Monday, September 29, 2008 [ sunstar.com.ph ]
BACOLOR -- President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo formally signed into law Sunday the Bacolor Rehabilitation Council Act (BRCA), finally giving residents of this town the chance to see their beloved hometown rise from volcanic ashes.
Bacolor was buried in lahar and other volcanic debris since the eruption of Mt. Pinatubo in 1991.
The BRCA, which was signed by President Arroyo at the Don Honorio Ventura School of Arts and Trade (DHVCAT), the alma mater of her father former President Diosdado Macapagal, was authored by Gonzales in the lower chamber and sponsored by Senator Benigno "Noynoy" Aquino III, chairman of the Senate committee on local government, in the upper chamber.
Previously known as House Bill (HB) 3389, the law is tasked to draft a comprehensive rehabilitation plan for the town of Bacolor, which shall be submitted to the President for approval, and to meet regularly to evaluate the progress of the rehabilitation plan.
Under the law, the regional director of the National Economic and Development Authority (Neda)-Regional Office 3 would be tapped as chairperson and the Mayor of Bacolor as vice chairperson.
It shall shall be composed of the governor of Pampanga; the Region 3 directors of the Departments of Public Works and Highways (DPWH), Agriculture (DA), and Trade and Industry (DTI); the congressman of the third district of Pampanga or his authorized representative; the president of the Chamber of Commerce and Industries of Bacolor; and a representative each from the academe and a non-government organization's members.
In an interview with Third District Representative Aurelio "Dong" Gonzales after the signing ceremony, he revealed that P10 million was already appropriated for the design of the rehabilitation and around P300 million for the initial implementation of the law, concentrating mostly on infrastructure developments.
"This is a historic event, we surely hope that Bacolor can now rise from the ashes of Pinatubo and regain its former glory," Gonzales said.
Bacolor Mayor Romeo Dungca meantime expressed optimism that the bill would spark the needed development to attract the displaced population of the town to return.
It could be remembered that all but two of Bacolor's 21 towns were buried under tons of lahar at the height of the Pinatubo calamity. Most of the town residents have relocated to the various government-built resettlement sites in Pampanga.
The rehabilitation of this town, once regarded as the "Athens of Pampanga" and served as the capital of the Philippines during the Spanish colonial era and of the province, has been excruciatingly slow and unsubstantial due to a number of reasons, foremost among these is insufficient funds.
While several infrastructures, such as major roads, government centers and other public facilities have been restored or rebuilt, much of the town remains unoccupied by its people for lack of opportunities, such as jobs and livelihood and other basic amenities for community living.
Lina Payumo, 54, a resident here, said the new law is a welcome development after 17 years of the Pinatubo eruption. (IOF/With JMR/Sunnex)