The Cagayan Valley Regional Development Council (RDC2) Advisory Committee (AdCom) through the leadership of RDC2 Chairperson and Isabela Governor Rodolfo T. Albano III met on 28 August 2020 via video conferencing to discuss major issues and concerns in the region needing intervention and support of the Region’s congressional representatives.

Among the agenda is the comparison of the RDC2 endorsed FY2021 regional line agencies and SUCs budget proposals against the National Expenditure Program (NEP).

RDC2 Chair Rodolfo T. Albano III started the meeting with the review of the fiscal year (FY) 2021 budget proposal of selected regional line agencies and SUCs. RDC2 Vice Chair and NEDA RO2 Regional Director Dionisio C. Ledres, Jr. noted that the DBM-approved budget captured in the FY 2021 NEP was significantly lower than the RDC2-endorsed budget. Meanwhile, Congresswoman Luisa Lloren Cuaresma of the Lone District of Nueva Vizcaya pointed out the disparity of NEP-approved budget among the different congressional districts of the region. DPWH Regional Director Loreta M. Malaluan explained that part of the 2020 budget was reprioritized for programs to address the COVID 19 while the fund balance for 2020 FLR component has been included in the 2021 NEP. In conclusion, RD Ledres solicited the support of the AdCom as the region’s proposals undergo deliberation in House of Representatives.

Engr. Jaime Catolos, Chief of the DPWH Planning Division, gave updates on the Dalton Pass Eastern Alternative Route. The project involves the construction of a 76.14-kilometer bypass road including a two-kilometer tunnel with an estimated amount of P4.80 billion connecting Nueva Vizcaya in Region II and Nueva Ecija in Region III. It is expected to provide direct access to and between outlying barangays, municipalities and cities, thereby facilitating the transport of goods and services. Travel time from Cagayan and Isabela to Manila will be reduced by 30 minutes which will benefit almost 25,000 residents. It is divided into 6 segments and is targeted to complete in 2027.

Said project was initially one of the 75 flagship projects under the national government’s Build Build Build Program. However, it was delisted to give way to projects that are ‘shovel ready’. Despite being removed from the flagship projects, the AdCom has requested the DPWH’s support for the completion of the feasibility study for the tunnel component of the road by the end of CY 2020. RD Ledres also reiterated the corresponding legislative support for funding to complete the remaining road segments approaching the bypass roads.

Engr. Catolos also updated the committee on the proposed Cagayan Valley Eastern Seaboard Highway (CVESH). This seaboard highway will link East Luzon towns starting from Sta. Ana, Cagayan to Casiguran, Aurora with an approximate length of 340 kilometers. To realize this project, AdCom enjoined the DPWH Central Office to prioritize said project and provide funding for the formulation of the Master Plan.

Overall, there are 54 regional intra and interconnectivity road projects in the region. These include alternate roads linking provinces within the region and routes from Cagayan Valley to Cordillera Administrative Region (CAR) and the Ilocos Region. Out of the 54 projects, four have been completed while 34 are ongoing. The rest of the projects are either in the proposal or feasibility study stages.

The Advisory Committee also took the opportunity to look into the state of the internet connectivity in the region. CHED RO2 representative, Mr. Don Dela Cruz, shared the results of the study that they conducted on the internet connectivity in the region. In summary, CHED shared that more than 50% of teachers and students have average, slow or no internet connections at all. Thus, they recommended implementing the National Broadband Plan, accelerating the deployment of “Free Internet Access in Public Places Act” and establishing more Tech4ED centers to help those affected especially in the province of Batanes which has the slowest internet in the region.

Last on the agenda was the proposed breakwater facility for the Basco Port in Batanes. Manager Crisanto A. Alba of the PPA PMO Northern Luzon, shared the developments on the abovementioned project.  Accessibility to the port has been challenging to the province of Batanes because of the rough seas in the northern seaboard. The proposed breakwater facility will help ease the travel to and from the province especially during bad weather.

The AdCom meeting was attended by 23 of its members. It is composed of the members of the House of Representatives from the region and the members of the RDC Executive Committee.