THE Negros Occidental Provincial Government will prioritize this year programs on health and human development under the 11-point agenda of Governor Alfredo Marañon Jr.

Marañon said Tuesday there is still a need to improve the Negros Occidental Comprehensive Health Insurance Program (NOCHP) to help more Negrenses.

He noted that 212,000 families in the province have been enrolled in the program and more than 200,000 patients have benefitted in a span of five years.

The governor said there’s also a need to train more young people on new skills because the business process outsourcing (BPO) sector lacks workforce.

He said his administration will prioritize Information Technology-BPO this year, as he noted that more BPO firms are expected to come in.

‘More challenging’

Marañon said that 2017 will be a challenging year as the local economy and tourism industry are improving.

“I think 2017 is more challenging for Negros with a lot of promises," he said.

The improving economy of the province can be gauged in the influx of Negrenses in malls and restaurants, which means that people have money to spend, the governor said.

He dismissed the apprehension of the business sector on the series of fuel price increases, high dollar rates, and looming higher interest rates.

“Businessmen are always losing because they are afraid of the BIR (Bureau of Internal Revenue). How can they say they are losing when commercial buildings keep on rising? There is a construction boom. If they are losing they may have to close their shops,” the governor pointed out.

He said the peace and order in the province has also improved, with less reported crimes because everyone’s attitude may have changed.

Still, peace and order is the main priority because an improved economy cannot be only achieved if the people’s security is stable, he added.

‘Work harder’

Marañon urged the Capitol employees to work harder to make the province a more progressive one.

He made this call during the flag-raising ceremony held at the Negros Occidental Multi-Purpose Activity Center in Bacolod City Tuesday, their first day of work this year.

He also thanked the Provincial Government workers for their collective efforts that contributed to the betterment of the province.

“Life is short, but with all our prayers, we can achieve more,” he said.

The governor asked for continued prayers for the retention of the Negros Island Region (NIR).

He said that Negros Occidental is one of the most progressive provinces in the country and that more investors are coming in.

“We must thank God for the countless blessings he gave to our province and to our families as well,” he added. (With reports from MPE)