Albay Governor Jose Ma. Clemente Sarte Salceda or Gov.Joey as he is fondly called, is certainly an interesting character. With a notable following on social media and a streak to be candid when speaking his mind, he is best described as a polarizing fellow. He took advantage of this effect he has on people to unify the citizens of Albay to share his vision of making it the most livable province in the country.
The Governor’s goal may be summarized in 5E’s—better Economy, quality and competitive Educational system, improved Environment, modernized HEalth facilities and Equity in provision or inclusive wealth.
He is a top caliber economist voted by foreign fund managers in Asiamoney's annual survey as Best Analyst in 1995 and Best Economist for four consecutive years from 1993 to 1996. He applied his wealth of experience in steering the economy of Albay starting with the advancement of infrastructure as seen in the ongoing construction of the Bicol International Airport, the Albay-Donsol access road, completion of the Pantao Regional Port and PNR Southrail line, and set up of the Guinobatan-Camalig-Daraga-Legazpi City business platform, to name a few. He also initiated the forging of a tourism alliance between the provinces of Albay, Masbate and Sorsogon, strategically placing Albay as a gateway of tourism, a travel and trade hub and investment zone.
To improve the quality of education in the province, Gov. Joey has put in place a specialized program office called EQUAL or Education Quality for Albayanos which was tasked to ensure the provision of scholarships in community and satellite campuses for all students in the province. Complementing EQUAL is the set-up of a special education fund used as incentive for excellence in classroom performance. He also piloted the Albay Higher Education Contribution Scheme which grants concessional loan of P5,000 per semester to students for the duration of their tertiary education. Students will pay upon employment and for a fixed rate of 7% of the monthly salary until fully paid. If the student does not get a job or earns nothing, then payment of the student loan is also put on hold.
During his second term, the he piloted the governance platform of “Albay Rising” which articulates his vision of making the province the “California” of the Philippines in 30 years. His plan begins with climate change adaptation and disaster risk reduction to assure investors that Albay is prepared to manage disaster risks.
In previous speaking engagements, Gov. Salceda often referred to the Philippines as the “Vatican of Disasters” and this cannot be helped because the country happens to be astride the typhoon belt, situated within the active volcanic region or the “Pacific Ring of Fire,” and in the geologically unstable region between the Pacific and Eurasian tectonic plates. He stands firm in the belief that “knee-jerk” reaction to disasters are the worst kind of response, thus, he has worked for the integration of climate change adaptation to basic education to achieve behavioral change towards environment conservation and protection as a way of life starting with the youth. He has mobilized a community-based network of volunteers specializing in emergency, health disaster management and institutionalized capability building programs by forming partnerships with local and international institutions.
He also championed the modernization of health facilities, assured his people of access to healthcare, medicines and universal health insurance coverage, and because of these initiatives, there is now a reduction of maternal mortality ratio, infant mortality rate, tuberculosis mortality, incidence of sexually transmitted disease, dengue prevalence, lifestyle-related diseases, elimination of filariasis, rabies and leprosy, and reduced death incidences in hospitals.
In making sure that growth remains inclusive, he encourages the putting up of livelihood programs for employment and income generation. He ensures that low income families are the true beneficiaries of cash grants and that the amount is enough to at least buy them 50kg. of rice per month.
It is not only the people of Albay who are fortunate to have someone of Gov. Salceda’s caliber, but the Philippines and the Filipino people. He provided a hallmark of good governance through Albay that other local chief executives may replicate in their own constituency.