DANAO FOREST PARK, Maasin City (PIA) -- Gov. Damian Mercado of Southern Leyte shared his vision of an economic zone in the next five years, saying he intended this development to benefit the young.

Speaking at a ceremony marking the 21st anniversary of the city held Tuesday in a sprawling oval in this forested area, the governor directly addressed the Sangguniang Kabataan youth leaders about his desire for them to be economically productive while living here in the city and province, not in other places.

“My plan, my dream, is that you should no longer venture to other places, to other countries, in order to find jobs. Your expertise should have been used here in our place, not in other locations,” Gov. Mercado emphasized, talking in the dialect.

To make that happen, the governor said he will exert efforts at establishing an economic zone by expanding the city’s land area and enticing locators to come and put their investments, a move that will spell work as more opportunities for employment become available.

In the year 2000 on August 10, Mercado was mayor then when the people approved in a plebiscite a law which transformed the town into a city, and since then a reclamation project provided space for businesses to flourish.

A similar venture is about to take shape with the initial construction of a causeway preparatory for another reclamation project off barangays Combado and Lib-og the moment documents are in order, Mercado said in an interview with local media right after the anniversary program.

It was the first time the cityhood rites were held here in in a mountain-secluded spot about 12 kilometers upward from the city proper, in compliance with COVID-19 health protocol on social distancing with a limited participants composed mostly of city and provincial officials, Punong Barangays, heads of offices, and SK youth leaders.

The simple celebration carrying the theme, “Ajonay: Pagsagubang sa pandemya ug kalamidad,” began with a tree-planting of 21 native tree species planted by elected officials and heads of offices, followed by a Holy Mass.

In his message, City Mayor Nacional Mercado said that despite the prolonged pandemic there were some bright spots that should be noted, such as the ability of the people to become resilient, determined, concerned on the welfare of others, and the shining of bayanihan spirit locally known as “ajonay.”

“Let us continue the virtue of ajonay, of hope, that sooner or later for this pandemic to end, the virtue of strength, to hold on until it’s over. Let us not be weak, we do our best, even if our best is not enough. Know that government is there as we move forward, onward . . . people can depend on us in this most difficult time,” Mayor Mercado declared. (LDL/MMP/PIA-8/Southern Leyte)