When you are from a prominent family with a long history of dedicated public service, there is great pressure to perform your best and to leave your own mark. But Susan Yap, who is now on her second term as governor of Tarlac, is confident that she’s been doing a great job in running the province. “I ran unopposed [in the recent elections]. Hopefully that’s a sign that people are happy and satisfied with my work,” she smiles.

Prior to serving as governor, Yap had a sterling performance in the Lower House. She served two consecutive terms as Representative of the 2nd District of Tarlac from 2010 to 2016. During her stint as a legislator, she authored and co-authored a total of 63 laws, and passed nine national laws. Among these are the Mandatory Immunization for Children Act, Foster Care Act, Cybercrime Prevention Act, and Universal Healthcare Coverage Act.

But much can be done for Tarlac, considering its enormous potentials, so the good legislator decided to continue her journey in the provincial level, where she can be more hands-on in running the province. “Whereas in Congress, it’s policy making and legislation, here in the province, I’m on-call 24/7. I have to be available anytime for the kapitans, the mayors, the departments. I’m running a bureaucracy of 3,000 people as compared to a staff of six in Congress,” she cites the major adjustment in her life as a public servant.

To inspire the people of Tarlac, especially those in government, to be the change that they want, is something that Yap would like to do as a leader. “People keep saying ‘We want change.’ But when you try to make simple changes, they resist,” she quips. “[As public servants] we don’t work to get our paycheck every 15th and 30th, we’re here to serve the province and the nation. It’s a shared responsibility.”

Gov. Susan Yap during a recent tree planting
activity.

“What the country needs are innovative leaders. I think our world is fast-changing. We have to keep up with the changes. The competition is not only in the local arena, it’s on a global scale. As leaders, we have to empower our people, make sure that they are provided with the opportunities and services that they need,” she stresses.

NOT A MERE STOPOVER
The lady chief has resolved to erase the prevailing mindset that Tarlac, which covers a total land area of 305,345 hectares, is a mere stopover for people going to the North or South. Hence, the challenge for her is to develop tourism spots that people can visit and enjoy. “We’re landlocked. We don’t have beaches to show, but we have beautiful mountains like those in Baguio,” she
says.

Recently, former DENR Secretary Gina Lopez worked hand in hand with the provincial government in launching Abelling Eco-Cultural Adventure in Sitio Baag, San Jose, Tarlac. In this tourist spot, people can personally experience the culture of Abelling communities through homestay before climbing the surrounding mountains or biking on the trails.

The developments at the New Clark City in Capas, Tarlac—in time for the upcoming Southeast Asian Games—will put the province in the limelight. “It’s a common mistake among people to think Clark is only in Pampanga because the entry point was in Mabalacat. Truth is, a big part of Clark is located in Tarlac,” Yap points out.

Unveiling of the new barangay hall in Brgy. Bilad, Camiling, Tarlac.

According to Yap, the major events such as the track and field and aquatics will be held at the New Clark City. The opening event will be in Bocaue, Bulacan at the Philippine Arena; while the closing and the golf tournament will be at the Luisita Golf and Country Club in Tarlac City. “We’ve been working closely with the Southeast Asian Games organizing committee. We’ve already started accrediting establishments,” she says.

The New Clark City has an area of approximately 9,450 hectares and can accommodate up to 1.2 million people. “The development is really beautiful and challenging at the same time. So we have to prepare for migration. Our population will most likely shoot up in the coming years, and that will put a stress on our social services, health, peace and order, sanitation. All those we have to balance,” Yap notes.

FOCUS AREAS
On her second term as governor, Yap is pursuing the pillars that her father and brother—former governors Jose A. Yap and Victor Yap—have espoused. These are: agriculture, food security, environment, education, and health.

“What I’d like to change is the plight of our farmers—why they remain poor. In Italy, Germany, Spain, agriculture is a thriving industry. That’s why I’ve been doing a lot of research, working with Japanese agriculturists, with experts from Israel and Korea, to find out how our farmers can also make money, how they can also be successful,” she relates. Yap believes that the way to achieve food security is by improving agricultural productivity.

Yap also believes that investing in education can help uplift the life of Tarlaqueños. Hence, they have partnered with the Technical Education and Skills Development Authority (TESDA) in promoting and enhancing the technical education and skills development of people in Tarlac. For these efforts, the provincial government of Tarlac was recognized by TESDA as a Kabalikat Awards Hall of Famer. The 2018 National Kabalikat Award was again in recognition of Tarlac as an outstanding partner which has assisted the agency in developing, enhancing, and implementing training programs that have resulted in better employability of beneficiaries. It is the province’s third time to receive the national award—first was in 2015 and second in 2017. “What we do is we find out what skill sets employers need, then we train our students according to these needs. We match our students with the employers,” she explains. So far, thousands of Tarlaqueños have benefited from the various livelihood trainings and job referrals from the Tarlac-TESDA partnership.

As for addressing the health concerns of Tarlaqueños, Yap says they have appropriated funds for modernizing the facilities in their provincial hospital. “I believe [our provincial hospital] is the only training hospital in the country. We train five disciplines in medicine,” she says. Early this year, the provincial government also opened its first district hospital in Barangay San Julian, Moncada to make health services more accessible to residents in the northern part of Tarlac. “Right now, it has an emergency room, but it will be a full-blown hospital by next year. We have also inaugurated a hospital in La Paz, and a five-storey building will also open in Concepcion. These are all new,” she says.

Gov. Yap spends a day and shares goods with the Aeta community in Sitio Bangingan in Bamban, Tarlac.

They also take pride in the province’s eye center, which was featured recently in a news network. “My brother’s free cataract surgery project has benefited more than 12,000 patients since it started in 2007. We’re also hoping to open one of the most advanced facilities for diagnostics,” Yap shares.

Taking the preventive approach in medical care, they are utilizing a diagnostic van donated by a good-natured kababayan from Japan to reach far-flung areas and provide tests such as X-ray and ECG. “We offer these services for free,” Yap adds. They have well- trained barangay health workers doing the rounds, empowering the communities to be more proactive in taking care of their health.

Environmental protection and awareness is also Yap’s key advocacy. In fact, during her stint as legislator, she procured funds from the national government to put up a mechanized nursery in San Jose. “In that nursery, we produce a million trees monthly, which are distributed in the whole region. What I advocate is the propagation of endemic trees,” she says.

What I’d like to change is the plight of our farmers—why they remain poor. In Italy, Germany, Spain, agriculture is a thriving industry. That’s why I’ve been doing a lot of research, working with Japanese agriculturists, with experts from Israel and Korea, to find out how our farmers can also make money, how they can also be successful.

Dambana ni Yahweh in Goshen Resort and Hotel at Bamban, Tarlac & Si-el Falls in Camilling, Tarlac

LOVE TARLAC
With all the above mentioned projects and programs in place, Yap is hoping to naturally instill pride and patriotism among Tarlaqueños. This patriotic culture can now be gleaned from the “Laking Tarlac Ka,” “Mahal Ko Tarlac Ko,” and “Solid Tarlac” campaigns on Facebook. “It’s going back to the basics. If you say you love our province, then observe discipline and respect—on the streets, in public places, etc.—as simple as not throwing your garbage anywhere. We’re developing our parks, planting trees, and paving the walkways, so that people will emulate the value of discipline.”

The Provincial Government of Tarlac, headed by Gov. Susan Yap, receives the Seal of Good Local Governance award in 2018.

They have likewise ceased to use “Melting Pot Festival” in favor of more appropriate sounding “Kanlungan ng Lahi” or “Kanlahi,” a term aptly describing the mix of ethnic groups inhabiting the province— the Kapampangans, Pangasinenses, Ilocanos, and Tagalogs.

If you say you love our province, then observe discipline and respect—on the streets, in public places, etc.—don’t throw your garbage anywhere. We’re developing our parks, planting trees, and paving the walkways, so that people will emulate the value of discipline.

Governor Yap’s leadership in Tarlac proves one thing, and it applies to the rest of the country: we may be multi-cultural, but we can certainly be solid and united in achieving progress for our nation. — LAKAMBINI BAUTISTA

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