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Sunday, February 19, 2017

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IT’S great to be home!

I am glad to have the opportunity to share my thoughts and opinions on a variety of subject matter here in Panay News.

While I am proud to have been born in Moriones , Tondo, I am equally proud to call this region my home on account of the fact that my father, Manuel Montalban Villar, Sr., was born in Iloilo. He hailed from the town of Cabatuan but went to Manila because of poverty.

So, welcome dear readers!


As many of you probably know, the Philippines assumed Chairmanship this year of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN). This is a great honor for us Filipinos. This gives us the chance to improve regional alliances in terms of security, economy, trade, among others.

But I also think that this is an opportunity for us, not just to showcase our country, but also to begin expanding development away from the National Capital Region (NCR) to the various provinces of the Philippines.

Metro Manila has historically been the center of the economic, political, sometimes even cultural developments of the country. In 2016, the Philippine Statistics Authority (PSA) reported that the NCR continues to have the largest share of the country’s Gross Domestic Product.

The NCR has, and continues to drive the growth of the economy. But this has resulted in inequity as growth is more concentrated in the capital. We need a more inclusive growth.

I was glad to see President Rodrigo Duterte, for instance, launching ASEAN 2017 in Davao and not in Metro Manila. I am also very happy to know that some of the important meetings will be held here in Western Visayas.

Boracay will host some meetings including the ASEAN Ministerial Meeting Retreat, the ASEAN Intergovernmental Commission on Human Rights and the ASEAN Committee on Migrant Workers.

Iloilo will host the meeting of the ASEAN Socio-Cultural Community Council, and several military and security meetings like the ASEAN Chiefs of Defense Forces Informal Meeting in March. Bacolod will also host a couple of events including the ASEAN Senior Officials Meeting.

The hosting of the ASEAN events, of course, does not automatically mean that centuries of overly centralized rule will just disappear, but I believe it is an important step. Together with executive actions and policy directions that this administration is taking, I am hopeful that we can spread the economic growth our country is experiencing.

I hope that the Duterte administration pushes through with its plans to start constructing the P21.67 billion Panay-Guimaras-Negros Bridge designed to spur development in the provinces of this region. We need to invest in infrastructure in order to increase economic activity.

It is encouraging that government and our allies abroad are also helping out. Last year, the Japanese government announced that it has turned over P126 million worth of completed farm-to-market roads, communal irrigation systems and equipment to farmers in the Western Visayas. This was done through the Agrarian Reform Infrastructure Support Project by the Japan International Cooperation Agency (Jica) and the Department of Agrarian Reform (DAR).

We, in the private sector, are also pitching in. In my recent visit, I announced that my company, Vista Land, will open a mall in Savannah City. We are also planning to construct a business-process outsourcing firm, hotel, amusement park and hospital.

This is an expansion to what we have already done in Savannah City—a masterplanned community following our vision of “communicities”, with several facilities and amenities such as 5 clubhouses with swimming pools, 4 basketball courts, 1 tennis court, jogging and biking paths, and numerous gazebos, parks and children’s playground.

With the potential of the Panay Region, government and the private sector needs to pour resources here and develop the area to become a major economic hub. Remember that the region posted one of the highest economic growth in 2015 growing at a rate of 8.3 per cent.

This way we ensure the decentralization of development, making growth more equitable and inclusive. If we accomplish this, we hit two birds with one stone: decongest the urban jungle that is Metro Manila and more importantly, spur economic growth in the other parts of the country./PN




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