LINGAYEN, Pangasinan — Governor Amado Espino Jr. bid goodbye to his constituents in his ninth and final State of the Province Address (SOPA) at the Capitol Plaza here today (Feb. 10) where he also detailed some more of the gains made by his administration for the last eighth years, seven months and 10 days that catapulted Pangasinan as the best performing province in Region 1 and the fourth best performing in the entire country.

In a moving speech that was also heard by his most ardent political foe, Mark Cojuangco who managed to sneak in and mix with the crowd for still unknown reason despite being uninvited, Espino enumerated the various achievements made by his administration in all spheres of development that won for it not only regional but also national recognition.

Not distracted by Cojuangco’s presence, the Governor revealed that the foremost award received by the province was the Seal of Good Governance (SLG) conferred by the Department of Interior and Local Government in 2014 after being consistently named as recipient of the Seal of Good Housekeeping since 2011.

This is a testament that the province of Pangasinan is faithfully complying with the demands of transparency and good local governance,” Espino said.

Under Espino’s administration, Pangasinan was a Regional Hall of Fame awardee in Local Governance Performance Management; Regional Development Agenda Implementation; Project Implementation of Millennium Development Goals; Maintenance of Sound Statistical Management Systems; and Coastal Resource Management.

“All of these are giving our provincemates renewed sense and trust in their government, new hope, values and love for Pangasinan and also were the ones who gave strength to the sons and daughters of Pangasinan to feel proud of their own province”, he said before over 7,000 officials and employees of the provincial government as well as barangay officials and guests.

Espino said that under his administration, the people of Pangasinan now feel more secured, more confident, more relaxed, happy and more prosperous than in any other part of their lives.

It is because he has not lost his focus to achieve his vision to make Pangasinan as “the best place to invest, work, live and raise a family” and his abiding mission “to make as Pangasinan Number 1 province in the whole country”.

He said the program pursued by Pangasinan under his watch was adopted and made a a model by other provinces in the region such as La Union, Ilocos Sur and Ilocos Norte.

Pangasinan is the only province yet throughout the province whose Provincial Hospital in San Carlos City was given an ISO 9001:2008 certification as proof of its good quality service and its adherence to international standards in managing a public hospital.

In addition to this, Pangasinan was given the recognition as recipient of the LGU Best Practice in the region in the area of hospital management in 2010.

Pangasinan, he said, is the only province in the whole country that has 14-station dialysis center located at the PPH in San Carlos City. It is also among the few Philippine provinces that is implementing the Point-of-Care scheme of Philippine Health Insurance Corporation (PhilHealth) for indigent families where health insurance is automatic and all members of indigent families will not have to pay for anything if they are hospitalized.

“Now, we can feel proud to say that no head of a family will be scared if his wife and children get sick as in the past because they know that they will be given medicines and competent medical care in all the 14 public hospitals run by the province,” he added.

In agriculture, Pangasinan’s rice harvest of 812,000 metric tons in 2007 rose to 1.3 million metric tons in 2014 owing to various strides made by the provincial government, one of them is the provision of irrigation to 102,628 hectares of land in 2014 and 125,744 hectares of land in 2015 from mere 86,455 hectares in 2007 when Espino began his reign.

As a result, Pangasinan was recognized as National Hall of Famer as Agri-Pinoy Rice Achiever’s Awardee and also bagged the National Quality Corn Achiever’s Award in 2013 and 2014.

Also, with its high production in high value crops, fish culture and livestock, Pangasinan was adjudged regional champion in Poverty Reduction Program Implementation by the National Statistical Coordination Board.

In tourism, Pangasinan is now the top tourist destination in Region 1, recording more than 6.4 million visitors in 2015 as compared to 141,928 in 2007.

Records showed that the number one destination is the Basilica Minore of Manaoag, the Capitol Complex next and the third is the Hudred Islands National Park off Alaminos City.

Other significant awards received by the province, said Espino, are the 2015 Best National Hall of Fame Best Employment Service Office, first class province category; Most Outstanding Provincial Accounting Office in 2008 and 2013, Most Outstanding Provincial Assessor’s Office in 2008; Region 1 Most Outstanding Provincial Treasurer in 2011; National Champion, Garantisadong Pambata, 2009; National Champion, DSWD National Pagasa Youth Summit, 2011; and yearly awardee for Best Tourism Practices since 2012.

At the same time, Espino admitted he feels sad for not having realized his dream of establishing the Pangasinan Eco-tourism Zone in Lingayen after it was marred by dirty politics, causing the whole project to be shelved. Leonardo Micua/PNA/