By Catherine S. Valente | The Manila Times
IBA, Zambales: Survey frontrunner Ferdinand "Bongbong" Marcos Jr. has committed to pursuing infrastructure projects in Central Luzon, particularly in Zambales, to help revive the economy and improve the lives of farmers and fisherfolk.
Before a crowd at the Zambales Sports Complex on Thursday, Marcos also underscored tourism as an industry essential to the country's economic recovery.
"There are many beautiful places here in Zambales, we will revive and revitalize the tourism industry here as this would give us more jobs," he said.
Marcos also assured the continuity of the current administration's Build, Build, Build program if he wins in this year's presidential election.
"We will pursue the Build, Build, Build program of President (Rodrigo) Duterte, we will continue all these infrastructure projects and include in IT digital infrastructure, our internet," Marcos said.
"Magkaroon po tayo ng mga investors. Kailangan din nating pagandahin ang ating sektor ng edukasyon. Marami po tayong trabahong gagawin," he added.
The Department of Public Works and Highways said it has completed 2,438 kilometers of roads, 489 bridges, 1,617 flood mitigation structures and 13,219 classrooms in Region 3.
The increase in road connectivity in Central Luzon is expected to improve the net profit to cost ratio of agricultural products and transform the regional economies of Aurora, Bataan, Bulacan, Nueva Ecija, Pampanga, Tarlac and Zambales.
One of the big ticket projects in the Build, Build, Build program is the 84.47-kilometer Capas-Botolan Road, which will serve as a direct link between the provinces of Tarlac and Zambales, and will further provide access to the New Clark City. It starts in Olongapo-Bugallon Road in Zambales and ends at Manila North Road in Tarlac.
Governors endorse BBMMeanwhile, Marcos secured the endorsements of Bataan Gov. Albert Garcia and Zambales Gov. Hermogenes Ebdane Jr. during the presidential bet's visit to the two neighboring provinces of Central Luzon.
Considered part of the Marcos base in the North, the former senator won in both Bataan and Zambales in the 2016 vice presidential elections. Bataan has 566,479 registered voters while Zambales has 540,309.
At the indoor Bataan Peoples' Center in Balanga, Garcia made it known he is supporting Marcos and vice presidential running mate Sara Duterte-Carpio.
"BBM-Sara UniTeam rocks a province of Bataan. That's why I want to thank you all. The entire province of Bataan took to the streets to welcome our visitors, especially the next president of the Republic of the Philippines," Garcia said, referring to Marcos.
The governor expressed confidence that more Filipino people would support Marcos' campaign anchored on a message of unity.
"We will again show our support to the President and to our next president, BBM. Besides the projects that were initiated by his father, the message of unity of the BBM-Sara UniTeam also touches the hearts of every Filipino," Garcia said.
"Here in the province of Bataan, we have One Bataan, and we will show that kind of support to the BBM-Sara UniTeam this coming May elections," he added.
Garcia's sister, Dinalupihan Mayor Gila Garcia, earlier hosted Manila Mayor Francisco "Isko Moreno" Domagoso, but said the family has not yet decided on a candidate to endorse.
The Garcias are veterans in Bataan politics, with many of them occupying elected posts in the province.
'Marcos, Duterte country'Apart from the Garcias, Bataan First District Rep. Geraldine Roman also declared her province "a Marcos and Duterte country." President Rodrigo Duterte also won Bataan in 2016, but he only edged out close rival Sen. Mary Grace Poe in the province by 1,362 votes.
In his speech on Thursday, Roman credited the late dictator Ferdinand Marcos for infrastructure projects in Bataan, telling the younger Marcos: "I am not surprised that the province loves you." One of the more known projects in Bataan is the botched Bataan Nuclear Power Plant, which Marcos Jr. earlier said he would like to revisit if he wins.
"Apo BBM, welcome to Bataan. Bataan is a Marcos-Duterte country. Let's not believe those hearsay or surveys because we have shown it in the last elections," Roman said.
"It is not only due to the beautiful legacy of your father. When we talk about unity, we look at you and Mayor Inday (Davao City Mayor Sara Duterte-Carpio). You envision a bright future for our country, a bright future that is anchored on your love for our country, and we feel your sincerity," the lawmaker added.
In the 2016 elections, Marcos dominated in the province of Bataan with 184,670 votes compared to the 84,241 votes of his rival, Vice President Maria Leonor "Leni" Robredo in the vice-presidential derby.
While in Bataan, the survey frontrunner also stopped by the St. Joseph Cathedral in Balanga City, where he was received by Bishop Ruperto Santos.
From Bataan, Marcos and his UniTeam Senate bets went to Zambales, where they were hosted by Ebdane.
Speaking before supporters at the Zambales Sports Complex, Ebdane called Marcos the next president.
"Kanyang pinaunlakan ang kahilingan niyong makita kayo, ang susunod na pangulo ng Pilipinas, Pangulong Ferdinand Marcos Jr.," Ebdane told his constituents.
Runaway victory In February, Ebdane predicted that Marcos and Duterte-Carpio would have a "runaway victory" in Zambales.
"We're not telling them to vote for whom. When we asked them who their candidates, and then, it's obvious. Maybe I would say at this time, if elections will be held this time, no doubt. It's a runaway victory," Ebdane has said.
Ebdane further said that Zambales would be throwing its weight behind the UniTeam's campaign in the 2022 polls.
A retired police general, Ebdane was a public works secretary of former president Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo whose Lakas-CMD is carrying Duterte-Carpio's candidacy.
Marcos and Duterte-Carpio have been the frontrunners in the presidential and vice-presidential surveys, respectively.
In his speech on Thursday, Marcos reiterated that he was the "luckiest" presidential candidate for having Duterte-Carpio as his running mate, whom he called the "most competent." As in his previous speeches, Marcos also stuck to his call for unity, which he said was no longer just a message but rather a movement.
As part of its Covid-19 pandemic recovery plan, the UniTeam has pledged to revive the agriculture sector and continue President Rodrigo Duterte's "Build, Build, Build" infrastructure program to generate jobs and jumpstart the country's economy.
The UniTeam believes that creating a unified front amid the problems created by the Covid-19 pandemic is the best hope for the country to recover swiftly.