GAYANG– A comic book of 132 pages written and illustrated by senior high students featuring Cordillera mythical creatures which finally now have visual representations. Majic Asbucan (center) and Tor Sagud (left) of Gripo Comics, with apprentice artist Mary Grace Butil (right), hold a copy of the comic book. It will be launched on June 22. **PNA photo by Pigeon M. Lobien

RDC Econ-Dev members convened for a technical review to rank investment priority areas in CAR. Shown in photo presiding is Committee Chair and DTI-CAR Dir. Myrna Pablo with CDA-CAR Dir. Franco Bawang and other agency representatives. Also present is T.J. Ryan, Specialty Crops Managing Director of the Agricultural Cooperative Development International and Volunteers in Overseas Cooperative Assistance ACDI/VOCA who dropped by and briefed members of the group on their partnership initiatives with coffee industry stakeholders in CAR. **Art Tibaldo

Observers said the never-ending determination and hard work paid off for the triumvirate who ran on different slates.
Other triumphant bets in the first district are Board Members-elect Ceasario Cabbigat (independent), outgoing Kiangan mayor Joselito Guyguyon (LP), former Tinoc vice mayor Agustin Calya-en (PDP-Laban) and re-electionist Board Member Geronimo Bimohya (independent). On the other hand, Orlando Addug (independent), Perecta Dulnuan (independent), re-electionist Board Member Noli Maguiwe (independent) and re-electionist Board Member Clemente Bongtiwon (independent) emerged winners in the other district, according to official data from the Comelec.
Over the next five months or so, attention will be into the actions of these officials as they handle the province’s failing economy. Ifugao is one of the poorest provinces in the Philippines. In particular, people expect the incoming governor and vice governor to work together and be visible at the provincial capitol building at most times as a means of ensuring a turnaround of economic fortunes.
By doing so, this is expected to create jobs, attract investors, boost the economy and promote inclusive development.
Political beliefs and affiliations should not hinder the implementation of key programs and projects of the provincial government. The provincial government needs to be ready and willing to address the challenge of attaining the goals of a well-attuned action plan. It has to do this with added vigor and strong political will.
By July and up until November, the vice governor- as presiding officer of the Sangguniang Panlalawigan (SP), and board members will have their hands tied up preparing for the 2020 Ifugao government budget. Surely, the spotlight falls on the incoming chairperson of the all-important Committee of Budget and Appropriations. Being the architect of the budget, he or she has the burden of determining the direction or purpose of the 2020 budget. The august body has to explain if it represents the government’s commitment to invest in what concerns. Thus, the query arises: “Shall Vice Governor-elect Prudenciano prioritize the provision of higher allocations on social and economic services compared to the budget under the previous administration?” Or is it business as usual, just focus on the personnel services (PS) or the maintenance and other operating expenses (MOOE) for less hassles and worries.
In the best interest of this upland Cordillera province, starting just a little past the noon of June 30, Governor Dalipog should exercise political will in making decisions. After all, Ifugao folks are looking for a leader with a strong political will. In short, the message on the wall is crystal clear: “If you think that’s right, do it!” That’s the way to do it. Not a few out there surely will appreciate it.
The challenges are indeed enormous. People’s organizations as well as nongovernment organizations have every intention to communicate and express their views and recommendations to the SP, but their efforts might be in vain, as the civil society organizations and the private sector are not consulted at the budget-planning process. For instance, board members only closely engage with department heads at closed-door meetings and it puts into quandary the relevance of transparency.
Prioritized programs and projects that would address the challenges of agriculture, Ifugao’s main industry, should be spelled out by the incoming Dalipog administration. Besides usual pronouncements, SP deliberations by July, consultations with farmers groups should be seriously considered. Several problems impeded the progress of ensuring food security in Ifugao. Subsidies to farmers are part of any government’s social services to its people. Such subsidies must therefore be extended especially in the agriculture sector. Feeling the pulses of the impoverished farmers is essential as it serves as a trigger point in ensuring food security thru a genuine rice self-sufficiency program. Farmers are also worrying about their young loved ones’ lack of interest to engage in farming in the coming years, making it necessary for youthful Ifugao agriculture graduates to be adept in the use of modern technology.
For Mary Cabbigat, an elderly resident of Lagawe, a road project shall give the people an opportunity to be a part of growth and development. “Road projects connect families, communities and villages. Once completed, vehicles get to enter remote areas and this is what connectivity is all about,” she said.
Like Mrs. Cabbigat, a longtime supporter of Atty. Chungalao, a number of the voters who backed the triumvirate saw the pressing need to bolster the farm sector with farm-to-market roads firmly in place- soil tillers’ produce reaching town public markets at a faster time and at a cheaper price.
Good and well-paved roads are needed not just to transport fresh and lowly-priced produce (at farm gate prices) from distant villages to the town proper but also people.
Road opening projects were often wasted that failed to lead to economic development because attention was turned to other matters by certain quarters, thus, infrastructure work just ended there.
History is to be made by Governor-elect Dalipog by buckling down to work early and possibly meet with the top brass of the Philippine Statistics Authority. He should get an accurate figure for the target production level in Ifugao for 2018, 2019 and 2020. Typhoons are likely to hit the province in the remaining months of 2019.
By noon of June 30, Dalipog would already be governor and he must exercise political will to right the wrongs inflicted on farmers. Thus, he should, for example, pursue the provision of a Rice Productivity Enhancement Fund (RPEF) through legislated action. It will be used to improve mechanization and seeds input. This may not be an issue if farmers are not bearing the full brunt of the high cost of living and heavy debts. The Dalipog administration is also up to the task of improving basic social services in far-flung villages. Obviously, the incoming governor cannot do it alone. He needs the support of the vice governor and board members. The interaction between them creates a bilateral movement supported by the people. The residents of Ifugao have their responsibilities as well. It isn’t fair when the burden is all on him. Only a fool would do otherwise. Dalipog, a civil engineer by profession, should start his tenure auspiciously. As evidenced by his accomplishments in the past as a chief local executive, Dalipog, an advocate for rural development, is expected to do so. Fortunately, Dalipog is committed to be a partner of the people in their success. This also holds true with Chungalao and Prudenciano. For one, no more “Little Governor” at the Office of the Governor is the order of the day. Likewise, no more “absenteeism” at the SP. It is a herculean task facing the next vice governor. Moreover, no more “zero budget” allocation for Representative-elect Chungalao. This madness has to stop! It is time to discard these practices that are making Ifugao folks unproductive without themselves realizing so. **By Anthony A. Araos

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