1. City junks reclamation project
It was the first true test of the Sovereign Trust Domain Doctrine and the Environment won. City Mayor Jane C. Yap, ignoring the push from her own party-controlled City Legislature, listened to the resounding “NO” voice of the people when consulted about the 153-hectare City Reclamation Project to span between the shorelines of Booy and Mansasa districts of the city. She put a halt to the discussion of the P12-B waterfront reclamation project.
The above doctrine actually postulate that it is the people who actually own the seas and the natural resources of the place and LGUs or the State are mere “stewards”. Though public hearings are not normally required in the first stages of a Reclamation Project, the city executive deemed it necessary to consult the people first because the environmental issue was becoming heatedly contentious.
Apparently, the lure of P500M in new realty taxes and P900M in business taxes which were alleged to benefit 57,000 people (half a city equivalent) were not enough to compensate for the potential damage to the vibrant ecosystem. Not even a PPP arrangement that would have made the city an equal shareholder in the fruits of the reclamation benefits could swing the nod of the people.
There was an even later move of the “Tagbilaran Baywatch” headed by Atty Gigi Biliran to compel the City Legislature to formally junk their previous positive recommendations and make all future reclamation projects an anathema hereabouts.
It was not just the Baywatch group but there was indeed a titanic voluntary groundswell of opposition to the project. This paper had noted that this could be the spark that will germinate the beginnings of a strong civil service advocacy consciousness among Boholanos and use the “power of the people” to influence major government decisions.
It has indeed been a long walk for an awakened- at -last -citizenry who for decades were content to twit their fingers, unafraid to make a stand, when crucial social issues that affect the community hit centerstage. Public consciousness on issues hereabouts will never be the same again from here on.
2A. UNESCO picks Bohol as RP’s first Geopark
March 24, 2023, is a special date when the UNESCO Executive Board in Paris, France decided to include Bohol as the Philippines’ 1st Global Geopark- and becoming the second largest in Asia.
Bohol was chosen among only 18 Geopark sites in the whole world this year.
It was not a spur of the moment decision.
In fact, it was a 10 -year effort that started in 2013 with the collaborative efforts of the University of the Philippines and the University of Hamburg. Bohol has both governors -Edgar Chato and Aris Aumentado to thank for aside from recognizing the arduous work contribution of the BPEMO (Bohol Provincial Environmental Managment) headed by Jovencia Ganub, the Bohol Globalpark Committee and the UNESCO UNACOM which provide the guidelines for qualification.
Being awarded this distinction means every year efforts are made to deserve that continued distinction otherwise the Global Geopark insignia will be removed from Bohol.
The UNESCO award brings international prestige and recognition and looks for consistent conservation efforts for the cultural, environmental and geological assets by both the LGUs and the Boholanos. Bohol will become home to global scientists who will continue research on the unique geological makeup of province and this mark will help the local economy, as well.
Most importantly, this will allow with Bohol to network with other geoparks globally and learn from them and work for the continued preservation of the most cherished environment which is always challenged by climate change and seasonal vagaries.
The UNESCO conferred distinction is a once in a lifetime celebration that all Boholanos will always be proud of.
2B. P25-billion “resort town” for 10-year development
A “new city” in the province or a “resort town in Panglao” is what to expect to identify the P25-B -ten years in the making of Panglao Shores- the Alturas Group’s integrated mixed used- low density project in 507 hectares in the fabulous Bolod, Panglao.
It is a flagship project of the TIEZA who looks at Bohol as the next big thing in the Visayas- after already becoming one of the most preferred destinations in the country.
Alturas Group, arguably the biggest business conglomerate in the province, is into a number of malls, resorts, restaurants, agricultural and manufacturing companies and exports.
According to Hope Uy, the Managing Director, the complex will also have hotels and resorts plus 37,000 square meters of retail and commercial spaces, and 1000 residential units. It will have an international medical facility, an international convention center, retail stores, night markets, farmers markets and lots of green spaces.
3. Bohol awaits NGCP Cebu power linkage
Painful lessons have not been lost when transmission and/or distribution power lines linking Bohol to the geothermal source in Leyte via submarine cables were partially or completely rendered inutile by the Yolando super typhoon, the earthquake and Odette storm.
At long last, Bohol may have the last of its power woes gone with options being created for power generation sources. Because of the successful P52-project linkage between Mindanao and the Visayas power grids, Bohol can have its linkage to Cebu through both overhead and submarine lines to augment the unreliable Leyte source and the smaller local sources.
The linkage will be through the Argao Cebu and Maribojoc route via a 230 kVolt looping interconnection. There are, however, other options to address the new power demand in Bohol from 113 MW to 148 MW in 2024.
This is not counting the incoming incremental demand from the expansion of the Panglao international airport, the entry of the world’s largest hotel chain in JW Marriot in Dauis and the reported groundbreaking and start of construction of the Shoemart Mall and Supermart along Longos street in Tagbilaran City early in 2024.
Likewise, the EDC (Energy Development Corporation) has moved the completion of its power project from end December 2023 to June 2024, according to Dino Roxas, chair of the One Bohol Power. Once operational, the generation rate target is set at P4.37/K hr.
It was revealed that EDC can source its power outside of Bohol as long as it can guarantee that its based power plant can operate 24/7 if for some reason, the outside sources are compromised.
Meantime, a subsidiary of the Alson’s Group of the Alcantara family of Mindanao is reportedly set to finish a P98 MW diesel plant to be connected to the Ubay NGCP grid substation with a complete cost of P1.8 B., starting in May 2024.
On the other hand, the first solar plant in Bohol in Dagohoy (PetroGreen Energy Group of the Yuchengco family) is targeted to be operational by the fourth quarter of 2024- with a modest 27MW power capable of serving 15,000 households.
The remaining question would be which among the providers can result in better power rates in Bohol than what it is experiencing now?
4. Plunder case vs. Yap, 7 others; ‘Shadow’ procurement team busted
The move to smash in earnest the apparatus inside Capitol that allegedly resulted in rigged deals approved by the BAC (Bids and Awards) began with the elimination of three contractual employees who reportedly constituted PPMU-2 (procurement management unit)- the shadow outfit. As such, the PPMU-2 unit purportedly dictated to the “official” PPMU-1 unit what deals to approve and not and who to favor.
This was how Capitol under the aegis of ex-Governor Art Yap allegedly institutionalized the method of graft in his administration which cost him the loss of political capital based on the election results. The methodology has been disrupted with the installation of Raulito Rabuya and a 30-personel procurement team who are rigidly apprised of the pitfalls of graft and the sanctity of sticking to procurement rules of the government.
Meantime, Ex-Gov Yap and 6 other Capitol officials and one businesswoman were charged with plunder before the Ombudsman in connection with an allegedly flawed procurement of drugs by members of the OGAR team – standing on their individual private capacities.
Named were ex Provincial Administrator Atty Kathrin Fe Pioquinto, former COS of the office of the Governor Fe Quimpo, former Legal Officer Atty. Julius Gregory Delgado, Budget Officer Peter Retutal, Engr, Casimiro Casata and Dr. Cesar Tomas Lopez, OIC of the Provincial Health Office plus businesswoman Stella Marie Ancla of Dexter Enterprises, a government supplier.
Charging them were former Cabinet secretary Leoncio Evasco, Retired Judge Suceso Arcamo, former prosecutor Macario Delusa, former City Mayor Dan N Lim, and businessman Emmanuel “Willy” Ramasola.
The then Capitol officers allegedly conspired to award the P57-M contract for a medical kit which turned out to be one lone medicine procurement requirement request: multivitamins with iron with zinc (for blood health and strengthening the immune system) 101. The award was given to a lone “complying” company Dexter Enterprises owned by Ancla.
Not only were the supplies not as specified in the request but was instead supplied Biotin ( a mere food supplement) and not listed under the required pre-approval provided by the Philippine National Drug Formulary as provided for under Rule 36 of RA 9502.
A regional judge later ruled on the unconstitutionality of the formation of OGAR but OGAR member Atty Dan Lim, this does not prohibit the courts from hearing the cases that have already been filed. A Motion for Reconsideration had also been filed.
5. 48,000 hog raisers alarmed over ASF
Upon knowing the pork were tested positive for ASF (African Swine Fever) in Carcar, Cebu City and Mactan, Gov Aris Aumentado quickly issued Executive Order No 1 enjoining the banning of all live pigs, pork and pork products from the province of Cebu. The testing was made by a Manila-based Burau of Plant Industry official in Cebu himself.
Bohol mayors were then called to a meeting by the governor to protect the P6-Billion hog industry in Bohol which would affect 48,000 hog raisers. Marlito Uy, a major wholesale piggery operator in the province also warned hotels, resorts and individuals to mind their choices of food to convert to pigswill (lamaw) which when contaminated will directly and swiftly infect the pigs that will ingest them.
Since 2019, Bohol has been wary about the possible attack of the ASF here which can adversely affect especially the backyard hog raisers. An outbreak of the ASF will not only affect the health of pigs but could lead to the shortage of one of the favorite food sources of Boholanos: pigs and raise their prices.
Thankfully the ASF had skirted to attack Bohol in major way, thanks to the heady efforts at inspections in the various Bohol seaports and the airport. As well as monitoring the coastal areas for possible sneaky entry of the illegal food into Bohol territory.
Thankfully, no major ASF outbark has been noted so far in Bohol.
6. 981 voters elect village, SK leaders
Following the bad example of their senior publicly elected officials, massive vote buying, and coercion were the rules of the day during the recent Barangay and SK elections.
Some 981,000 Boholano voters elected 1,847 barangay captains, 1,444 SK heads, 13, 759 barangay kagawads and 6,736 SK councilors. Some 12 barangays were fingered as election hotspots and the Comelec deployed civilian armed auxiliary Force to implement order in those places.
Unlike the national polls, voting was done manually and though it took a bit longer, canvassing was also done manually- slaying any moves to contest the polls due to technological glitzes.
“All politics is local” as they say and thus explains the animosity during the barangay polls where many are blood relatives or close friends. More than that, people are scrambling to get their hands on the barangay funds- which now automatically constitutes 20% of the National Allocated Taxes (NAT) plus customs and other fee collections of the national government.
That’s a lot of money and projects- which explains why people spend much even for lowly barangay polls or SK elections. Vote buying has been rampant.
Except in two shining examples. One- the district of Manga of this city where a strong-willed priest Fr. Jingboy Saco Jr. talked to both candidates and the electorate about the evil of vote buying and asked them not to participate in such a misdeed.
No vote-buying was observed in Manga except that 30% or 2,000 of the electorate refused to vote as protest that they were allegedly not able to get their “inangayan” from both sides of the political fence.
Jagna Mayor Joseph Ranola was more successful in launching a “No” to vote-buying slogan by asking the senior officials not to send money to buy votes to any of the candidates. And begged all candidates not to buy votes and the voters not to sell their ballots. His town Jagna voted 80% without vote buying. A remarkable achievement.
When will we see the rest of the barangays to change like these two examples?
7. P22M shabu in drug bust
One of the proofs that big-time drug-dealing is back in town was this year’s huge Buy-Bust operation done in Mariveles Dauis totaling about P21.9M in drugs. Falling into the combined dragnet of the Dauis police and provincial intelligence operatives was an elusive HVI (High Value individual) – a derogatory monicker for one who is treated as most wanted in the drug list,
Falling into authorities was 31-year-old Sherwin Arena who fell to a P60,000 buy-bust police ploy that led to the discovery of the huge 3 kilos of shabu inside his motorcycle compartment worth about P22M.
Interrogated, he said he was receiving the illicit drug supply from a certain “Kuya” who remains unidentified. It is axiomatic on the part of the police to do action against this certain “Kuya” so they can nail men who are closer to the higher Drug Hierarchy here.
Heretofore, the police nationwide have been raked over coals for concentrating on the small fries and not on the guiltier big-time Drug Lords.
8. Move to split Aris, Alexi in 2025 fizzles out
Politics, being the Filipinos’ main pastime, there is endless political discussions in barbershops, salons and coffeeshops about who is running against who especially in the local level. The defeat of the brother of Rep Alexi Besas-Tutor (Gian Besas) in the hands of incumbent barangay Kapitan Geneson Balbin was made into a political capital by strategists.
They argued that Balbin was supported by some people identified with the Office of Gov, Aris Aumentado and (sic) funds from senator Imee Marcos coursed through the governor was funneled to the Balbin campaign – a storyline meant to drive a wedge between the governor and Rep. Tutor.
The idea was an Aris-Alexi break in support of a former Mayor Baba Yap run for governor would give Gov Aumentado a disadvantage because a Tutor-Yap combination will leave Aris with only the 2nd district to rely on votes for.
Further investigations led to the fact that the Marcos camp actually directly handed the support funds to Balbin at the request of Choy Torralba (renowned Cebu broadcaster who is known to many national figures) -since Kagawad Ator Torralba (Choy’s brother) was supporting Balbin. Atoy is, curiously, a presumptive candidate for city mayor against incumbent Jane Yap who is married to Baba Yap.
The end in view of the strategy was a way to lure away Baba Yap from running for 1st district to protect the turf of incumbent Rep Edgar Chatto. Manila based Manila Spheres Research in May had Yap leading Chatto 61-39% while a later October survey by station dyRD had the same Yap-Chatto duel at 74-26% in favor of the ex-city Mayor.
All of these, however, were doused with cold water after the couple of Rep Tutor and husband held a friendly lunch with Gov. Aris and Rep. Vanvan Aumentado at a Roxas Boulevard Hotel in Manila affirming their continued support for one another.
This development leaves incumbent Edgar a worried man today.
9. Sevilla removes structures built by Balilihan at Bugwak Spring
The battle for supplying the burgeoning demand for potable water in Bohol has resulted in a turf fight between two LGUs: Sevilla and Balilihan. Armed with a legislative resolution of their SP, Sevilla town mayor Juliet Dano removed structures including a 100-horsepower submersible pump- all part of the water structures put up by Balilihan to source water from Bugwak Spring in the territory of Sevilla located in the 3rd district.
Mayor Dano’s reasoning is that Balilihan waterworks application did not specify that water will be sourced on the side of the Bugwak spring in Sevilla; nonetheless, Balilihan also did not seek permission from Sevilla to erect the structures.
Balilihan claims this is a part of P190-M nationally funded water project of Balilihan to source and distribute potable water.
Meantime, the DENR had asked Sevilla to return the confiscated items from Bugwak Spring even as there are insinuations and calls for investigation and motions to inhibit of some DENR and NWRB (National Waterworks Board) who seem to favor Balilihan’s bid, reportedly in deference to Rep Edgar Chatto (husband of Balilihan Mayor Pureza Chatto).
Other legal tussles are being also resolved involving Richi Corporation (a major treatment and distribution company currently operating largely in Dauis, Panglao and the city) and the Balilihan LGU connected to the water distribution project.
Meantime, there is an impending water crisis as the demand and supply of water in the contested area will assume parity by end December this year (equal supply to demand) that any increased demand thereto thereafter will become a problematic issue if issues regarding as to who will provide the right potable water ( at that point) is not being resolved with finality.
10. PNP probes killings, ‘not syndicated’
The Philippine National Police (PNP) is having their hands full in investigating the recent killings in the province, according to Provincial Director Lorenzo Batuan, though there is no evidence that the killings are orchestrated or syndicated.
He cited the recent killing in Ubay as a security escort who wanted to protect the victims from being robbed while the San Miguel murder case involved a former member of the New People’s Army (NPA). The most recent killing in Inabanga town of a district supervisor of the Department of Education (DepEd), on the other hand, was traced to a personal matter involving the victim.
Another murder victim Manuel Penio, 60 of San Miguel town was reputed to be a former member of the NPA (New People’s Army)
Col. Batuan said there is no cause for alarm as he assured the public that Bohol remains to be a peaceful province.
In fact, he lauded the Bohol PNP command for the quick arrest of the suspects in the robbery in a gasoline station in Ubay town.
The continued influx of tourists and investors into the province is the best proof that Bohol remains to be generally peaceful, the PNP provincial chief stressed.