MIMAROPA Cabinet Officer for Regional Development and Security (CORDS) and Energy Secretary Alfonso G. Cusi, in collaboration with the NEDA Regional Office (NRO) in MIMAROPA and Philippine Information Agency (PIA) MIMAROPA, conducted a press conference on the State of the Nation Address (SONA). The MIMAROPA: Beyond the SONA, a MIMAROPA Regional Task Force to End Local Communist Armed Conflict (RTF-ELCAC) Press Conference was held on July 27.

Over 100 representatives from the regional government offices, local government units, state universities and colleges, private sector, and local media participated in the press conference, which aimed to reverberate the highlights of President Rodrigo Roa Duterte’s (PRRD) recent SONA held on July 26.
In his opening remarks, Secretary Cusi emphasized how MIMAROPA can work together to achieve PRRD’s thrusts with only ten months left in his term and country’s continued efforts against COVID-19 pandemic.

CORDS TWG Chairperson and Energy Undersecretary Alexander S. Lopez presented PRRD’s vision of a better life. To highlight the regional accomplishments during the current administration, he cited the following: (a) institution of reforms and radical changes that the RTF-ELCAC implemented; (b) free education and universal health care; (c) holistic approach in fight against illegal drugs; (d) development governance; (e) adequate food and decent housing; and (f) environmental protection and respect for culture.

Moreover, Lopez recognized all regional line agencies for the collective collaboration, inclusivity, and communication for the benefit of the people of MIMAROPA. He encouraged everyone to sustain efforts and initiatives in achieving a “drug-free” region. By virtue of the Coconut Farmers and Industry Trust Fund Act, he revealed that coconut farmers will receive the coco levy fund as rightful owners. For infrastructure under the Build, Build, Build Program, 180 farm to market road projects were constructed amounting to PHP3.37 million. The PHP269 million worth Lisap Bridge in Bongabong, Oriental Mindoro, a vital connector in southern part of the province, was also constructed.

Lopez also discussed the comprehensive tax reform program, which made the infrastructure projects in MIMAROPA and across the country possible. He also called on armed groups to surrender as the government continues to enhance reintegration programs.
Through capacitating and providing military and uniformed personnel with higher wages and benefits and more modern equipment and facilities, Lopez stressed how peace and order was achieved; and security and safety was ensured by the government.

Several accomplishments in the region’s fight against COVID-19 were outlined: 85.8 percent case recovery rate (as of July 2021); 335,700 vaccines accorded in 580 vaccination sites; and Malasakit Centers established.

Relevant issues and concerns regarding peace, order, public safety, disaster risk reduction and management, electricity and power generation, and infrastructure development in the region were raised during the forum.

For peace, order, and public safety, Cusi said that a holistic approach has been employed by the government to fight against illegal drugs and end local communist armed conflict. A total of 419 rebel surrenderers was provided with financial and livelihood assistance amounting to PHP26.66 million through the Enhanced Comprehensive Local Integration Program (ECLIP).

For disaster risk reduction and management, there is an ongoing coordination with LGUs regarding the conduct of dredging activities and construction of slope protection projects to address recurring floodings in the provinces of Occidental Mindoro and Oriental Mindoro.
For electricity and power generation, provision of additional capacity through a service provider and interconnection of Mindoro Island and Marinduque to the primary Luzon grid were seen as possible solutions to address power instability in the area. Cusi urged the National Electrification Agency (NEA) and electric cooperatives in the respective provinces to immediately address the power insufficiency
distribution among communities.

For infrastructure development, the proposed construction of a bridge connecting Batangas and Mindoro Island is still considered in the region’s infrastructure connectivity plan of MIMAROPA. NEDA MIMAROPA Regional Director Agustin C. Mendoza informed the participants that the conduct of project feasibility study, which covers thorough analysis of the project’s relevant factors, was included in the list of DPWH priority projects under Public-Private Partnership.

Cusi concluded that resiliency, unity, cooperation, “pagbabayanihan,” belief in one’s potentials, and trust in the government are the key measures against any unprecedented challenges.