By Filane Mikee Cervantes and Zaldy De Layola

AID DISTRIBUTION. House of Representatives Speaker Ferdinand Martin G. Romualdez leads the ceremonial distribution of relief packs to 700 fire victims at Mendoza Park in Puerto Princesa Palawan on Friday (March 1, 2024). About PHP12 million worth of assistance was provided to indigents and fire victims in Puerto Princesa City through the programs of the Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD) and other donors. (Photo courtesy of the Speaker’s office)

MANILA – Indigents and fire victims in Puerto Princesa City on Friday received about PHP12 million worth of assistance from the Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD) and other contributors.

House of Representatives Speaker Martin Romualdez, the designated caretaker of the 3rd congressional district of Palawan, led the distribution of assistance to more than 2,200 beneficiaries under the Cash and Rice Distribution (CARD) program at the Provincial Capitol Convention Center.

Each beneficiary received PHP3,000 cash aid from the DSWD, along with 5 kg. of rice from the Office of the House Speaker, for a total package of about PHP7 million.

Romualdez said the presence of the beneficiaries in the event demonstrates the innate fortitude of Filipinos and their determination to overcome hardships and adversity, as he pledged to ensure to support and uplift the community during these trying times as the legislative caretaker of Palawan’s 3rd District.

Umasa po kayong mga taga-Puerto Princesa na ang inyong lingkod ay kasama ninyo sa lahat ng pagsubok na dadaanan. At gagawin natin ang lahat, ayon sa batas upang maiabot ang inyong mga pangangailangan tungo sa sabay-sabay nating pag-unlad (I assure you, citizens of Puerto Princesa, that I will be with you in whatever challenge we face. We will do our best, in accordance with the law, to fulfill your needs toward inclusive growth),” he said.

In November last year, the House designated Romualdez as caretaker of the district after the death of its representative and former mayor of Puerto Princesa City, Edward Hagedorn.

Romualdez also distributed about PHP4.8 million in cash assistance to 700 fire victim household representatives, who received between PHP2,500 and PHP10,000 each under the Assistance to Individuals in Crisis Situation (AICS) program of the DSWD in a separate event held at Mendoza Park.

The beneficiaries were from 681 households affected by the Feb. 7 fire incident in Barangays Bagong Silang and Pagkakaisa, and 19 households affected by the Feb. 14 fire incident in Barangay San Miguel.

Maliit na ambag lamang ito para sa araw-araw na pangangailangan ninyo, pero malaking hakbang tungo sa pagbangon ng inyong komunidad (This may only be a small contribution to help you with your daily needs, but it is a huge step forward for the community to rise again),” Romualdez said.

“Tulad po ng sinasabi ng ating Pangulong Ferdinand Marcos, Jr. sama-sama, babangon tayo muli (Just like what President Ferdinand Marcos Jr. is saying: ‘Together, we will rise again’).”

The event marked the second round of AICS distribution to the fire victims, with the first round delivering PHP7 million worth of AICS assistance at PHP 10,000 for each of the nearly 700 fire victim households in the three affected villages on Feb. 15-16.

Continued Palawan development

Meanwhile, Romualdez assured local officials of his full support for the continued development not only for the Third District but for the entire province.

“In my capacity as your legislative district caretaker and as Speaker of the House, I pledge to marshal all necessary resources to support our key development priorities,” Romualdez said in his message during a lunch with local officials and officers of government agencies.

“This commitment extends beyond mere words. It is a promise already set into motion. The support from Congress for Puerto Princesa and Palawan will remain steadfast and unyielding.”

He cited various programs and projects for the Third District aimed at enhancing infrastructure, healthcare, agriculture, and technology in the region, which are part of broader efforts to improve the quality of life, economic development, and environmental sustainability in Palawan.

The key projects include the construction of the Puerto Princesa City viaduct to improve transportation and reduce traffic congestion; implementation of renewable energy projects to promote sustainable energy sources; and the development of cruise port facilities and better access to tourist spots in Puerto Princesa to boost the tourism industry.

Other initiatives include support for Ospital ng Palawan to improve medical facilities and services; support to the agriculture and aquaculture industry; deployment of the Free Wi-Fi Internet Access in Public Places project by the Department of Information and Communications Technology to improve digital connectivity; and execution of the School-Based Feeding Program by the Department of Education, as well as construction and improvement of needed classrooms to address malnutrition and improve student health and performance.

Inspired by the legacy of the visionary leadership of the late long-time mayor and congressman Edward Hagedorn, Romualdez said these projects are part of a comprehensive plan to foster development, improve public services, and enhance the overall well-being of the residents.

He also underscored the need to capitalize on Palawan’s tourism potential while steadfastly committed to the conservation and management of its natural assets, noting the province has garnered global acclaim from Travel + Leisure, Condé Nast, and TripAdvisor as a top tourist destination, reflecting its unparalleled natural beauty and biodiversity.

Likewise, he reiterated his commitment to support President Marcos’ initiatives to protect our country’s sovereignty and interest, particularly in the West Philippine Sea.

Romualdez said that while his duties as House Speaker may limit his physical presence in Palawan, his commitment remains absolute.

“Through the establishment of the District Caretaker Office, we ensure continuous service delivery to our constituents. In my absence, Karl Legazpi, a dedicated and promising Palaweño, will serve as your direct link to me, ensuring that your needs and concerns are addressed with the urgency and importance they deserve,” he said. (PNA)