Albay governor’s ‘bangka’ good to go

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By Reynard Magtoto, VERA Files

Legazpi City—After assuring Bicolanos that no one will be left behind in Albay’s surge to prosperity, reelected Gov. Joey Sarte Salceda said he is ready to “paddle the boat” to fulfilling his vision for the province.

Salceda, who ran unopposed under the Liberal Party and is on his last term, said he wants Albay to overtake Tagaytay and Camarines Sur to become the tourism power house of Luzon by 2017. His goal: Boost tourism arrivals from 178,000 to more than a million.

Completion of the Southern Luzon International Airport on 2016 will help make this happen, he said.

“Tourism is the most horizontal industry; you don’t need force just to increase the economy,” Salceda said. “In tourism it is easy to spread the benefits of the good economy.”

The governor is also targeting Albay to become the bastion of education in Luzon and aims to have the province produce up to 188, 000 college graduates by 2016.

He said he will also focus on the creation of small and medium enterprises to provide livelihood.

Delayed proclamation

This is the second time Salceda ran unopposed as governor. In 2010, he ran under Lakas-Kampi-CMD, the party of then president Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo.

He was the first local candidate here to be proclaimed by the Commission on Elections on May 15. Even then, technical glitches delayed his proclamation for two days.

To be declared winner by the Provincial Board of Canvassers, Salceda needed at least 70 percent of the votes recorded in the Consolidation Canvassing System (CCS). If he fails to reach that level, the votes remain “zero.”

Under pressure, PBOC chair Annie Romeo-Cortez proclaimed him winner when he already garnered 259,804 votes out of the 371,690 votes cast based on the “grouped canvass reports” instead of what appeared in the CCS.

Compact Flash cards from seven areas were defective, and it took two days after the election before the CF cards were replaced. When the results from the defective cards were finally transmitted, Salceda got 171,239 votes more. The voter turnout was 431,043.

Salceda’s lawyer had intervened to get him proclaimed, saying the board already had records from one city and 11 towns.

Romeo-Cortez said the PBOC proclaimed Salceda soon as it determined that the untransmitted returns would no long affect the results.

“It would have been a different story if Governor Joey Salceda had opponents,” she said.

“After two nights of waiting, I am finally proclaimed. I was made to expect and believe that the electoral system on its 2nd year of execution would be much faster and surer. Not too kindly, I felt that, in the evolutionary trajectory of human civilization, it presented at least a slight improvement over the Socratic method of raising your hands in the town plaza,” Salceda said on May 15.

A management engineering graduate of Ateneo de Manila University, Salceda joined Malacañang in 2007 and became then President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo’s chief of staff. Arroyo was one of his teachers at Ateneo. Salceda ran and won as governor that same year.

The United Nations named him as its senior global champion and spokesperson and proclaimed Albay as its global model because of its pioneering initiatives in climate-change adaptation and disaster-risk reduction.

As governor, Salceda boasts of having 252,000 PhilHealth-enrolled members among poorest of the poor, 64,000 recipients of the Pantawid Pamilyang Pilipino Program or 4Ps, and 34,000 scholars.

With help from other local officials, Albay was named best province in the country the past three years in the Gawad Kalasag, an award from the national government to local governments. The province is in the hall of fame.

Salceda had also aimed for zero casualty record during Mayon Volcano eruptions. However, this record was broken when four foreigners died during the phreatic explosion on May 7.

But he said, “In my long service as governor, I gave the permit to climb till Camp 1 only.” He said it was the Department of Environment and Natural Resources and Department of Tourism that had given the victims permit to climb farther than Camp 1.

(VERA Files is put out by veteran journalists taking a deeper look at current issues. Vera is Latin for “true”.)

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