LEGAZPI CITY, ALBAY – Development opportunities need not be sidelined even if we are in the midst of  a crisis.  In Bicol, despite  constraints and the threat of COVID-19 the Regional Project Advisory Board’ (RPAB) approved  P4.58 billion-worth of infrastructure development (I-BUILD) and P23.23 million-worth enterprise development (I-REAP) subprojects proposed for funding under the Philippine Rural Development Project (PRDP).

Resorting to and optimizing  various communication platforms and observing “new normal” protocols for RPAB deliberations while on enhanced community quarantine (ECQ), 24 I-BUILD subprojects and two I-REAP subprojects were reviewed, evaluated and endorsed for No Objection Letter (NOL) 1 issuance on May 6 and 8, 2020. PRDP-Bicol Monitoring and Evaluation Officer Rhodelia Remot, Rural Infrastructure Engineers Rodolfo Mirasol, Eliseo Buella Jr., Economist Rosslyn Deblois and Geographic Information Systems (GIS) Officer Engr. Philbert Nebres attended the RPAB deliberations.

Among the subprojects approved and endorsed for PRDP fund support are three farm-to-market roads (FMRs) in Viga and Pandan, Catanduanes worth a total of P236.15 million, 18 FMRs in Baleno, Balud, Pio V Corpuz, Uson, Masbate City, Claveria, San Jacinto, Batuan, San Pascual, Aroroy, Dimasalang, Milagros, and Palanas, Masbate with an aggregate cost of P3.88 billion, a P250 million-worth potable water system project (Level II) in Aroroy, Masbate, an FMR worth P99.99 million in Sta. Magdalena, Sorsogon and an FMR worth P120 million in Capalonga, Camarines Norte.

Likewise, the RPAB also approved and endorsed for NOL 1 issuance two proposed I-REAP subprojects namely the Camarines Sur Cassava Processing and Marketing Enterprise in Bula, Camarines Sur amounting to P7.42 million and the P15.82 million-worth Goa Maymatan Integrated Swine Enterprise in Goa, Camarines Sur.

PRDP-Bicol Deputy Project Director and I-REAP Component Head Adelina Losa said that the approval of these subprojects would greatly contribute to the infrastructure development in the region inasmuch as majority are FMRs which will allow easier access of food and farm production inputs. Meanwhile, the approval of the PWS would provide better source of water to targeted areas.

Losa added that the positive impact of these subprojects to its intended beneficiaries would help in the economic recovery for the countryside by generating jobs and raising the income of people in the communities. She added that the approved I-REAP subprojects will promote value-adding of cassava and facilitate the restocking of swine once African Swine Fever (ASF) is tapered off.

Meanwhile, RPAB member and Bicol Regional Director of the Department of the Interior and Local Government (DILG) Atty. Anthony C. Nuyda said that the approval of these subprojects will be a big help to the LGUs especially with the issuance of DILG Joint Memorandum Circular No. 1, series of 2020 allowing them to refocus the utilization of their 20 percent development fund to COVID-19 response. He added that it will promote sustainable development in the countryside which will support the newly-institutionalized “Balik Probinsya, Bagong Pag-asa Program,” aimed at reversing migration to Metro Manila and other congested metropolises through inclusive and balanced urban and rural development.

“With all these projects na mga farm to market roads okay na, then DA is also supporting other high yield crops ng mga farmers, it will help. Baka ma-encourage na natin yung iba na bumalik sa agriculture.  Sa farming kasi yun ang kailangan natin. Food security is very important. So malaki pong tulong itong project ng PRDP,” Nuyda said.

Nuyda advised the LGUs to prioritize projects that are responsive to the needs of communities particularly those who are located in geographically isolated and disadvantaged areas. He added that LGUs should also guarantee that they can provide the necessary counterpart and ensure the proper implementation of subprojects in terms of proper fund utilization. 

All RPAB-approved subprojects will be funded under PRDP’s 280 million-dollar worth additional financing, subject to prioritization scheme on May 15, 2020. The prioritization scheme is a mechanism which considers funding of subprojects based on LGU’s performance as well as technical and economic viability and other socio-economic conditions.

“Ang sakuya lang naman eh maging supportive ang mga LGUs tanganing ang mga projects ta mapagayon, mapakarhay para naman ang true benefit kaining mga infra na ini kumbaga makua ta man (For me, the LGUs’ support is very important to ensure that these projects will be properly implemented and we derive  the true benefit from it),” Losa added. DA-RPAB is an interagency multidisciplinary team chaired by the DA Regional Executive Director. It is composed of the regional directors of the Department of Agrarian Reform (DAR), Department of Trade and Industry (DTI), DILG, Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR), Department of Public Works and Highways (DPWH), National Commission on Indigenous Peoples (NCIP), and Bureau of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources (BFAR) as well as the Chairman of the Regional Agriculture and Fishery Council (RAFC). It is mandated to review and approve plans, feasibility studies, detailed engineering designs and program of works for PRDP funding. (Annielyn L. Baleza, DA RAFIS V with reports from Rhodelia S. Remot, PRDP Bicol M&E Officer))