KORONADAL CITY, South Cotabato – The SOCCSKARGEN Regional Development Outlook was presented to development partners during the Dual Training System Forum hosted by the Technical Education and Skills Development Authority (TESDA) 12 on November 12, 2020 via videoconference.

“As we move from limiting COVID-19 cases through quarantine implementations, we will now focus on improving and establishing health facilities to gradually open the economy,” NEDA XII Regional Director Teresita Socorro C. Ramos said.

The region’s development outlook as presented by RD Ramos highlighted the region’s vision of becoming an agri-industrial hub and eco-tourism center in Southern Philippines, guided by the six (6) principles of the SOCCSKSARGEN Regional Development Plan (RDP) 2017-2022 namely, volunteerism, sustainable development, inclusivity towards partnership building, gender and development, population and development, and resiliency.

The region aims to improve inter and intra-regional connectivity with its neighboring regions which include the Bangsamoro Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (BARMM), Northern Mindanao Region, and Davao Region under its Sustainable Agri-Industrial Development Strategy (SAIDS).

 Major challenges faced by the region include high poverty incidence, high losses in agricultural output due to disease outbreaks and disasters, increasing cases in HIV/AIDS and teenage pregnancy, peace and order situations, and environmental degradation in protected areas.

To address these challenges, corresponding strategies have been identified which include the implementation of Urban Infrastructure Master Plans, enforcement of environment protection/preservation-related laws and policies, advocacies on reproductive health and upgrading of health facilities, and the implementation of Executive Order (EO) 70, otherwise known as the Whole-Of-Nation Approach in Attaining Inclusive and Sustainable Peace, Creating a National Task Force to End Local Communist Armed Conflict, and Directing the Adoption of a National Peace Framework.

These initiatives, however, now take into consideration adjustments for the new normal as the region’s development partners realign their programs and projects towards addressing the COVID-19 pandemic.

Such adjustments include the provision of skills training and employment to labor demands emerging from the pandemic as well as retrofitting policies in the delivery of services like in the education sector.

RD Ramos added that transitions have to be made from risk avoidance to risk management, as well as improvements in hospital care capacity, the opening of a sufficient number of safe public transport, and allowing the incremental opening of businesses to restart the economy while still maintaining strict adherence to safety and health protocols.

The SOCCSKSARGEN Regional Recovery Plan has been integrated into the updated SOCCSKARGEN Regional Development Plan (RPD) 2017-2022 and supports the national government’s action towards recovery known as the Recharge PH program.  (Joseph Didius L. Clave, DRD-NEDA XII)