United States Agency for International Development (USAID) General Counsel John Simpkins recently visited the province of Bohol to renew the US government’s commitment to the province’s inclusive and sustainable development.
Simpkins joined Bohol officials, led by Governor Edgar Chatto and Tagbilaran City Mayor John Geesnell Yap 2nd, to launch the Stakeholders’ Forum, which was organized by the US Embassy Manila’s USAID through its Strengthening Urban Resilience for Growth with Equity (SURGE) Project.
SURGE is the flagship activity of USAID’s Cities Development Initiative (CDI), which aims to transform secondary cities into engines of growth. Tagbilaran is one of the CDI partner cities, together with Batangas, Cagayan de Oro, Iloilo, Puerto Princesa and Zamboanga.
Launched in 2015, SURGE supports these cities to become economically thriving and resilient growth centers outside the urban core of Manila, with increased levels of investment, employment and disaster risk preparedness for the city and adjacent rural areas.
Representatives from national agencies, local governments, businesses, and civil society attended the forum, where they identified and prioritized SURGE activities for Tagbilaran city.
During the event, Simpkins witnessed the signing of four partnership agreements. “Today marks an important milestone for the province of Bohol and the city of Tagbilaran, as we witness the forging of partnerships that will improve the local economy’s competitiveness and overall development,” said Simpkins.
Following the event, Simpkins visited Tagbilaran City Elementary School, where he handed out learning materials to Grade 2 students on behalf of the American people and led a reading activity for the children. In his interaction with school administrators and faculty, he reiterated the US government’s commitment to help improve the reading skills of students.
Through its basic education program, Basa Pilipinas, USAID is working to improve the reading skills of one million early grade students by strengthening reading instruction for teachers and increasing access to quality reading materials.
Capping Simpkin’s trip was a meeting with local stakeholders to discuss maritime law implementation in Danajon Reef at the Balicasag Marine Protected Area. USAID, through its Ecosystems Improved for Sustainable Fisheries (ECOFISH) activity, supports the Department of Agriculture’s Bureau of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources and Bohol Province to protect its coastal and marine resources. Simpkins praised the innovative approach undertaken by government officials and the communities to protect and preserve its natural resources.