Delivered by: Mayor Juan Carlo S. Medina
(Chairperson, RDC-1)

It is with great honor to be able to deliver the State of the Region Address even for the last time – for now!

Today, like more than ever. I want everyone to closely listen to the words of Martin Luther King, Jr., when he said, “Life’s most persistent and urgent question is, ‘What are you doing for others?’

WE, as public servants, we commit ourselves to our people, to our communities and to our country and make an IMPACT.

So now, as I take pride in this end-of-term address, the thought of having been given the firsthand opportunity to steer the growth of our region for the past five years as your RDC-1 Chairperson has never been more rewarding now than ever before.

This will not be a farewell address but a testament to the embedded legacy that the region has created for itself, to be a community of happy and resilient Filipino people.

To the men and women of our partner agencies, our private sector representatives, our local government units and the academe, all to whom I have whole-heartedly referred to as my Regional Development Council-1 family, I salute you for all that we have accomplished and God speed to what lies ahead.

Before I present to you how we fared in 2021, please allow me to give you a glimpse of how we have been performing since we formulated our Regional Development Plan in 2017.

During the first two years of the implementation of our Regional Development Plan, our Gross Regional Domestic Product performed well with a back-to-back growth of six percent. It further increased by seven percent in 2019, with Services still as the major driver of our economy. However, as the COVID-19 pandemic struck our region in 2020, our regional economy sank deepest at negative eight percent. Likewise, from a decreasing unemployment trend from 2017 to 2019, the region’s unemployment rate increased the highest at 13 percent in 2020 as most of the establishments were temporarily, and worst – permanently closed due to the pandemic. The good news is, our economy is now recovering and becoming vibrant once again. In fact, the region’s economic outputs in 2021 grew by around five percent while the employment rate in the region also increased. Thank you to all of us who are gaining back confidence in our economy and contributing through our own domestic expenditures.

As we look forward to a stronger economy towards a new and even better normal, we need to work harder in terms of our target on poverty alleviation. I remembered in 2019, we highlighted our region’s sound policies on poverty alleviation with the improved poverty incidence in our region. However, the COVID-19 pandemic hit the low-income families the hardest. During the 1st semester 2021, the poverty incidence among families in the region increased to about 16 percent. However, let us not be disheartened, instead let us continue to focus our energies and efforts in closing poverty and income gaps. We are hopeful that with the continued provision of safety nets and stimulus packages, and with the increase in the minimum wage rates, our vulnerable people will be more financially viable to consume their needs. By doing this, our region’s shared prosperity will increase, allowing a more inclusive growth.

Now, let me walk you through our performance in 2021, the crucial year that will determine our pace of progress in achieving our end-of-plan targets laid down in our Enhanced 2017- 2022 Regional Development Plan Midterm Update.

Economic Sector
Allow me to begin with the Economic Sector. As I have just mentioned, our region’s economy performed positively in 2021 with Industry and Services remarkably bounced back from its negative performance in 2020. The continued Build, Build, Build Program of the outgoing administration contributed to the improvement of the Industry Sector. The strong rebound of the Construction industry also resulted in a sturdier Mining and Quarrying industry. Likewise, the confidence in the Manufacturing industry was back as the region moved to a low-risk level which resulted in more operating hours and production for manufacturing establishments. With the various programs to support manufacturing firms such as the DOST’s Small Enterprise Technology Upgrading Program, we are looking forward to continued improvement of the industry’s productivity and efficiency.

Moreover, accommodation and food services bounced back as travel protocols became less stringent. In line with this, the Department of Tourism launched its Tourism Recovery Plan. This plan focused on promoting more outdoor sites and activities, taking advantage of the abundant nature spots to attract more visitors. Likewise, Human Health and Social Work Activities contributed to the positive outputs of the Services Sector with the increased health investments both by the government and households.

On the other hand, the resiliency of the region’s Agriculture sector remains to be challenged as it suffered a reversal of growth at about negative five percent in 2021. The agricultural production lost due to Typhoon Maring, and damages to livestock production due to the African Swine Fever, attributed to the negative performance of the agriculture sector. The extreme weather conditions in 2021 resulted in the decline in major crop production particularly that of palay, mango, tobacco, onion, and garlic. Likewise, ASF pulled down the hog production by about 38 percent. Likewise, poultry production also decreased in 2021 due to the extended lockdown restrictions until the middle of 2021. On the other hand, municipal and aquaculture fishery production increased which contributed to the overall growth of the fisheries sector.

Amid adversities brought by weather conditions, we are confident that with the implementation of various development programs and projects such as the Philippine Fisheries and Coastal Resiliency Project, Philippine Rural Development Plan, Sustainable Tobacco Enhancement Program, and Bantay ASF Program, the capacity of our farmers and fisherfolks will be upgraded. Such will lead to better productivity that contributes not only to economic growth but also to ensuring food security.

Indeed, the COVID-19 pandemic slowed down our race of reaching our region’s economic performance target, but it did not totally knock us down. For we are here, getting-up, still determined to reach our vision to become the Agribusiness Hub in Northern Luzon.

Social Sector
It can never be denied that the onslaught of the pandemic pushed more Filipinos into poverty. Our fight against the COVID-19 pandemic is not yet over. But, with the concerted efforts and initiatives of our government, we are gradually recovering from the negative impacts of this pandemic.

The region continued to implement programs to reach more vulnerable groups and continuously helped those in need. The government focused on the continuation of the provision of social assistance in Region 1 through the distribution of the Social Amelioration Program (SAP), implementation of the Pantawid Pamilyang Pilipino Program (4Ps) and the social pension program for the marginalized sectors.

The Department of Education continued the provision of education services for children and youth in Region 1. Even with the presence of the COVID-19 pandemic, DepEd posted an increase in the Basic Education enrollment in School Year 2021-2022, specifically for the Junior and Senior High School at about 2 and 14 percent, respectively. This confirmed that a considerable number of students who skipped the 2020-2021 school year had returned to school. This could also be possibly due to more flexible learning modalities offered. Likewise, the Basic Education Learning Continuity Plan was formulated to sustain the education of the children and youth.

Furthermore, our region continued the implementation of various housing programs like the Resettlement Assistance Program, Housing Materials Assistance (HOMA) Program, Government Employees Housing Program (GEHP), and the Settlement Upgrading Program in 2021 which contributed to the expansion of housing opportunities. There were 433 social housing units constructed under the program resulting in 87 percent turnover of housing units to the beneficiaries of the program during 2021. Most of the households recorded were from Pangasinan with a total of 273 households or 72 percent share.

On another note, the health sector continued to implement programs and services that seek to sustain and improve the health and nutrition of the people in Region 1. The Department of Health (DOH) continued its immunization program for children to ensure protection from fatal, communicable and debilitating diseases, providing mothers pre- and post-natal care to ensure the health and physical well-being of mothers and infants. Moreover, DOH intensified the rollout of the COVID-19 Vaccination Program. The target vaccinated individual is 80 percent or 4.3 million of the total population in Region 1 regardless of age and even exceeded its target for the year and posted more than 450 thousand doses. Lastly, the Philippine Health Insurance Corporation (PHIC) continued to expand the coverage of the Universal Health Care (UHC) particularly among the poor, the disadvantaged and the senior citizens, both men and
women, to ensure access to health services.

Infrastructure Sector
As in my earlier statement, the government’s Build Build Build program brought forth significant improvements in infrastructure projects in the region. In fact, the sector managed to spend as much as P26.24 billion in 2021. Thirty road- widening projects regionwide were implemented and 30 diversion and by-pass roads were constructed, which included the Bauang-San Fernando-San Juan Bypass Road, San Fernando – San Juan Section in La Union that significantly reduced travel time from 30 minutes to only 15 minutes, decongesting Manila North Road (MNR) along San Fernando City and San Juan in La Union.

Moreover, access roads leading to Currimao Seaport in Ilocos Norte and Sual Government Port in Pangasinan, were implemented promoting faster exchange of goods and services with the adjacent regions. There were also 60 access roads leading to tourist destinations and trades, industries and economic zones implemented in 2021 which surely helped in revitalizing the tourism sector and industry sectors not only last year but in the years ahead as economic activities will be in full swing.

The demand and reliance for ICT brought about by the “new normal” prompted the government to expand and double the ICT coverage through the free wifi program in the region. Development indicators in the ICT sub-sector all recorded an increase from the previous year. For instance, the number of Free Wi-Fi Sites Awarded from 2020 increased from 157 to 328 sites. As well as the number of Free Wi-Fi sites accepted under the DICT Free Wi-Fi for All Program, recorded 323 last year from only 67 in 2020. Most of the awarded free wi-fi sites were located in Pangasinan and Ilocos Sur.

The region has expanded its irrigation coverage in 2021 as there were a higher number of potential irrigable areas in the region for irrigation development identified. The modern technology in the modernization of irrigation systems and water management systems also contributed to the positive performance of the irrigation sector. Except for Pangasinan and Ilocos Sur, other provinces registered more than 100 percent irrigation coverage.

Furthermore, we had sustained positive performance in terms of electrification. The households provided with electricity increased from 112.37 percent in 2020 to 116.39 percent in 2021.

The pandemic has magnified our rather low investment in social infrastructure especially in beefing up our health systems infrastructure as a way to address gaps in pandemic preparedness. In 2021, we are happy to report that six hospitals were upgraded and rehabilitated and these are: 1) Bangui District Hospital, 2) Dingras District Hospital, 3) Vintar District Hospital, 4) Dona Josefa Edralin Marcos District Hospital, 5) Gov. Roque B. Ablan Sr. Memorial Hospital and 6) Candon City Hospital (Annex Bldg). We will continue our commitment to upgrade our hospitals to be at par with other hospitals in the country and be more responsive to the needs of the people in times of crisis.

Environment Sector
The COVID-19 pandemic reminded us that our well-being depends on the health of our environment. The pandemic has become a catalyst to further improve our on-going efforts to protect, conserve and manage our environment.

In the region, the sector displayed good performance owing to the sustained implementation of programs and projects which resulted in the improvement of our overall quality of air, water, and land resources. The Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) recorded a higher survival rate of planted seedlings along with the achievement of forest cover target.

Good air quality index was also recorded among all six cities monitored namely Batac, Vigan, San Fernando, Urdaneta, Dagupan and San Carlos. Continued monitoring on the compliance of LGUs to the provisions of Republic Act (RA) No. 9003 or the Ecological Solid Waste Management Act of 2000 was also enforced. In 2021, there were 14 LGUs in the region provided with show cause orders relative to the closing of dumpsites. However, only 11 LGUs closed their dumpsites as I speak today. So, we are calling the attention of the other three LGUs to heed the order from the DENR EMB. We should work on what will not only work for us now but what is also working for the environment.

In terms of water quality, we are happy to inform our stakeholders that in 2021, the Bolo River System (BRS) in Ilocos Norte was designated as the fourth Water Quality Management Area (WQMA) in the region. We are also glad that the Bio Oxygen Demand (BOD) level in the three WQMAs earlier formed, the Sinocalan-Dagupan River System (SDRS) in Pangasinan, Naguilian River System (NRS) in La Union, and the Lower Amburayan River System (LARS) which traverses through La Union and Ilocos Sur are within the DENR Water Quality Guideline. However, the challenge remains in the target of reducing the fecal coliform level among the three WQMAs except for beaches along the coastal parts of Region 1, which is a good thing since our beaches serve as one of our tourist spots.

As we have opened our economy last year, let us keep in mind to implement our recovery strategies that will not only consider to boost and revitalize our economic development but also implement a paradigm shift towards a society that respects planetary boundaries that will ensure ecological integrity and health of our environment.

The immediate response towards economic and people-centered recovery has been evident in building a better normal for all as the sector posted a high performance in the attainment of the programs and projects in our Regional Recovery Program (RRP) particularly on the Philippine National Police’s (PNP) expanded coverage on contract tracing as the region faced an all-time high in COVID-19 cases. Also, additional workforce and establishment of more control points to closely monitor public compliance to minimum public health standards were set in place.

At present, dealing with the pandemic has become part of a comforting routine, but this should not be a reason to let our guards down specifically in our quest towards achieving peace and development. It has been my distinct pride that the region was among those declared 100 percent insurgent-free under the End Local Communist Armed Conflict (ELCAC) Program owing to the relentless efforts of various partners led by PNP’s “BarangaYANIHAN” Program which included the conduct of youth summits, the Kabataan Kontra Droga at Terrorismo (KKDAT) and Kalusugan Alay ng Pulis Para sa Inyong Anak (KAPPIA).

Accordingly, the Department of the Interior and Local Government (DILG) boosted ELCAC’s performance with the roll-out of 10 projects under the Barangay Development Program (BDP) that were implemented in two barangays in Ilocos Sur. The BDP aims to respond to the much needed assistance to former conflict-ridden communities such as the purchase and distribution of cattle fatteners for the 45 trained beneficiaries under the Farmer’s Livestock Training on Cattle Feedlot with after-training support; assistance to Indigent Individuals or Families through its Cash-for Work Program; construction of Farm-to-Market Roads; construction of school buildings and rehabilitation of Barangay Health Centers, among others. We hope that with these initiatives, our brothers and sisters who have returned to the folds of the law will serve as inspiration for others to realize a deeper sense of being part of the region’s progress.

There were also nine infrastructure projects implemented for the Communist Terrorist Groups – cleared barangays and 18 projects as part of the Infrastructure Projects for ELCAC under the General Appropriation Act Fiscal Year (GAA FY) 2021. Of the 27 projects, 26 projects were already completed and one project is still in the construction stage. These projects include construction or improvement of access roads, multi-purpose building, and rehabilitation or reconstruction of roads with slips, slope collapse, and landslide – tertiary roads.

Similarly, these activities leveled our feat to be able to keep track of the implementation of programs that helped decrease all forms of criminality and illegal drugs. It is noteworthy that our Crime Solution Efficiency Rate met its end-of plan target at 78.50 percent coupled with a decreasing trend of negative nine percentage points in the Total Volume of Crimes, a few knots away from the negative 10 percentage points on end-of plan target.

Moreover, good governance was manifested by the sustained efforts to ensure peoplecentered, clean and efficient governance by persistently stepping-up to capacitate the LGUs in their pivotal role to successfully embrace their devolved functions under the GarciaMandanas Ruling. Along this is the 100 percent compliance rate of the LGUs to the Full Disclosure Policy and the Adoption of Business Permits and Licensing System that assured transparent government especially at this time when high trust in the government is highly needed.

In terms of the competitiveness of the LGUs, all of the provinces in the region are in the top 20 of the 2021 rankings of provinces on Cities and Municipalities Competitive Index (CMCI). The ranking is based on the population and income weighted average of the overall scores of cities and municipalities of the province. La Union ranked 8th among all provinces in the country with a 36.4 score. Ilocos Norte and Pangasinan ranked 15th and 16th, respectively while Ilocos Sur ranked 19th. Furthermore, the Department of the Interior and Local Government (DILG) encouraged the LGUs to continue their compliance to the criteria of Seal of Good Local Governance (SGLG) despite its suspension in 2021.

Ways Forward
My friends, 2021 has been a beacon of hope for all of us. As they say, no matter what we are going through, there is always a light at the end of the tunnel. Yes, it may seem hard to get to it but we can do it! Let us just keep working together towards it and shall all emerge victorious..

We shall continue to implement strategies, programs and projects towards our common vision of a Matatag, Maginhawa at Panatag na Buhay, guided by our country’s 10-point policy agenda on economic recovery as envisioned under Executive Order No. 166. I am positive that we can ultimately condition our mindsets from a pandemic to an endemic paradigm shift in order to ensure that all our initiatives to recover from Covid19 are aligned with the measures of the national government’s pandemic response.

The interplay of economic measures alongside emerging priorities on innovation, regional equity, smart infrastructure and climate change will serve as major developments that will lay the foundation in setting the region for the next level of development through its formidable successor Regional Development Plan (RDP). At its core, the new RDP shall not only be anchored on translating national thrusts but shall significantly strengthen linkage with the needs of our LGUs and our thriving commitment to achieve the region’s vision.

Our experiences made us realize that it is high time to raise public service to the next level. We shall continue to prioritize our policy directions to further our region as we continue to bounce even greater. We shall continue building confidence through a more aggressive and sustained vaccination program and restore investor and consumer confidence to boost domestic demand. We shall not stop ramping up programs for our displaced workers, to the
poorest of the poor members of our populace, to the Micro Small and Medium Enterprises which are reviving little by little, and strengthen the development of ICT to be attuned to the new and better normal.

Let us all be reminded by this quote: “If you have a dream, don’t just sit there. Gather courage to believe that you can succeed and leave no stone unturned to make it a reality” by Dr Roopleen. Indeed, my dear friends and colleagues, let us continue dreaming and make them a reality. Let us continue making a difference not just for ourselves but for people – which after all, the true meaning of our existence!

Let us continue to work together in achieving greater heights for our region amidst the evolving needs of our community. Let us not be too complacent, instead, let us innovate and share ways that will help us overcome economic struggles at the same time allowing ourselves to enjoy the fruits of our labor.

Again, all these will not be made possible without our concerted efforts, driving as One region, as One people. I am deeply humbled to have been part of the Regional Development Council 1, and will continually to be grateful, not just as your Chairperson but as a friend and family, ever-supportive and fervently praying with you that all will be well.

As I end, I wish everyone to continue our legacy. To the next RDC Chairperson, my best wishes. May you continue the good works we had started. I am confident that Region 1 will truly be in good and even in better hands.

See you around!

Ipa-ay ko iti naipusuan nga panagyaman ko kadakayu amin. Naimbag a bigat ken Dios ti agngina kadatayu amin!