By Charissa Luci-Atienza
A bill seeking to create the Eastern Visayas Development Authority (EVDA) that would ensure trade, tourism, and investment growth in Region 8 has hurdled the House Committee on Government Enterprises and Privatization.
The panel, chaired by Parañaque City Rep. Eric Olivarez, approved House Bill (HB) No. 1155, which was principally authored by Tingog party-list Rep. Yedda Marie Romualdez and her husband, House Majority Leader and Leyte Rep. Martin Romualdez.
“A foreign investor interested in investing in Eastern Visayas need not go to all the local government units in the regions or to a disinterested national government agency. He doesn’t even have to be in Tacloban. But through EVDA, one can get the right and concise information and support that he or she needs,” the Romualdezes said, even as they thanked the House panel for passing their measure on February 19.
The Olivarez panel referred the bill to the House Committee on Appropriations to approve its funding provision.
“With EVDA, we can ensure that our investment priorities and promotion strategies are in sync with our development needs and our regional strengths such as our geographical location, our skilled human resources, and our immense tourism potentials,” the Romualdezes said.
They said under the bill, EVDA shall serve as a lead agency that would ensure “sound and balanced” industrial, economic and social growth in Eastern Visayas.
The proposed Development Authority shall also carry on with the speedy rehabilitation of Yolanda-affected areas, they said.
“EVDA will craft and implement programs and projects that will increase trade, tourism and investments in the region, encourage private enterprise and advance efforts towards progress and development. Once the promise of a resilient economy is fulfilled, the right economic and social conditions will be realized – one that will provide jobs to the people, especially those in rural areas, increase their productivity and their individual and family income, and thereby improve the level and quality of their living conditions,” the Romualdez couple said.
They said even though Eastern Visayas rises from Typhoon Yolanda (Haiyan), the region “continues to be caught up in the vicious cycle of poverty.”
Typhoon Yolanda wrought havoc in Eastern Visayas in 2013.
“Even before Typhoon Haiyan struck, the incidence of poverty has already been worsening. While the nation’s overall economic situation
has been improving on the average, poverty in the region worsened from
2006 to 2012,” the Romualdezes noted.
“In 2014, poverty incidence was at 54.9 percent; more than half of the region’s population of 4.10 million is now extremely poor and unable to earn the minimum amount necessary to address their basic needs,” they said.
The Romualdezes said four of the six provinces in Eastern Visayas are among the country’s top
20 poorest provinces.
These include Leyte (ranked 17 at 46.7 percent poverty incidence), Western Samar (ranked 14th at 49.5 percent), Eastern Samar (ranked 11th at 50 percent) and Northern Samar (ranked fourth at 61.6 percent).
“One of the most ecologically diverse regions of the country, the three islands of Samar, Leyte, and Biliran are blessed with land, mineral, energy, and marine resources, making it favorable for agricultural, fishery, and industrial potentials. Its geothermal resources have also been tapped, producing electricity for the national power grid. Its coconut, abaca, and other agricultural produce have contributed toward increasing the national economic supply. But in spite of its immense potentials and vast resources, Eastern Visayas remains one of the poorest regions in the country today,” Romualdezes said in pushing for the final passage of the bill.