If elected congressman next year, former governor Hector Sanchez will be pursuing an aggressive development program for Catanduanes that would include the setting up of an abaca processing facility and a modern shipyard as well as other light industries, backed up by reliable power.
In an interview last Sunday morning, the mechanical engineer-turned-big time contractor and businessman with billions in projects nationwide said that while past and present political leaders have heavily contributed to the massive infrastructure projects undertaken so far, investors would come in only if they are assured of a reliable supply of reasonably priced electricity.
He claimed that he had a hand in the initial design of the present 69-KV transmission line project being undertaken by the National Power Corporation when he was governor from 1998 to 2001. “Before it was presented for funding to the national government, I made sure that the transmission line would start from Codon, San Andres and end in Viga,” Sanchez disclosed, adding that he chose Codon because it was the closest point of the island to the Bicol mainland that makes it an ideal site for a submarine cable that would link the Catanduanes grid to the main power grid in Luzon.
He estimated that would the submarine cable project would need around P80 million to P100 million to install, much less than the P300 million said to be bruited about by Napocor and an amount that could be easily secured these days from the national government or financing institutions.
From the 69-KV line in the main grid, power would pass through a substation that would step down the current to just 13.8-KV for the Maqueda channel crossing, and then stepped up to 69-KV at another substation in Codon. “This would make for a cheaper cable that also guarantees the safety of the system,” he said further.
The same reason is behind the designation of Codon as the starting point of the Catanduanes Circumferential Road Improvement Project, in which Sanchez claimed he had provided design inputs in the initial planning stage. He also likes the idea of eventually linking the island to the Bicol mainland through a bridge, although he admitted it would take some time to be realized. “There has to be a valid and compelling reason for the government or any foreign institution to finance such a capital-intensive project,” he emphasized, pointing out that the planned investments in light industries in a climate of reasonably priced and readily available power would be the key.
On the other hand, the former governor bared, he envisions the construction of a modern shipyard facility stranding the towns of Viga, Panganiban and Bagamanoc, with the facility using as access to the open ocean the channel protected by the Panay island from heavy seas. The shallow channel would have to be dredged, with displaced fishermen given environmentally-compliant livelihood projects like fishponds, he added.
Unknown to many people, Sanchez had been buying up land in all 11 provinces since 2005, with a combined area of over 1,500 hectares. He said that he had been paying tenants to clear the mountainous land and planting it with abaca that have now recently started producing fiber in large quantities.
Representatives have been buying the fiber from the farmers, who have been contracted to sell the fiber only to the Sanchez group but at a price P5 more than the current market price. Sanchez revealed that his group has been averaging 50,000 kilos a month in fiber production, a huge portion of which is exported to other countries.
Not only has his company protected the interests of local abaca farmers, it has also provided them with loans of about P400,000 for the improvement of their houses, payable with P1,300 a month for 25 years.
“It would be much better for Catanduanes if we can also export finished products using abaca aside from raw fiber,” Sanchez stressed.
He also urged the people not to focus on the past but to welcome his serious commitment to helping bring sustainable development and robust economic progress to the island province.
Sanchez was in the province since Friday to join his partymates, former Governor Joseph Cua, Mayor Peter Cua, Vice Mayor Leo Mendoza, and other provincial leaders of the United Nationalist Alliance (UNA) in meeting their municipal and barangay leaders as well as immerse themselves in the celebration of the town fiesta of San Andres.