Bohol has risen, like the proverbial phoenix, as a better province -after the M7.2 Earthquake than it was before October15, 2013.
Bohol ‘s total bank deposits rose 25% per annum this year compared to 15-18% during the previous years before the earthquake signifying the business frenzy of “build,better”, government rehabilitation financial inflows and donor entries.
Bohol province-wide depositsÂ now hit the P28-Billion deposit mark, according to Deo Butawan (BPI) and president of the Bohol Bankers Association chapter.
The P3-Billion BEA (Bohol Earthquake Assistance) fund and the P2-Billion from government plus the hundreds of millions ofÂ privately- donated funds for the rehabilitation of damagedÂ private properties and churches pooled together andÂ apparently resulted in a dramatic increase in economic activities in Bohol.
According to Boholano head of the Habitat for Humanity Charlie Ayco, over P 300-M of their funds are being allocated for livelihood projects to complete the “rehabilitation” of the disadvantaged citizenry.
It is as if the earthquake itself, a source of misery in the beginning, is nowÂ proving to be a blessing in disguise for the province. New money heats up circulation and money velocity which rev up the local economy, business observers noted.
So brisk in the construction frenzy that it is difficult to get a carpenter or mason these days. Or if one luckilyÂ gets one- they demand high service fees. According to Butawan, architects , engineers and geodetic surveyors -among many others are raking it in- many of them sporting brand new cars.
The BPI head noted that BPI alone booked P 200-Million in one year for new vehicle acquisitions or about 200 new cars. Since there are 10 active car loan financiers here -easily 1,000 new cars have been added to Bohol’s streets in the last 12 months.
Bohol’s top 5 contractors never had it so good although some off-province rivals managed to come in to share in the business pie. A lot of employment has been generated since 30% of construction cost is labor and the rest goesÂ to pure cement, hollow blocks, metals, glass, electrical and finishing (including furniture and appliances).
Over 1,000 of the targeted 6,000 Habitat for Humanity dwellings (priced at P 155,000) have been finished. It may be noted that there are currently 17 towns undergoing rehabilitation efforts after the quake.
Although political barriers would sometimes deter speedy implementation , the BoholÂ rehab situation has been observed to be far better than that obtaining in Leyte for the rehabilitation post-Yolanda. Though already released there-much has been undisbursed and those disbursed are mostly tainted with questions.
TOURISM AND OFWS
TheÂ new resurgence in the Bohol economy has been buttressed by the recovery of the Tourism industry proven by the resumption of more airplaneÂ flights and fast craft boatÂ schedules to and from the city and town piers.
New resorts crop up almost every month with the Bellevue , Hennan, andÂ Be groups leading the way while other major players are keenly watching to cash in once the Bohol Panglao international airport flies off the ground in 2017.
Development has branched out of the city of Tagbilaran into places like Tubigon where the Alturas and Bohol Quality retail giants are pitching new camps alongside the pizza biggie Shakeys . Even Anda is developing into a next Panglao and interior towns like Sierra Bullones are blooming into new-found prosperity.
According to Butawan, he met a Sierra Bullones resident exhibiting signs of new -found prosperity as eight of his children were reportedly working abroad as OFWs.
He confirmed the continuing role of OFWs as a significantÂ source of deposits and new businesses and believes Bohol (based on BPI experience) has perhaps the most number of seafarers compared to any other province in the Visayas and Mindanao.
He cites the big influence of PMI (Philippine Maritime institute) and other such schools as necessary adjuncts for this positive development.
There appears to be a “Boholano mafia” within manning agencies and shipping companies that ensure a steady stream of Boholano seamen.The huge Bohol OFW money stems fromÂ the fact that the seamen are paid well -with captains earning as much as US$10,000 a month and the lowest ship mate at US$1,200.
Quality not just quantity defines the profile of theÂ Boholano OFWs with many professionals all over the world. The house help is just but a small minority in the profile, according to Deo.
Independent studies show that towns where 9-19% of residents have OFWs show far better signs of prosperity that those with lesser ratios.
THE HERITAGE CAPITAL
A quiet , but huge component of the “new money” sipping through the Bohol economic crevices can also come from the rehabilitation of the damaged heritage and non-heritage churches due to the 2013 quake.
The National Museum and the National Commission of Culture and Arts take care of the rehabilitating the 10 so-called Heritage chuches which include those in Panglao,Â Loboc, Loay, Dauis, Maribojoc, Loon , , Dimiao , Maribojoc, Albur. Three of them are now in substantive stages of development.Â Bohol is being pushed by some quarters to become the Heritage Capital of the country.
According to Fr Val Pinlac, the rehabilitation of the other Non-Heritage churches is being bundled together under the Diocese of Tagbilaran who manages the receipt and the disbursement of funds. Collectively, this involves hundreds of millions of pesos.
Some major donors like the Confederation of Bishops of Italy demandÂ strict accountability and specific rehab targets . Nonetheless, the Special Committee handling the massive funds are morally bound toÂ judiciously keep track of the finances from generous donors and because of a very spiritually- important goal of restoring the people’s places of worship.
Any small sign of impropriety in the handling of the fundsÂ may scandalize the faithful no end- traumatized as they already are for the loss of their damaged churches.
Fr Pinlac clarified that they are saving muchÂ from contractor’s margin of profit by directly training and then hiring men in the construction site in cooperation with TESDA and BISU. Moreover, there is the non-ecclesiastic side of the rehabilitation that can include livelihood, building of classrooms and houses, among others.
TIDAL WAVE OF MONEY
It would therefore seem now that in exchange for a few minutes of tremors of the dreadful earthquake in 2013Â would come 5-6 years of continued inflow of a tidal wave of fresh funds for the rehabilitation and proves thatÂ God through Nature works in mysterious ways.
Instead of a distraught, disadvantaged entity of a province because of the devastation brought by an unwanted, uninvited Killer Quake in 2013, Bohol has apparentlyÂ resurrectedÂ today instead to become bigger and better.Â (By Bingo P. Dejaresco III)