THE LAUNCHING of commercial flights to Borongan City, capital of Eastern Samar, will spur economic growth in one of the country’s poorest provinces that is positioning to become the surfing hub in central Philippines and aims to attract more private investments, its governor said.
“This is a leap forward in our desire to put the province, city in the world map of tourism and economic development,” Governor Ben P. Evardone said during the recent live-streamed signing ceremony for the operation of Philippine Airline (PAL) flights to Borongan starting Dec. 19.
The twice weekly flights are between Cebu and Borongan, and scheduled to allow for connecting flights between Cebu and Manila.
“This will be a catalyst, definitely a major boost to our united efforts to promote the province as a haven for (tourists) and investments,” he added.
Mr. Evardone said in August that the next three years of his administration is geared towards bringing in investments and other support from the private sector as public funds are tight in the wake of the coronavirus pandemic.
“We should tap and harness our partnership with the private sector to assist us and make them involved with our end goals,” he told other local leaders as they gathered to draft the executive and legislative agenda for 2022-2025.
“What I will focus on in my second term of administration is to mobilize the resources not only from the government,” he said, “Because of the crisis due to COVID-19 pandemic, our tax collection of the national government is very low, that’s why the National Tax Allotment of the Local Government Units was also affected.”
Eastern Samar was cited by the Philippine Statistics Authority in an Oct. 14 release as having one of the most significant improvements in poverty incidence with the 2021 level dropping to 29.4% from 40.9% in 2018.
The province, however, still had the highest poverty incidence among the six provinces in the Eastern Visayas Region.
Mr. Evardone assured PAL officials that the local government will pursue programs to ensure the viability of air services.
“We will try to mobilize all our resources to make this partnership a success because the success of this partnership will be the resounding success for the province and the people of Eastern Samar,” he said.
AIRPORT UPGRADEEastern Samar Rep. Maria Fe R. Abunda said she will push for government funding to improve the Borongan Airport, including expansion of the runway to accommodate bigger planes.
“We are looking forward to the upgrades of the airport so we can fly Airbus planes in the near future,” PAL Vice President for Sales Salvador Britanico, Jr. said at the signing ceremony held in Manila earlier this week.
The PAL flights were initially targeted for launch in November in time for Borongan City’s Surf in the City Festival from Nov. 26-Dec. 3, which also serves as the 3rd leg of this year’s national surfing tour.
However, the plan was pushed back as the airport still had to fully comply with safety regulations set by the Civil Aviation Authority of the Philippines and PAL, according to Borongan City Information Officer Ruperto L. Ambil.
Borongan City Mayor Jose Ivan C. Agda said they plan to make the event an annual activity in line with the objective of developing internationally competitive surfers.
“The city government will not just abandon this program. We intend to institutionalize this,” he said at the Surf in the City opening ceremony.
“That’s the very purpose why we are also holding a Sports Summit next year, because we intend to institutionalize everything,” the mayor said.
The ongoing festival is organized by the United Philippine Surfing Association and Surfriders Club of Eastern Samar with support from local governments, Philippine Olympic Committee, Philippine Sports Commission, MVP Sports Foundation, Inc., Tanduay, and NextGen Foundation, according to the city government.
Eastern Samar faces the Philippine Sea, which forms part of the Pacific Ocean. Aside from Borongan, there are also surf camps in Calicoan Island in the southern part of the province. — Marifi S. Jara