Eastern Visayas remains one of the poorest regions in the country today,” the proposal said.
In 2013, Typhoon Haiyan, one of the strongest typhoons in recorded human history, flattened parts of Eastern Visayas, leaving behind a trail of devastation that has tragically resulted in loss of lives, livelihood, and property.
“But even as it rises from the typhoon, the region continues to be caught up in the vicious cycle of poverty,” they explained.
“Even before Typhoon Haiyan struck, the incidence of poverty has already been worsening. While the nation’s overall economic situation has been improving on the average, poverty in the region worsened from 2006 to 2012. In 2014, poverty incidence was at 54.9 percent; more than half of the region’s population of 4.10 million is now extremely poor and unable to earn the minimum amount necessary to address their basic needs,” said the Romualdez couple.
“The recent typhoon has aggravated this already deplorable situation, with the poor becoming desperately poorer. Following the recent latest Family Income and Expenditure Survey (FIES) conducted in 2015, four of the six provinces in Eastern Visayas are among the country’s top twenty poorest provinces Leyte (ranked 17 at 46.7% poverty incidence), Western Samar (ranked 14th at 49.5%), Eastern Samar (ranked 11th at 50%) and Northern Samar (ranked 4th at 61.6%),” they added.
By providing an integrated and coordinated direction to the agricultural, industrial, economic and social development, the Romualdezes said EVDA will serve as the lead agency tasked to steer the sound and balanced industrial, economic and social growth of Eastern Visayas and carry on with the speedy rehabilitation in the aftermath of typhoon Haiyan.
“To this end, EVDA will craft and implement programs and projects that will increase trade, tourism and investments in the region, encourage private enterprise and advance efforts towards progress and development. Once the promise of a resilient economy is fulfilled, the right economic and social conditions will be realized - one that will provide jobs to the people, especially those in rural areas, increase their productivity and their individual and family income, and thereby improve the level and quality of their living conditions,” the Romualdez couple stressed.