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Bien Unido Bohol Moving Onward

By Loy Palapos, Sunday Post

Being a new municipality, which used to be a part of Talibon, Bien Unido is a rib of an infant cradled by the birthplace of Carlos P. Garcia, the town of Governor Erico B. Aumentado, and the home of Congressman Roberto C. Cajes. Talibon and Ubay are obviously the frontliners in economic progress (one of them possibly to become a city in the near future) and Trinidad is in the throes of big positive changes. The tipmost fishing village and its surrounding islands comprise a sleepy town of more than 24, 000 inhabitants. The burden of placing Bien Unido in the map is the main obsession of a young and handsome Chief Executive (who could have outshone in comparison not a few actors of the small and big screen), whose sturdy shoulders (Thanks, God!) holds a brilliant head.

 He is not a total neophyte to the political scene, for his father was the mayor of Bien Unido for several years, after the fall of the Marcos conjugal dictatorship. His upbringing emanated from disciplined parents, and a formal education of the oldest college, and one of the most prestigious universities in the world, the University of San Carlos, where he studied from Kindergarten, to high school, and college… finishing Bachelor of Arts in Political Science before taking up Law. His immersion in the business world became a staple staff in management, which he now practices in a domain he finds challenging.

 Mayor Rey Niño Fineza Boniel (RFB) surprised me last Tuesday. A few minutes after 1:00 PM, I arrived in his office in Bien Unido Municipal Building, sans any previous appointment, not expecting him to be around, considering that it was siesta-time. He was already there, and the entire Municipal staff were in their respective jobs. Easily discernible was the face-lifting and reconstruction of the offices aside from his own. Like most progressive-minded Municipal Mayors, he made his office very accessible to all, a kind of transparency seldom resorted to by several traditional politicians in the past.

 Over a cup of hot coffee, our repartee was warm and devoid of fabricated sophistication. I found in the likeable businessman a Mayor who knows his job.

 LMP: How are things after the first year of governance?

       RFB: Mura'g wala ra'y usa ka tuig; dali ra kaayo ang panahon. Politics is not new to me anymore kay Mayor man sad akong father before. When I was seated as the Mayor, naa man ta'y mga ten-point agenda.

 LMP: What are your ten-point agenda?

 RFB: Sa number ten gyod ko nag focus ug maayo, ang people-empowerment.

       LMP: When you say people-empowerment, does that mean nga when you started your term, walay paki ang mga tawo?

       RFB: Dili pa kaayo sila participative sa government. Very lukewarm pa ang ilang approach kay wala pa man kaayo'y activities. Gi-divide nato ang atong termino into three. Sa first year, I was into promotion.

       LMP: You have finished the first year of governance. Have you succeeded along that line?

       RFB: I could say that I am successful. Based sa acceptance sa mga tawo. Pag first year nako, miapil mi sa Sinulog. In fact, one million kapin ang nagasto but wala'y bisan usa ka dako ang gikan sa lungsod. That was people empowerment, because people and the youth were involved. The parents were very supportive. Nasud pa gyod sa first year nga promotion ang Sandugo. Then naka-create na ta ug kaugalingon gyod nga website sa Bien Unido. Ang website sa uban nga mga  lungsod, centralized sa Province. Sa among lungsod, kami gyod ang naghawid. Napili pod ko as Chairman sa Coastal Law Enforcement Council II sa 2nd District. Na-promote nako sa ubang lungsod sa 2nd district ang mga produkto sa Bien Unido, sama sa "guso."

       LMP: Karon nga puntoha, nakita na ba nimo nga mo-kooperar na ang mga tawo kompara sa miaging tuig?

       RFB: Ang mga tawo karon aktibo na kaayo. Bisan ang mga taga-Bien Unido nga naa na sa gawas sa nasod. I went to Australia one time kay nahimo ko nga guest speaker sa Rotary Club of Sydney. Naay taga-Bien Unido nga naminyo ug Australian citizen, naghimo gyod sila ug Computer Learning Center. I made sure that I can personally thank them. Kadto pong miadto ko sa Guam, na-promote pod nako ang mga produkto dinhi. I could say nga during my first year, maayo gyod ang akong promotion.

       LMP: Nakabantay ko sa Sinulog, sa kadaghan sa contingent, ikaw ra ang gi-interview, how did you do it?

       RFB: If you notice, naay electronic billboard sa Fuente Osmeña, ato nang negosyo nga gamay. Usa pa, naa pod ta'y conncection sa ABS-CBN ug sa GMA. Naghimo ko ug exchange deal sa ABS-CBN nga i-cover ta nila and in return, ipagawas nato sila sa atong e-billboard. Mao ng grabe ta ug coverage nila. I did not only focus on Bien Unido but the whole Bohol as well.

 LMP: How about in your second year?

       RFB: Sa second year, nagsugod na ko sa infrastructure. If you remember before, abog pa kaayo ang kalsada from Trinidad to Bien Unido. Karon, naghinay-hinay na siya ug katarong. Mahuman ning atong kalsada by November, before sa fiesta dinhi. Gasugod na pod ko ug tukod ug mga buildings sa merkado. Akong gi-offer sa mga gustong mo-abang ang Build Operate Transfer (BOT).

 LMP: Asa man ka mangita ug private enterprises for BOT?

       RFB: Dinhi ra sa mga locals nato. Ako silang gihatagan ug scheme nga after 25 years, i-turn-over na sa lungsod and then kamo ang hatagan ug priority sa abang. Ang ako lang gyod ang economic activity sa Bien Unido mo-bloom. In fact kining TSKI, usa ka lending institution, wa gyod ko mo-issue ug permit nila. Not unless magtukod sila ug opisina. Adto sila mang-release sa Talibon, unya inig release, adto pod ipangumpra sa Talibon. Another thing, makita ninyo ang lambayan dinhi, naa na'y kompanya gikan sa Cebu. Gamay pa man pod, kwarenta pa ka tawo. Pero ug moabot na gyod na ug daghan kaayo, ani na dinhi ang canning.

 LMP: Is this a community project?

 RFB: Private but they are paid. Pero ang sourcing, dinhi ra.

 LMP: Is Bien unido still a fishing village?

       RFB: Na-discourage na ang mga tawo sa system sa pangisda karon tungod sa bag-ong balaod; kining Republic Act 8580.

 LMP: But you're with CLEC, how did you reconcile the extremes?

       RFB: Ang approach nako karon is very different kompara sa Mayor before. Pagkadawat sa Mayor before sa balaod, dayon niya ug implementar, wala niya gipasabot sa mga tawo. Way back 1996, mao man ang gi-offer. Gi- undang na siya pagpasar sa balaod in 1998. Pag 2000, gisugdan napod nila ug enforce; pag-2002, miabot ang livelihood program. Kadtong previous nga Mayor, ang iyang gibuhat gipamalit ra niya ug pukot kadtong mga tawo, bisan mga maestra tagaan.

 LMP: How about dynamite fishing?

       RFB: Wala na gyod nang dynamite fishing. Tungod kay naikog na sila sa atong gipakita. Nadungog man gud nga ang Bien Unido ang kusog kaayo sa illegal fishing.

 LMP: How about your project in health?

       RFB: Karon, naghimo ko ug inspection office sa Hingutanan Island; 1 hour by pumpboat. Naa ta'y casual nga garbage collector. Para sa mga basura, naghimo ta ug labayanan, mura na ug reclamation area.

 LMP: Is this the first time nga naa mo'y extension sa mga isla?

 RFB: Yes. Ang Department of Health, mag-duty once a week.

       LMP: Kanang "guso" nga project is that a private enterprise or community based?

 RFB: Community based.

 LMP: How about ang health diri sa mainland, is it the same thing?

       RFB: Naa mi BHWD. Karon, gipadak-an pa gyod nako ang honorarium sa mga BHW from the local funds aron mo-improve ang health.

 LMP: Pila ka barangay ang Bien Unido?

       RFB: 15 kabuok. 8 island barangays and 7 inland barangays. Naa'y gihatag si Sen. Miggs Zubiri nga P500,000. Among gipalit ug multicabs kay wala mi ambulansya, for the meantime. Nangayo na ko, but ang tubag ra is wala pa'y available.

 LMP: How is the peace and order situation of Bien Unido pagka-karon?

       RFB: Bag-o among Hepe, among gikuha from San Miguel. Lumad man gud siya nga taga-Bien Unido mao ng kampante ko nga ma-maintain gyod niya ang peace and order kay naka-sinati man gyod siya sa lungsod. Kami pod sa Municipal Hall, sige pod mi ug meeting, so maayo ang dagan.

 LMP: What are your future projects for the next year?

 RFB: Sa akong third year, mag-focus ko sa livelihood.

       LMP: What particular livelihood nga not existing are you planning for Bien Unido?

       RFB: Maghimo ko'g One Town, One Product kon OTOP. Daghan man gud mi ug produkto gikan sa guso, like capsule sa tambal, tsinelas, ug uban pa.

 LMP: Imo ba ning orihinal nga proyekto?

       RFB: Kanang programa sa OTOP, diha na siya sa una pa nga administrasyon mao nang akong gi-apply karon. Ang program man gud, sige ug dagan. Karon, ang among mga produkto gikan sa guso himoon namo ug rubber or jelly spread, mao pod ni among gi-promote. Unique kay lahi nga produkto sa ubang lungsod. At the same time, gikan gyod ang mga raw materials dinhi.

 LMP: Unsa pa ang uban nga mga plano nimo?

       RFB: Ang infrastructure pod apil na. Pag-panindot sa lungsod ug ang water system. Naa na ta'y existing nga water system, ato na lang ng ipa-extend. Out of 15 barangays, pito ang na-cover sa water system. Way labot ang mga isla.

 LMP: Karon, kumusta na man ka? Wala pa ba ka motagam?

       RFB: Morag gi-reminisce ra man nako ang past ba kadtong Mayor pa akong amahan. Dili bug-at ang responsibility kay nag-enjoy man ko sa akong gihimo. I'm a Political Science graduate pod, unya active pod ko sa politics sa among eskuwelahan. Morag mao ni akong practicum. Mao ni akong linya. I'm at home with what I'm doing.     

 There is no question that Mayor Rey Niño Fineza Boniel is a highly qualified Chief Executive Officer, whether it be in private business or in public governance. His one year as a Mayor is a fool-proof assertion of his capabilities.

 Yet, one big question lingers in the hearts and minds of his constituents, and even those who are not inhabitants of Bien Unido: When is he going to marry?

 Tradition, and perhaps necessity, requires that a Mayor should have his First Lady. At 30, Rey Niño is ripe for the picking, and that inevitable march on the matrimonial aisle. The problem is he has to be picky, now that he is a public figure. A chat with his Mom impressed upon me that whoever she is… the screening process would be avante-guard and the Lady should not just be any run-of-the-mill Aida, Lorna or Fe. She must know what she is into, aside from living with a dreamboat, for her husband will not totally be her own 24 hours a day.

 How about 2010? To this question, Mayor Boniel grinned through words unspoken: "As of now… my reality involves my vision and mission for my beloved Bien Unido."

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