"The entire region is teeming with verdant and pristine natural resources."
Eastern Visayas, constituting the islands of Samar, Leyte and Biliran, is now the country’s last frontier.
With its vast, mostly untapped, natural resources and strategic location, being on the eastern side of the center of the archipelago, the region will be the most attractive investment destination in the second quarter of this century.
Long neglected by the national government and battered by the strongest and most devastating supertyphoon Yolanda, the entire region is now a beehive of economic enterprises driven by the indomitable spirit and resilience of the Samareños and Leyteños.
The concreting and widening of roads and bridges and the construction of other vital infrastructure facilities will provide strong underpinnings for the region’s economic growth and progress.
Long neglected by the national government, the entire region is still teeming with verdant and pristine natural resources. Several long and white beaches adorn the shores fronting the Pacific Ocean and the West Philippine Sea. Waterfalls, caves and natural springs abound. The vast waters of the Pacific Ocean on the eastern side of the big islands Samar and Leyte, the San Bernardino strait and the gulfs, bays and seas surrounding the three islands are rich fishing grounds. Precious minerals, including uranium, are likewise in abundance in the whole region.
With the most important underpinnings for economic development already in place, the rapid growth and development of the region is now evident.
Most of the fundamental underpinnings for economic development are now in place. The main highways and circumferential roads of the three islands have been concreted, making trade and commerce within and with the rest of the country more easy and comfortable.
The entire region is teeming with still-verdant natural resources. Beautiful beaches, waterfalls, caves, and natural springs abound. The inland seas between the islands and the vast waters of the Pacific Ocean from the northern tip of Northern Samar to the southern tip of Leyte contain enormous marine resources.
Indeed, Eastern Visayas will be the center of commerce and industry in the coming decades for its untapped natural resources.
Somehow, the underdevelopment of Eastern Visayas is a blessing in disguise. The development agenda for the three islands will now be futuristic and framed in decades or spans of at least 50 years. The overall development plan will be integrated, comprehensive and essentially based on land-use applicability. Infrastructure such as roads, bridges, ports, and the centers for industrial, manufacturing, and agri-based industries will now be built in the most ideal and strategic locations. This is what is called polar development planning.
This should also make Region VIII better prepared for full development as a sub-state or a federal state of a Federal government system.
The growth and development of Eastern Visayas in the coming years will depend on the competence, integrity, sincerity, and vision of its political leaders. Whether as a region or a federal state, the local government units should be run by an equally competent, honest and efficient bureaucracy. The provincial, municipal and barangay institutions must be managed efficiently and the delivery of services should be prompt and adequate. Above all, the benefits of progress and development should be felt and shared by all.
What is of immediate concern today is for the citizens of Samar, Biliran and Leyte to take advantage of the opportunities and embrace the challenges that confront them today.
We are glad that House majority floor leader, Martin Romualdez, has filed a bill creating the Eastern Visayas Development Authority. This could be the catalyst for the region’s economic growth and progress. The agency could now design a comprehensive and innovative development program and coordinate its overall implementation.
The most vexing, pervasive and reprehensible problem crippling the growth and development of Region VIII, perhaps in a much more severe intensity, is the existence of a political aristocracy.
I am referring to the officials who are running the provinces, towns and barangays in the region today.
Most of the incumbent officials in the region today do not deserve the positions they now occupy. Many of them are incompetent and had no undedrstanding of what government is and even why it exists. They won their positions through bribery. Since they bought their positions, they no longer feel obligated to serve their constituencies.
Vote buying is the most rampant and decisive electoral anomaly in most of the provinces, municipalities and barangays in the region. Poor and disillusioned, most of the voters sell their votes, not aware that they are also selling their dignity and their future.
What the Samarenos, Leytenos and Biliranons need is unity and the ethnic waray courage and derring-do.
Mr. Ernesto G. Banawis is former founding president of the Movement for the Economic Advancement of Northern Samar (MEANS). He is also a former member of the provincial board of Northern Samar.