LEGAZPI CITY, Nov. 12 (PNA) – Describing Chinese people as “friendly brothers and sisters”, Catanduanes Governor Araceli Wong has expressed gratitude for the recent visit of People’s Republic of China Ambassador to the Philippines Zhao Jian Hua and providing Php1.5 million in donations for some socio-economic projects in the province.
China’s envoy arrived in the island along with a clique of Chinese businessmen and fellow diplomats last Oct. 24 on invitation of the governor’s husband, Wong Cheung Sha, who is the current president of the Federation of Filipino-Chinese Chambers of Commerce and Industry Inc. (FFCCCI).
FFCCCI vice president Lu Gene Ang, Jose Go, the Chamber’s president emeritus and Bank of China chief executive officer Deng Jun and several officers and members of the Chinese Enterprise Association of the Philippines were among the members of the ambassador’s entourage, the governor said in a statement reaching here Wednesday.
She said Zhao donated to the provincial government an amount of Php1 million for projects intended to benefit impoverished communities while another donation worth Php500,000 was given by Deng for the same intention.
The Catanduanes visit, according to the governor, was part of Zhao’s goodwill tour nationwide signaling the eagerness of the Chinese government “to reach out to its neighbors and engage in high-level bilateral talks to amicably resolve territorial issues confronting them.”
Gov. Wong said the visit was timed with her rendering of her yearly “Ulat sa Lalawigan (Report to the Province)” where the Chinese ambassador was given an opportunity to have an audience with the province’s elderly whom he paid homage to while having their First Senior Citizens Convention.
During the occasion, she said, Zhao led the distribution of 20 units of wheelchairs to those who are already disabled elderly and hundreds of food packs.
Wong said that it is in October that the country celebrates the Elderly Filipino Week or Linggo ng Nakatatandang Filipino to emphasize the important role that older persons play in nation building, as well as raise and address issues concerning the sector.
Elderly Filipino Week was mandated through Proclamation No. 470 and is held on the first week of October but in Catanduanes.
She said the occasion is celebrated in any week of the month convenient for the elderly in the conduct of advocacy activities to promote their rights and welfare, especially those are disadvantaged.
In this year’s celebration, Wong said, the provincial government led an advocacy activity for the strict implementation of Republic Act (RA) 9994, or the Expanded Senior Citizens Act of 2010, which provides more benefits and privileges to older persons.
They are entitled to a 20-percent discount on the purchase of certain goods and services, special five-percent discount on prime commodities and basic necessities, and a five-percent utility discount on electric and water consumption.
By implementing the provisions of the law, the province is promoting and upholding their rights and it also encourages the public to report to authorities cases of elderly abuse to ensure their well-being and protection, Wong said.
According to the regional office of the Department of Social Welfare and Development for Bicol here, to ensure the well-being of older persons, the agency implements the Social Pension for Indigent Senior Citizens which is the provision of Php500 monthly cash grants to indigent senior citizens, as stated in RA 9994.
The department considers indigent senior citizens who are frail, sickly or with disability; without pension from any government source or insurance companies; and no permanent source of income or regular support from his/her relatives as its priority for inclusion in the program.
From 2011-2014, the DSWD prioritized senior citizens aged 77 years old and above, however, for 2015, age coverage of the program covers senior citizens aged 65 years old and above.
In 2014, a total of 403,284 social pension beneficiaries nationwide were paid with a budget amounting to Php2.9 billion and in 2015, some 692,256 beneficiaries were paid with a budget amounting to Php3.4 billion.
During the celebration, Wong said, the provincial government allocated Php7 million for projects and activities of the senior citizens organization that would benefit their members.
In his visit, Zhao also expressed fascination of beautifully-woven abaca fiber fabrics seen during the “Ulat sa Lalawigan” gathering and citing its market potential, the ambassador hinted that China could make a huge market for the island’s products, particularly abaca fiber and its finished products, the governor said.
“I told the Chinese ambassador that the province already pursues a five-year program towards the setting up of a local abaca processing center through funds provided by the World Bank,” she said.
Catanduanes is the country’s leading producer of abaca with its 35,000-hectare plantations cultivated by 15,454 farmers who produce an average of 19,000 metric tons of fiber yearly, representing 33.2 percent of the total national production.
This makes abaca its backbone industry,which since time immemorial has made the island a prized contributor to country’s fiber export earnings.
In 2012 alone, the country posted an amount of US$ 120 million in abaca export earnings or an over Php5 billion at the back of increased demand for abaca pulp and cordage in the Philippines’ major markets, according to records of the Philippine Fiber Industry Development Authority (PhilFIDA).
Wong said that after the “Ulat”, she ushered the Chinese delegation to the municipality of San Andres for the distribution of 500 packs of school supplies to pupils and students of three public elementary and high schools in the locality.
She also learned from the delegation that the ambassador’s series of social exposures in the country is aimed at a new round of bilateral high-level exchanges that could play a significant role in advancing the Chinese-Philippine strategic and cooperative relations, according to the governor.
“Chinese influence in the province is multifaceted and embedded in its culture and traditions through the centuries. For instance, a number of Catanduanons of Chinese descents, from traders to refugees are buried in the local Chinese cemetery,” she said.
The governor also affirmed that her husband is of the same descent as she acknowledged the Chinese people as “friendly brothers and sisters” of Catanduanes. (PNA) CTB/FGS/DOC/CBD