BARUGO, a quaint town in the province of Leyte, is “adaptive and resilient” amid the challenges brought by the global health crisis.

Mayor Ma. Rosario “Macel” Avestruz, the second woman to become the town’s chief executive, said that this became possible because Barugonons or the locals have “held on, united, and fought back” despite the threat of the coronavirus disease (Covid-19) pandemic, which already brought many other places to their knees.

As Barugo celebrated its 450th founding anniversary this year, Avestruz presented the annual accomplishments of the local government “to instill integrity, accountability, and transparency.”

“Like many other municipalities, LGU-Barugo planned ahead, taking into consideration all factors to achieve the elusive dream of development...Despite the struggles to keep Covid-19 at bay, LGU-Barugo continued its programs and projects for the benefit of Barugonons,” said Avestruz, who is undeterred in her vision to bring social and economic development in her town.

LGU-Barugo, a fourth-class municipality with 37 barangays and a population of over 30,000, is operating on a total budget of P122,448,903 for the calendar year 2020.

Of the total budget, 92.5 percent or P113,348,903 is coming from the national budget in the form of Internal Revenue Allotment (IRA), while 7.5 percent or equivalent to P9,100,000 came from the local income.

“Small as it may seem, the local income of LGU-Barugo has been steadily increasing, from P7,500,199.61 in 2016 to P9,074,413.97 in 2019. For this year, the local income as of October 2020 amounted to P7,360,459.16,” said Avestruz.

“A decrease in local income was expected because of the Covid-19 pandemic,” she added.

The mayor also acknowledged the “compelling, untiring, and enduring support” of the Municipal Council, which hastened the delivery of basic services and implementation of different programs and projects” in her administration.

The Municipal Council, headed by Vice Mayor Josephine Tiu, has already passed and approved 198 resolutions and 24 ordinances this year.

“These legislative actions were timely and crucial for the delivery of basic services. Needless to say, the prompt yet deliberate response of the Sangguniang Bayan has kept the ball rolling for the LGU,” said Avestruz.

These ordinances and resolutions include the revised Gender and Development Code of the Municipality; Municipal Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Plan; No Smoking Policy; Children’s Code; and the formulation of the Municipal Fishery Ordinance, which help restore Carigara Bay and improve the income of the fisherfolk.

According to the mayor, the Municipal Council also extended its support through the passing of critical policies necessary for the prevention and containment of Covid-19.

People-centered development

“Development starts with the development of the people. For the social sector, LGU-Barugo envisioned people empowerment, gender equality and development, improved protective services, and improved well-being and socioeconomic conditions,” Avestruz said.

One of the “creative ways” introduced by the local government unit to continue its delivery of social services amid the health crisis is phone consultation.

“Barugonons who seek medical attention need not go to the Rural Health Unit for consultation because physicians of LGU-Barugo will conduct consultation and assessment through phone to eliminate the risks of being inflicted with the deadly Covid-19,” the mayor said.

LGU-Barugo has also acquired a new Rescue Service Vehicle through the Provincial Government of Leyte.

Barugo belonged to the top five among the 40 municipalities in Leyte in terms of efficient distribution of the national government’s Social Amelioration Program (SAP).

Also, it successfully distributed the social pension of the elderlies for 2019.

In terms of educational support, LGU-Barugo, along with the Sangguniang Kabataan Federation and the Liga ng mga Barangay, donated risograph machine, eight units of flat screen televisions, and boxes of bond papers for the reproduction of learning modules and for digital/video presentations.

The support of LGU-Barugo toward the rehabilitation of drug personalities in the municipality also continued despite the pandemic, according to Avestruz.

Livelihood opportunities

“The goal of LGU-Barugo is economic prosperity through tourism, competitive employment and livelihood opportunities, and enhanced agricultural productivity and profitability,” said the mayor.

As an agricultural town, LGU-Barugo is committed to giving support to farmers and fisherfolk.

For 2020, the local government unit has distributed 2,028 bags of palay seeds to 1,398 farmer beneficiaries to enhance rice competitiveness.

Four farmer associations in the town also received nine farm machineries, to include floating tillers, 4WD tractor, rice transplanter, and combined harvester.

Avestruz also led in the distribution of 500 drying nets to 500 farmer beneficiaries.

At least 36 farmer beneficiaries received 62 bags of corn seeds.

Another assistance given to corn farmers were 153 bags of complete fertilizers, 10 bags of open-pollinated variety of corn seeds, and 25 bags of hybrid yellow corn seeds to identified corn farmers, according to the mayor.

A total of 7,500 Tilapia fingerlings were extended to nine farmer beneficiaries who wanted to augment their sources of income.

As additional assistance, LGU-Barugo distributed 8,154 sachets of assorted vegetable seeds while an urban garden demo farm was established “to encourage Barugonons living in the Poblacion to plant vegetables as alternative food source in this time of pandemic.”

Help for displaced sectors

Avestruz admitted that livelihoods “were directly affected and devastated” following the quarantine restrictions due to Covid-19.

To help the displaced workers, the mayor initiated the provision of livelihood assistance for the affected sectors.

At least 300 displaced transport drivers were provided cash assistance by the LGU in the amount of P500.

Also, 85 displaced public utility drivers of Barugo became beneficiaries of the Tulong Pangkabuhayan para sa Ating Displaced Workers-Bahay Ko, Barangay Ko, Disinfection Ko (Tupad-BKBK) Program.

They received P3,600 each as their salary for the disinfection of their own homes for 10 days, the mayor said.

Tupad-BKBK is a program of the Department of Labor and Employment (DOLE)-Eastern Visayas in coordination with the Office of the Leyte Second District Congresswoman Lolita Karen Javier.

The mayor, however, said that under the regular Tupad program, 620 individuals were identified as beneficiaries.

A total of P3,177,500 were downloaded to the LGU-Barugo to provide for the salaries, tools and equipment of the beneficiaries.

“These were of substantial help to the families of the beneficiaries,” Avestruz said.

Through the DOLE-Eastern Visayas and Department of Industry (DTI)-Leyte, five beneficiaries of the Balik Probinsya Program received Pangkabuhayan Showcase” for their rice retailing business and sari-sari stores, wmicro small medium enterprises in the municipality became recipients of DTI-Leyte’s livelihood seeding program.

The Barugo Integrated Carpenters and Fisherfolks Association, Barugo Pedicab Drivers Association, and the Barugo Sewer’s Association were also given livelihood assistance by the LGU, benefitting 120 individual members.

They received fishing gears, pedicabs, and contract of service as part of the livelihood assistance.

LGU-Barugo intensified its self-employment enhancement assistance program to returning locally stranded individuals (LSIs) by providing them trainings on Carpentry NC II and Electrical Installation and Maintenance NC II.

At least 30 LSIs were being assisted for them to “start anew and rebuild their dreams.”

Resilient infrastructure, utilities and facilities

Avestruz announced some of the major accomplishments of LGU-Barugo in infrastructure development.

These projects include the construction of Building 2 at the Barugo Integrated Transport Terminal worth P2.9 million, to provide adequate station to the increasing number of public utility vehicles and commuters in the town; construction of the River Esplanade along Himanglos River in Poblacion District 1, which provides an “enjoyable and refreshing environment” to the locals; and rehabilitation of the concrete pavement in front of the Public Dry Market building.

The newly-constructed two-story commercial building located within the premises of the Barugo Integrated Transport Terminal in Poblacion District 1 also created “excitement” among the town residents.

“Towering proudly, its modern design signals that Barugo is now ready for the next level,” said Avestruz of the P6.2 million worth of new structure funded by the Provincial Government.

“Financially, LGU-Barugo does not have the capability to allocate funds for all of its major development projects. However, it does not hinder the administration to source out funds from national government agencies and other groups and institutions so that they will be implemented,” said Avestruz in her State of the Municipality Address on November 3, 2020.

In support to the transportation development, the mayor has asked the assistance of the DPWH 2nd Leyte Engineering District, through the office of RepresentativeJavier, for the concreting of some key road networks in the town, while the reblocking of the San-Miguel-Barugo Provincial Road is underway, through the help of Leyte Governor Leopoldo Dominico Petilla.

Among the completed road projects are concreting of farm-to-market road in Sitio Pamongsoran, Barangay Bukid worth P5 million; concreting of access road along Barangay Tutug-an and Barangay Amahit worth P10 million; construction/improvement of access roads leading to Trades, Industries and Ecozones in Barangay Minuhang-Balud road and Barangay Balud-Duka road worth P420 million.

“Funded under the Roll-It Program of the DTI and DPWH, the completion of this project will open the doors for investors to invest in our economic zone,” said Avestruz.

Funded by the Department of Interior and Local Government (DILG), under the Salintubig Project, expansion of Level II Water System in Barangay Tutug-an worth P3 million was also completed, according to the mayor.

“People of Barangay Tutug-an is now enjoying a clean drinking water within their reach,” she said.

“Also completed was the expansion of Level III Water System from Barangay San Roque to Barangay Sta. Rosa. However, the latter has not yet been tapped by the water service provider,” Avestruz added.

“As part of its development plans, LGU-Barugo has been providing financial assistance to all barangays of the Municipality for the implementation of its felt-need infrastructure programs and projects,” said Avestruz.

Among the completed infrastructure projects under this program were the construction of lined ditch canal in Barangay Poblacion District 1; expansion of drainage canal in Barangay Caboloan; construction of pathway in Barangay Guindaohan; construction of pathwalk to Sitio Rawis in Barangay Pikas; installation of barangay street lights in Sitio Murupuro in Barangay Cabarasan; installation of barangay street lights in Sitio Cabongaan, Barangay Roosevelt; construction of pathwalk in Barangay Santarin; installation of jetmatic pumps in Barangay Tutug-an; construction of pathway to Zone 3 in Barangay Domogdog; rehabilitation of grouted rip-rap in Barangay Ibag; and expansion of multi-purpose hall in Poblacion District VI.

On infrastructure-supports for disaster preparedness and mitigation, the mayor announced the completion of the flood control structures along Himanglos River in Barangay Santarin and Hilaba worth P30 million.

“Funded by DPWH, this will provide the needed protection of the people living near the river,” she said.

With P12 million funding from the Provincial Government of Leyte, Phase 1 of the construction of covered courts-cum-evacuation centers has also started in Barangay Can-isak, Amahit, Cabarasan, Minuswang, Pongso, and Balire.

LGU-Barugo also completed the construction of the P2.650 million worth of Material Recovery Facility for non-biodegradable processing equipment in Barangay Bukid.

According to the mayor, the fund source for this project is the Performance Challenge Fund, an incentive given by DILG to LGU-Barugo for getting the Seal of Good Local Governance Award.

“Currently, the LGU is strongly campaigning for waste segregation at source, an effective initial step towards solid waste management,” she added.

As part of its green environment initiative, the town successfully launched the EcoBrick Program where shredded plastic wrappers put in a plastic bottle are traded with food packs.

From March 2020 until September 2020, LGU-Barugo has already traded 1,625 ecobricks for 304 food packs.

To protect the shorelines from illegal structures, encroachment, Avestruz held dialogue meetings with the illegal settlers and came up with a “win-win solution” to the issue.

LGU-Barugo has continued its Bantay Dagat Operations and launched the Carigara Bay Alliance, an alliance of municipalities bound to protect the Bay which has been considered by the LGU as “one of the greatest natural resources providing livelihood to the constituents of the 10 coastal barangays.”

While it has been a “very challenging year” for the LGU-Barugo, its leaders and constituents “seemingly managed to be one step closer to their goals through hard work, determination, team work, and collaboration.”

“Barugo has still a long way to go, however, little by little, inch by inch, Barugo will definitely reach its goals,” said Avestruz. (SunStar Philippines)