NEDA RO2 Regional Director Dionisio C. Ledres, Jr., along with other NEDA Regional Directors in Luzon, presented at least five major priority issues and concerns in the region needing the cabinet’s intervention during the 52nd Regional Cabinet Assistance System (CAS) meeting for Luzon Regions conducted virtually on 28 August 2020.

Among the concerns of Region 02 highlighted by RD Ledres was the need to fast-track the Dalton Pass East Alternate Route in the province of Nueva Vizcaya. The Dalton Pass is the region’s main link to Metro Manila, however, it is prone to closure and heavy traffic due to landslide and vehicular accidents arising from natural calamities. This project will serve as the alternate route to the Dalton Pass once completed.

The Department of Public Works and Highways (DPWH) confirmed that the Feasibility Study (FS) for the tunnel has been completed. However, the department has yet to submit the Free Prior and Informed Consent (FPIC) of indigenous communities living within the area. DPWH has also guaranteed that even if the aforementioned project was delisted from the flagship projects under the Build Build Build Program, it is still a priority.

For the province of Batanes, two major concerns were raised, namely: the unreliable port and internet connection, and the slow rehabilitation of Itbayat which was struck by an earthquake in July 2019. Undersecretary Rainier T. Yebra of the Department of Transportation (DOTr) confirmed that the requested budget estimated at P30 million for a breakwater facility of the Basco port has already been approved by the Philippine Ports Authority (PPA). A team will be deployed to conduct the FS for the breakwater facility as soon as travel restrictions are lifted. On the unreliability of internet connections and the rehabilitation of Itbayat, the concerned agencies have been tasked to coordinate and provide updates to the NEDA RO2.

Also, with the re-occurrence of the African Swine Flu (ASF) in the region, RD Ledres reiterated the request for the remaining P8 million indemnification fund from the Department of Agriculture (DA). This fund will be given to the 241 farmer beneficiaries affected in the February outbreak.  Further, to contain the spread of the outbreak, the region has requested P5 million to purchase the ASF Real Time-Polymerase Chain Reaction (RT-PCR) test kits by September 2020. DA confirmed that the ASF request for payout was already processed.

The last concern discussed by RD Ledres was the need for additional COVID-19 testing centers in the region, specifically to facilitate the accreditation of the Southern Isabela Medical Center (SIMC).  SIMC will cater to the southern municipalities of Isabela and Quirino provinces. Meantime, funding was requested to operationalize the Region 02 Trauma Medical Center (R2TMC) as RT-PCR testing center in Nueva Vizcaya.  RD Ledres also took the opportunity to request for the establishment of RT-PCR testing facility in Batanes.

Cabinet Secretary Karlo B. Nograles presided over the meeting which was also attended by the representative of the different executive departments in the country.