By Lottie S. Salarda, Correspondent

Move for new Samar region gets support

Posted on March 03, 2016

CALBAYOG CITY -- A proposal to create a Samar region, separate from the Leyte provinces and Biliran Island in Eastern Visayas (Region 8), is expected to be submitted by the end of the month to the Office of the President.

The move, supported by local government officials, was proposed by the Samar Island Provinces for Peace and Development (SIPPAD).

Composed of various stakeholders, the group is led by three Catholic leaders, namely: Bishop Isabelo C. Abarquez of the diocese of Calbayog in Western Samar; Bishop Emmanuel C. Trance of the diocese of Catarman in Northern Samar; and Bishop Crispin B. Varquez of the diocese of Borongan in Eastern Samar.

Establishing a Samar Region will open regional government offices on the island, which will mean employment opportunities and easier access to public services, Calbayog City Mayor Ronaldo P. Aquino said in an interview with the media.

“And the resources will not be depleted. The wealth will be distributed in Samar only and not in Tacloban,” Mr. Aquino said, referring to Tacloban City, the regional center of Eastern Visayas.

“In terms of land area, income, and population, we are very much qualified,” Mr. Aquino added.

The local government of Calbayog has 27 hectares of undeveloped lots, which can be used as a site for government regional offices.

Samar Island, connected to Leyte via the San Juanico bridge, has a total land area of 6,048.03 square kilometers with a population of 733,777 as of the 2010 Census.

“I really support that move of SIPPAD. Considering that the Samar provinces as a whole are being left behind by the other provinces,” Mr. Aquino said.

For her part, Catbalogan City Mayor Stephanie Uy-Tan, said she is also supporting SIPPAD and intend to assert the local government’s historical right as Samar’s capital.

Based on the latest official data available (2012), Eastern Visayas was the second poorest region in the country with poverty incidence of 37.4%, next to the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao with 48.7%.

The three Samar provinces were among the top 10 poorest while none were from Leyte nor Biliran.

The poverty data was collected by the Philippine Statistics Authority prior to the onslaught of typhoon Yolanda (international name: Haiyan) in Nov. 2013, making landfall in and hitting Eastern Visayas the hardest.

Samar was divided into three provinces on June 19, 1965 through Republic Act 4221.