Boholanos' spirit typifies upbeat mood in provinces
TAGBILARAN CITY — The upbeat mood sweeping Boholanos best explains the shifting public perception nationwide with regard to President Gloria Arroyo halfway through her six-year term.
Contrary to the latest survey of the Social Weather Stations and Pulse Asia — both under pressure to explain their polling techniques — on the poverty situation, most residents of this city and the rest of the island say that their lives have been improving on the Arroyo watch.
A recent survey in the province showed that 26 percent of Boholanos are optimistic that their lives would further improve in the next 12 months. More of them say they benefit from such Arroyo socio-economic programs as housing and access to power and water facilities.
Eight out of every 10 Boholano households, or about 84 percent, live in their own houses, and 63 percent own lots. The survey also showed that eight out of every 10 households have electricity, 55 percent have access to running water, and 67 percent own television sets, while 80 percent have radios.
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IMPRESSIONS: A visitor driving around the island readily notices the good roads, the clean surroundings, and the friendliness and improved well-being of the people. Also, while they aggressively promote tourism, they zealously protect the environment.
An improved 110-kilometer circumferential road costing P2.5 billion takes the visitor around the scenic island in six leisurely hours.
The main sources of livelihood are farming and fishing. But stepped-up economic activities have not spoiled the natural allure of this idyllic island whose fine beaches rival those of Boracay and such popular resorts in the Visayas.
As a result of the marked improvement in people’s lives, President Arroyo’s net satisfaction rating here has risen from +12 percent to +27 percent in a span of 12 months. Gov. Erico Aumentado enjoys a net satisfaction rating of +77 percent, an improvement of 6 percent over last year’s figure.
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TRICKLE-DOWN: The survey showed that both the President and the governor had a 99-percent awareness level among Bohol’s 700,000 voters.
The provincial government scored high on tourism promotion (+46 percent), protection of the environment (+46 percent), and attraction of investments (+20 percent).
These data seem to validate reports that the 24 quarters of nonstop economic expansion — traced to the reform measures taken since 2001 to strengthen macroeconomic fundamentals — are starting to flow down to the masa by way of the Arroyo “social payback” program.
But with the stepped-up economic activity on the island, a better airport has become a top item on the Boholanos’ wish list. The present airport has only a rough 1.8- kilometer landing strip.
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GRATITUDE: Most Boholanos we met explain their pro-administration stance by saying they are a grateful people. They thank the President for infrastructure and social programs that have improved their lives. They do not like obstructionism.
(During our field assessment here, btw, we purposely did not talk to any local or national official or any of their campaigners.)
Given the rallying peso, lower deficit, more manageable inflation, greater foreign direct investments and other positive economic indicators, the government now has more funds for infrastructure and social services such as basic education, primary health care and socialized housing.
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PAYBACK TIME: On “social payback,” Eastern Samar Gov. Ben Evardone, the administration Team Unity’s media director, was telling the press in ManIla that that is the main reason why TU will swamp the Genuine Opposition (GO) ticket in the May 14 elections.
Ben said the central issue now is whether voters want to slide back to the past by voting for GO candidates who have derailed economic growth or march on to a brighter future by voting for TU candidates committed to further progress and political stability.
Team Unity’s legislative agenda, he added, supports the President’s “8 by ‘08” social payback program. “More and more voters,” he said, “are realizing the importance of having a Congress that will be a partner of Malacañang in sustaining the pace of economic expansion.”
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BOHOL’S BET: Also, now I see more clearly why TU senatorial candidate Cesar “Buboy” Montano is obsessed with promoting tourism with the use of media, especially film. (This multi-awarded actor-director hails from Baclayon town not far from here.)
Bumping into Buboy last week at the Mactan-Cebu International Airport, we got to talking about his leap from the movies to politics. In-between his greeting and posing for pictures with excited voters, he explained to me his platform.
He dwelled on his plan to open in selected places abroad assistance centers for Overseas Filipino Workers and to produce quality films to subliminally lure foreign tourists to the Philippines.
Both projects, he pointed out, are related to livelihood and jobs, which are gut concerns of Filipinos in search of more ways to boost their family income.
There was a time during the campaign, he admitted, when he considered backing out because of its being too expensive. But the more he studied the economic needs of Filipino workers here and abroad, the more Buboy felt compelled to seek a Senate seat to be in a better position to help.