Friday, 25 April 2014

Mambulaowatch: A chat with Meyor Dong

 Meyor Dong with an elderly whose paralyzed husband will get this wheelchair.
 Answering an argent call
The mayor browsing aerial shots of Mambulao Bay.


“MAY utang ako sa’yo Kuya Fred …(I owe you one)”, Meyor Dong preambled immediately after we shook hands.

Just minutes ago, as soon as the two security at his residence in Motherlode saw me at the lobby, they gestured their boss was having a meeting at the moment but should be done with it in a sec.

As expected, the two early morning callers – kagawad Artem Andaya and Kapitana Leday Aler – emerged from the door of the good mayor’s basement lair, prompting one of the security to signal for me to come in.

Kapitana Leday whispered that we should meet during the week before I returned to Manila.

Artem just smiled, knowing that he had already given me his story on the Parang beach clean-up.

It was early Maundy Thursday and Meyor Dong opted to entertain callers at home instead of at his office at the town hall.
In a short while, he was to journey to Daet for an important meeting with an ally. 

The utang that he was referring to was the stalled completion of a social center in Larap for the baranggay’s Senior Citizens.

“It will be done in three-months’time and construction will start shortly … I will sign the release of the funds on Monday.(On Easter Monday, he signed it in my presence.)

Our chat was supposed to be brief, but knowing Meyor Dong, I knew he would slip the time for an opportunity to expound on his favorite subject: the development of Mambulao under his stewardship.

So we decided to sit it out, while he signed papers that his staff brought in before office hours could close for the Holy Week.

He anticipated my next subject and did not give me the chance to raise it. 

Instead, he volunteered.

“The Department of Public Works (DPW) will resume the Larap road project next month (May) … it’s just waiting to have all the equipment on site.

“The project is being funded by the Department of Tourism (DOT),” he said, adding that he was able to secure at least P20 million last year to cover the 2km stretch plus a portion leading to the mothballed airport in Larap.

The LGU, he said, will build the road to Sta Elena from Larap under a funding from the Department of Agriculture.

I told him that should he complete the Parang-Larap road concreting, it would be as if he’d completed the road program he laid down in 2010 when he first assumed the mayor’s job.

“They could say that, but our job is to have more farm-to-market roads.”

He said that the Nakalaya bridge was done and the one in Sta Cruz will soon be completed. 

The bridged road will cut the travel time to Mambulao through the shortcut concrete road from the Maharlika Highway in Labo that will cut through San Jose.

“Instead of passing through Talubatib for a roundabout drive to Mambulao via Batubalane, the San Jose diversion road will cut travel time to Mambulao via Larap by an hour.”

On Easter Monday, he was working as usual – attending to the nitty gritty woes and problems brought by his callers, seeking solution from the mayor himself.

An elderly from Purok 7 in Parang came next for an audience, and after listening to her, Meyor Dong called for his assistant – the one in charge of the municipal assistance program for the less-privileged, who was stationed at the entranced of his office.

Soon enough, a wheelchair – a brand-one unit – was brought in by another assistant.

Meyor Dong turned it over to the old lady, who requested it for her husband.

Her 90-year-old husband has gone paraliyzed after suffering a bad stroke.

With this as my cue, I began working my camera to record an important event taking place at the mayor’s office.

More problems came in and solutions were dispensed with.
Now, he called for another assistant and asked him to arramge a meeting with the purok chairmen in Parang and Plaridel. 

These puroks are actually those that sit along the mangrove river where households were dumping their trash into the water.

He also asked for the purok chairmen along Parang beach to be present.

Meyor Dong said: Let’s gather them because I will ask them what they could do to help push Parang as another tourist spot.

Just before 12 struck, he had finished attending to his callers. 

Time to close the door for a nice lunch brought in by his favorite caterer – a 40-year-old mother who cooks his daily lunch and brings it to his office in several Tupperware containers.

Today, it was tinomok, pritong isda, adobong manok, ginisang sitao, sinigang na baboy. 

I went only for the tinomok, a dish that I had last year at Lolo Umpong’s in Atimonan during our drive to Mambulao from Metro Manila.

Over lunch he told me what was going on in Mambulao, but reminded me the law and order stuff and another issue were off the record.

No problem. I wanted to hear them.

So he told me.

What was the one on the record, anyway?

Meyor Dong snatched my notebook and ball pen.

“We will not stop until the beach in Parang gets the treatment it truly deserves.” He said.

“We will build cottages along the beach which would be looked after by youth who shall be organized.

Whatever income the facility makes from rent, we will split, he said.

White picket fences will be erected as perimeter line separating the beach area from the rows of shanties and houses. And in between these picket fences about 10 meters long would rise posts with globe-bulbs to illuminate the place at night.

Evening beach strollers would love this, he said.
The standard beach facilities would be erected and these included public shower, toilets and rubbish bins.

Beach watchers would be posted with back up from selected residents along the shoreline.

Beach volleyball would be promoted as one activity that beach goers could busy themselves with aside from carving shapes on the beach sand.

A floating morning coffee cottage would also feature, and this one could be rented out to interested entrepreneur.

“I’m sure many would love to have a nice cup on the floating cottage while enjoying the morning breeze,” Meyor Dong said.

A boulevard traversing along the beach was first brought up to MWBuzz by a municipal engineer in 2012.

Now it looks like this will push through.

Meyor Dong said as he sketched something on my notepad:
“These three shanties at the tip of the squatter line touching Larap road will be the first to go.

The opening will pave the way for the boulevard that will run along the beach up to the poblacion.

It will be dotted with globe-bulbs that will light up the entire stretched at night. It is envisioned as an evening walk way for strollers wanting to enjoy the breeze from the bay.

Right now, the sand from the lower side of the beach = that portion touching the water but dry at low tide would be shovelled and hauled off to the upper side of the beach to dry.

Later, it would be sifted for debris such as broken glasses and others, and put back to where they were taken.

Meanwhile, many kids have volunteered to sift the sand for harmful objects, which could take long considering the beach area.

But anyway, the beach sand is being sanitized and the white powdery grains are coming back.

On social programs, Meyor Dong will intensify the LGU’s livelihood projects under the GPBP, or the Grassroots Participatory Budget Process where funding have been secured or in the process of getting approved.

At the moment, there are five projects with a total funding of P500,000, namely:

1) Crab fattening in cages to be set up Larap-Calambayungan. A three-year project, it received a P100,000 funding and will benefit qualified residents in Larap and Calambayungan.

2) Solar salt project in Salvacion and Dalahican. These two barangays have been chosen for their crystal-clear seawaters.

3) Tilapia fish cages at the man-made lagoon at the open pit in Larap. A backyard tilapia project will launch in San Pedro with the recipients being identified by the Department of Agriculture (CamNorte).

4) Pushcart livelihood project. This will be revived and will initially benefit 10 households.

5) Tinapa-making in Baranggay Osmena, with a P100,000 funding to be carried out in eight months’ time.

6) Pinyahan farms in San Pedro, Luklukan and San Jose which would require a total of 30,000 suckers. The San Pedro project is underway and has attracted a group of investors who will put up a local plant to dehydrate ripe Formosa pineapple for export.

7) Handicraft project (1. Garment making – T-shirts, sports, office and school uniforms; 2. Bags making using recyclable materials. The project will rise in San Pedro, San Martin, Sta Cruz and San Jose.

Meyor Dong said the LGU will modernize the primary hospital and the Rural Health Unit (RHU) will soon receive lying patients and birthing. 

He is working to have the local RHU accredited with PhilHealth.

He said he will expand the libreng gamut program alongside free ambulance service.

One major focus will be the continued eradication of malnutrition among the poor children, more push for hygiene and sanitation and an intensified drive to reduce TB incidence.

The libreng gamut program will help in this drive.

Meyor Dong said: All these efforts are aimed at fleshing out a goal that I launched when I assumed my second term which is summed up by our battle cry “Bridging gap, changing lives”.

“We’re getting there,” he said.

He showed me a laptop video of Mabulao Bay and the mangrove area at the backyard of Parang.

"There will be a major transformation in this area," and he explained why it was so.

The mangrove river will undergo a much needed rehab, he said, which would affect many houses on its banks.

This is the only way to prevent another flooding in Parang and in Plaridel.

But in any case, the river banks would transform into another concrete pathways, similar the ones we did on creeks in Plalridel.

On the law and order problem, the mayor described their recent efforts to deal with the issue, but requested not to report it, so as not to jeopardize the initiative.

“We’ve noticed that what we have been doing these past few weeks has been a big deterrent to lawlessness and we will sustain it,” Meyor Dong said.

"The community can rest assured that the safety and welfare of the citizens will remain the LGU’s major concern and we are working hard to achieve this.

“I’ll see to it that all that we have laid down are done by end of 2019.”

Then he winked at me.

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