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FEATURE

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ROMBLON

Lyndon F. Fadri

(This is a consolidated article lifted from June- 1998 publication of the NSO Provincial Office, publications of the Office of the Governor, Office of the Provincial Planning and Development Coordinator and Department of Trade and Industry - Romblon, and a draft of plans and programs for 1999 and onwards as furnished by Vice-Governor Jose A. Fonte with some paraphrasing and minor additions. This is in support of the province’s efforts to uplift the lives of Romblomanons and eventually free Romblon from the cudgels of poverty.)

Geographical Profile
Romblon consists of three major islands and several islets. Tablas is the biggest, followed by Sibuyan and then Romblon. It is completely surrounded by deep waters, and lies on the Sibuyan Sea between the islands of Masbate and Mindoro. It is situated almost at the center of the Philippine Archipelago. It has a land area of 1,355.9 square kilometers, comprising only of 2.89% of the region and 0.45% of the country’s total land area.

A fifth class province, Romblon is made up of 17 municipalities namely Romblon, the provincial capital, Odiongan, Banton, Corcuera, Concepcion, San Fernando, San Jose, Cajidiocan, San Agustin, Calatrava, Alcantara, San Andres, Magdiwang, Looc, Sta. Fe, Ferrol and Sta. Maria. It has 219 barangays.

In terms of land area, San Fernando and Cajidiocan are the two largest municipalities, both covering an area of 201.9 sq. km. Odiongan follows with an area of 137.9 sq. km. Romblon has a land area of 72.3 sq. km. Concepcion is the smallest with 19.8 sq. km.

Demography
Result of the 1995 Census of Population (POPCEN) placed the population of Romblon at 244,654. By population size, it ranked 9th among the eleven provinces of the region comprising 2.46% of the region’s population.

Density is measured at 180 persons per square kilometer. Average household size for the province was computed at 4.91% or approximately 5 members per household.

Odiongan is the most populous municipality with a total population 35,527 (14.52%). Romblon followed with 34,290 (14.02%). San Agustin ranked third with 20,160 (8.24%).

Population increases by 17,033 or 7.48% from 1990. This corresponds to an annual growth rate of 1.45% down from the 1.65% growth rate registered from 1980 - 1990. Sta. Maria has the highest growth rate at 3.56%, followed by Romblon with 2.55%. Banton and Looc incurred a negative growth of 2.84% and 0.09% respectively.

Other important demographic indicators (compared with the region for better appreciation) are as follows: Dependency Ratio -88.40% (70.54%); Male-Female Ratio - 101.53% (101.79%); Crude Birth Rate - 2.54% (2.80%); Crude Death Rate - 0.71% (0.56%).

Economics
Poverty incidence in 1997 was placed at 85.6%, an increase from the 79.50% incidence in 1994. This is way above the 1994 regional poverty incidence rate of 29.50%.

The average annual income of all families in Romblon in 1994 was estimated at P 26,000.00, 5.8% less than the P27,387.00 recorded in 1991. The corresponding average expenditure was measured at P 24,000.00, an increase of 3.5% over the 1991 level.

Food which represents the largest share in the family budget increased its share from 54.8% of total expenditures in 1991 to 57.0% in 1994. Likewise, housing expenses increased from 6.9% to 7.4%.

The Labor Force Survey conducted in July, 1997 showed a labor force participation rate of 63.2%. Employment figure was registered at 91.4%, the males with a higher rate at 91.9% than the females with 90.2% rate. Employment rate was also higher in the rural areas (93.8%) than the urban areas (85.7%). Around 54.8% of the total employed persons in the province were engaged in agriculture, fishery and forestry. About 32.2% were employed in the service sector while 12.9% were in the industry sector.

The local government provided employment to 2,403 persons as of the first quarter of 1997, 34.1% of which was provided by the provincial government.

Social Service Indicators
Housing. There was a total of 43,593 occupied housing units in 1990. With 43,923 households, this gave a ratio of almost one household per housing unit. Most of the units were made up of cogon, nipa or anahaw for roofing (71.2%) and for outer walls (52.6%).

Census results also showed that about three-fourths (74.7%) of the housing units in Romblon had limited floor area of less than 30 sq. meters. Approximately 18.0% measured 30 - 69 square meters.

Education. There were 416 educational institution in the province as of the school year 1994 - 1995, 403 (96.9%) of which were government-owned. By level, there were 187 pre-schools, 191 elementary schools, 187 secondary schools and 3 colleges. Teacher-pupil ratio in state-owned schools for the same school year in the elementary level was 1:32, almost the same as the 1:30 ratio in the secondary level.

Based on the 1994 Functional Literacy, Education and Mass Media Survey (FLEMMS), simple literacy, which is the ability of a person to read and write with understanding a simple message in any language or dialect, of individuals from 10 to 64 years of age was placed at 96.56%. This is lower than the regional (97.52%) but higher than the national (95.02%) simple literacy rates.

In terms of functional literacy, the survey yielded a rate 85.92%, 2.09% higher than the region’s. Functional literacy includes not only reading and writing but also numeracy skills of persons who have not graduated in high school.

Health. As of 1995, the province had eight (8) hospitals, all government-operated with total bed capacity of 280. Bed-to-population ratio was computed at 1: 881.

During the same year, there were 280 government health personnel in the province (excluding barangay health workers): 39 of them (13.9%) were physicians, 101 (36.1%) were nurses, 80 (28.6%) were midwives and 60 (21.4%) were other health personnel. Barangay health workers totaled 1,637.

Per MBN survey, malnutrition prevalence rate in 1997 was 23.0%. Pre-schoolers malnutrition prevalence rate was placed at 6.33% to sustain the improvement in 1997 (8.00%) from 10.70% in 1996.

 

The ten leading causes of morbidity in 1998 were bronchitis, diarrhea, influenza, pneumonia, TB, typhoid fever, heart diseases, hypertenive vascular disease, dengue and viral hepatitis. The leading causes of mortality on the other hand were hypertensive vascular diseases, TB, heart diseases, cancer, pneumonia, coronary artery diseases, liver diseases, peptic ulcer, accidents and kidney diseases.

Infrastructure Facilities and Services
Roads & Bridges. The road network of the province has a total of 1,443 kilometers. Road pavement varies from concrete to asphalt or gravel. About 55 bridges span various creeks and rivers, which are built of concrete, bailey or timber material.

Transportation Amenities. Land transport within the province id facilitated by 2,085 private and public utility vehicles. Cargo trucks offer direct transport and cargo service from Odiongan, San Agustin and Romblon to Manila and the CALABARZON area.

Twelve municipal seaports complement the 3 national seaports located in Odiongan, San Agustin and Romblon which service passengers and cargoes going to and from Mindoro,

Batangas and Manila. Ports in Sibuyan Island also serve passengers and cargoes to Manila, Batangas, Lucena, Masbate and Panay Island while the ports of Sta. Fe and Looc serve as takeoff points to Boracay. Seven shipping companies operate liners for passengers and cargo shipments to major cities - Manila, Cebu, Batangas, Capiz and Iloilo.

Air transport is provided by Asian Spirit which is servicing the Manila-Tablas-Manila route four times a week. Other than the airport located in Tugdan, Alcantara, the province has another airport situated in Azagra, San Fernando in Sibuyan Island.

Power Supply. The province’s power supply is generated by the National Power Corporation and serviced by two electric cooperatives - TIELCO and ROMELCO. Generating 2.5 megawatt of power, the former provides power in the 9 municipalities of Tablas Island. ROMELCO, on the other hand, provide power to the capital town of Romblon and Sibuyan Island.

Water Supply. The entire province has seven level-3 gravity-fed water supply being administered by respective local government units. The island municipalities derive potable water through level 1, 2 and 3 using water supply trunk pipelines and water collectors with built-up reservoirs.

Telecommunication. The province has eight operating telecommunication exchanges namely RCPI-Bayantel, PT&T, PLDT, Kayumanggi, Romblontel, the Telecommunication Office (TELOF) Telegraph System, Public Calling Stations under DOTC and the Provincial Communication’s redio transcievers and receivers. Two mobile phone have expressed interest in putting up cell sites in the province.

Banking Facilities. Four banks operate branches in Odiongan namely, Land Bank of the Philippines, First Allied Savings Bank, Development Bank of the Philippines and Philippine National Bank which has also a branch in the capital town. Rural banks also operate in Romblon, San Agustin, Odiongan, Cajidiocan, Looc, San Fernando, Sta. Fe and Alcantara.

Government Programs
All indicators - demographic, economic, social service, and the current state of infrastructure facilities point to the poverty of the province. No doubt, it is one among the poorest provinces of the country, if not the poorest.

Authorities attribute poverty to the socio-economic structural flaws (lack of jobs, low utilization level of agricultural land, low food supply, few and low-value export products, low utilization of capital), physical and natural constraints (inaccessibility due to inadequate transportation and communication facilities, inadequate infrastructures, environmental degradation), inadequate social infrastructure (inefficient delivery of social services), inadequate institutional infrastructure (few number yet weak cooperatives ) and poor outreach to the marginalized.

In response to the above problems and in pursuit of its vision of "a united, peaceful, self-reliant and ecologically-balanced province", the provincial government formulated a five-point program as follows:

1. Capability building: organization, training and assistance to target sectors; establishment of at least one cooperative in every barrio and provision of credit and technological aid to cooperatives

2. Environmental rehabilitation: protection/rehabilitation of remaining forest covers and marine resources; waste management

3. Promote industry growth: marble, fishing, fish-processing, sea-weeds farming, marine culture, livestock dispersal and farming, handicrafts, wood-processing, coconut processing, eco-tourism

4. Provision of Support Facilities: improvement in the delivery of social services, physical infrastructure, shelters

5. Agricultural development: expansion of irrigation system, improvement of technology, provision of post harvest facilities, promotion of livestock industry, promotion of marine culture.

To encourage investment in the province, the provincial government has also embarked on an information campaign. In its publications, it presented an excellent and peaceful environment, abundant supply of cheap and skilled labor, growing consumer population, strategic location, and vast tourism areas.

Conclusions
The government programs are easier written than done. Probably, same programs have been planned and tried to be implemented by previous leaders of our province only to see Romblon still at the top of the list of economically depressed provinces of a country still reeling from the the recession that hit the region the past few years.

People can always put the blame to its leaders. But there’s not much difference having someone to blame. At the end of the day, what counts most is the suya (viand) served in each meal - whether it is still pakasam (bago-ong / salted fish) or not.

As Romblomanons, we can do a lot to help in the development of our home province. Our future is in our hands. Let’s not pin all our hopes to our leaders.

 


Tourism Potentials

Romblon Harbor
This remarkable landlocked harbor offers a perfect shelter for storm-bound vessels even during the pre-Hispanic times. As its claim to history, Romblon boasts of a sunken galleon and the wreck of a Japanese battleship lying just off the bay.

St. Joseph Cathedral and Belfry
The cathedral is Romblon’s oldest Roman Catholic church made out of choral blocks and bricks built by the Recollect Fathers in the 15th century. It features a byzantine altar and houses a veritable collection of antiqur icons and religious paintings. The church’s campanille is made of materials as that of the cathedral constructed between 1640 and 1726 and still contains the old copper bell.

Twin Forts of San Andres and Santiago
The forts at 1 ft. above sea level overlook the whole town and harbor. These sentinels of a bygone era served as bastions to protect the people against Moro raiders and Dutch pirates. The weather station is presently situated there. A romantic viewing deck atop the forts provides a breathtaking panorama of the town, the surrounding verdant hills and the picturesque bay.

Villa del Mar
Msgr. Nicolas Mondejar, Romblon’s first bishop constructed Villa del Mar out of clay bricks, serving as an unofficial residence.

Nagoso and Guyangan Caves
The caves of Nagoso in Romblon and Guyangan in Banton Island are believed to be the burial sites of Romblomanon ancestors. Centuries-old coffins made of hollowed logs and presence of ancient artworks were discovered in these caves.

Hot Springs (Banton and Corcuera)
You can take a hot bath too like an ancient feudal Japanese warlord. Northward in the islands of Banton and Corcuera are hot springs known for their healing power.

Mt. Guiting-Guiting (Sibuyan Island)
Mt. Guiting-Guiting is Romblon’s highest peak at a little more than 6,000 ft. above sea level. It is considered among the most formidable mountains in the country and has a rugged terrain that presents a challenge to mountaineers.

Tinagong Dagat (Calatrava)
This inland lake is a circular pool of salty water about 10 meters from the sea. According to local folks, the lake defies the law of gravity for it rises when the tide is low and subsides during high tide.

Tropical Beaches and Natural Falls.
The province also boasts of tropical beaches with dazzling stretches of white sand and turquoise crystal waters that await the avid nature tripper of every taste and inclination. Some of these beaches are already developed into resorts with facilities for conventions, seminars, meetings and trainings as well as diving lessons. Most frequented are Marble Beach in Ginablan, tiamban Villas in Lonos, and Palje Beach Resort in Palje, of which are located in Romblon Island and Poctoy Beach Inn and Resort in Odiongan. The archipelago has also a number of waterfalls worth visiting and river resorts close to virgin forests that could calm the raging spirits of a daring traveler. Famous of thesee are the Cawa-cawa Falls and the Cantingas River Resort in Sibuyan Island.

Coves and Deserted Islets
Countless private coves and deserted islets could be found in the province. Three notable places to explore are the islands of Logbon, Alad and Cobrador where one could gaze at endless fathoms of coral reefs and observe exoticocean flora as gigantic aquarium.

 

Volume II No 3