LINGAYEN, Pangasinan -- No past governor can probably match the kind of passion, the zeal and the hard work that Gov. Amado T. Espino, Jr. has exerted to accomplish landmark infrastructures and introduce cultural transformation within one year and seven months.
This was stressed by Provincial Administrator Rafael Baraan during a press conference at the government-owned Capitol Resort Hotel to refute a published story that the governor was failing in his works in local governance.
The Espino administration, despite the inherited problems that apparently had caused the province’s growth rate to nosedive during the past five years, was able to embark on a multi-layered development agenda that dramatically reversed the situation, Baraan said.
Before Espino assumed the governorship, the province was reeling from a 27.6 percent poverty incidence rate, the highest in the Ilocos region, which was further snagged by a dismal unemployment rate of 13 percent “there being no industries and no job opportunities,” the provincial administrator pointed out.
“I had served two previous administrations, but it’s only now that the provincial leadership is instituting reforms never before imagined,” Baraan, a graduate in B.S. Economics at the University of Sto. Tomas and the Asian Institute of Management (AIM), said.
Baraan was provincial development and planning officer under Gov. Aguedo Agbayani and served as executive director of the Pangasinan Provincial Devclopment Foundation, Inc. (PPDFI) during the term of Gov. Rafael Colet.
In just 19 months, the Espino administration transformed the sprawling 13-hectare provincial capitol complex into an alluring tourism facility, featuring elegant narra-paneled air-conditioned offices, a vast expanse of manicured crawling green lawns, litter-free road pavements and bricks-layered boardwalks and well-kept beachfront..
As a priority undertaking, Baraan said the governor renovated the buildings to clusterize inter-related functionaries, thus making business transactions with the public clientele more systematic and convenient.
The capitol building, he said, has been cited as the “best capitol building in the country.”
To professionalize services, the governor also set up a policy on order, discipline and ethics among provincial employees, requiring them to be in proper attire and uniform.
Considered perennial problems during the past decades, the new provincial leadership mounted campaigns to flush out insurgent elements, cattle rustlers and other organized crime syndicates engaged in robbery-holdups and burglary.
Big-time jueteng operators who have been siphoning out of the province millions in bets, have also been neutralized, leaving behind local “guerilla players” taking the risk of raids and arrests, the provincial official noted, even as he expressed hopes these groups will soon be dismantled with the cooperation of the various mayors in whose towns the illegal numbers game is played.
Baraan said the provincial government renovated dilapidated hospitals and decrepit agricultural facilities to make them fully serviceable to the public.
Under Espino’s leadership, Pangasinan has been adjudged a “model in good governance in the country” by a joint technical team for health services of the European Commission (EC) and the Department of Health (DOH) owing to the radical overhaul and rehabilitation of the 14 provincial government hospitals.
With the governor’s “universal enrolment” thrust in Philhealth that now covers more than 126,000 heads of indigent families or a total of 630,000 beneficiaries, Pangasinan is now the country’s top Philhealth card provider and was ranked second nationwide in the implementation of the Fourmula One for Health program..
Meanwhile, Pangasinan Police Director, Sr. Supt. Percival Barba reported that crime incidents have gone down by 25 percent, compared to last year’s record following the issuance of shotguns to the barangay captains.
While Baraan lamented that “it is very unfortunate that Archbishop Cruz doesn’t seem to appreciate the efforts of the governor,” he, however, asked the church leader “to be fair and not to wantonly destroy the name and reputation of well-meaning and hard-working public servants.” (PIO/Chona C. Bugayong)