“Communicating hope and trust in our time.”

- Pope Francis

Hoping for the best

IT is very consoling when, for a change, we hear local news like, “Duterte seeks congress nod for 50M fund for Dolores port”. Or this, “CAAP allocates fund for Borongan Airport”. Suddenly, a ray of hope appears in the horizon.

In the latest interview with acting governor Marcelo Ferdinand Picardal, he said that the provincial government will be coming up with strategies to ensure that indigent patients will get free medicine. When it comes to health it is doubly tragic when you get sick and you happen to be poor. You are left to buy your own medicine and fend for your survival. A very poor girl who was sideswiped by a car last January had to buy even her bandage and the minutest first-aid application at the Eastern Samar Provincial Hospital. Worse, she had to be referred to Tacloban because the main hospital of the provincial government in Borongan City is not capable of treating a bone fracture. This is the reason why private clinics are popping up in Borongan and in other towns because the provincial government is incapable—despite, presumably, a heavy annual budget. This is also the reason why people line up daily at the small medicine dispensary of the Oikos Sisters.

Pitiable is the case of those with kidney problem. They go to Tacloban a couple of times a week for a simple dialysis which is just an ordinary medical procedure using a very common equipment that the provincial government has not yet procured since Abraham. This is misery of miseries. One cannot imagine why the provincial government of Eastern Samar cannot afford to buy a simple dialysis machine. One can neither imagine why a private hospital near the provincial government’s hospital is reportedly better equipped.

What Picardal said is very telling. He was quoted, “Next year the budget for medicines will increase to P50M, hopefully we won’t be having the same problems we have now.” Well, that amounts to just about P136,986.00 per day. If you divide that to several hospitals under the care of the provincial government in the entire province of Eastern Samar that leaves you with just a handful of paracetamol.

This aside, the Acting Governor made an assurance that the leadership of the provincial government will do its best to bring the government closer to the people. Once the renovation of the provincial capitol is done, and he is still the acting governor, he “will hold office at the lobby to see to it that the concerns of the common people will be answered immediately.” That is commendable—when it happens, of course.

The rise or fall of a political entity like a province depends largely on its political leaders. This is not to say, however, that the citizenry who decides whom to vote (or better, whom to sell their votes) to a political position has not part in the ball game. They have; and quite significantly. But it is the political leader who decides which fund or project to catch or to snatch. They are also the ones who decide who and how big will be hacked from the S.O.P. In this province, when a poor chap gets elected to an office two things always happens. One, he or she stays long or keeps trying to stay longest. Two, he or she will be transformed to luxury—new or better house or houses, more cars and a louder lifestyle. At the barber or parlor chat, the common logic is, when one’s life gets suddenly better off than the rest, he is touted of being either a politician or a drug trader—or both.

It’s time to stop blaming the typhoons for the poverty of Eastern Samar. There are provinces in the Philippines which also slouch on the typhoon path but they are definitely more economically progressive. Bicol is one example. Quezon is another.

In the latest data issued by the Philippine Statistics Authority (PSA), Region XIII or Eastern Visayas comes second to the Autonomous Region of Muslim Mindanao (ARMM) in the highest rate of poverty incidence. ARMM registered the highest poverty incidence among all provinces nationwide with 59% in the first half of 2015. Eastern Visayas posted the second highest in poverty incidence at 47.3% or 1.9% higher than the 45.4% recorded in 2012, a year before Super Typhoon Yolanda.

When one is down, there is no other way but up. It’s really consoling to think that one day, Eastern Samar will be as flourishing as its neighbors. If young age and idealism is any factor, then this province, with its mostly young political leaders, has something to hope for.

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