Focus on roads leading to tourist destinations

By Anthony A. Araos

“In Ifugao, the provincial government has to face the fact that farmers do not and will not have the financial wherewithal to meet the infrastructure challenge of mechanized farming.”

Many municipal and provincial government officers tasked to take care of Ifugao’s tourism industry tend to concentrate themselves merely to the conduct of the Gotad and Kulpi festivities, making it very difficult to squeeze in many other activities they have throughout the year.
Likewise, they gave little attention to other important aspects and factors directly affecting the tourism industry. Well, I’m referring to roads leading to popular destinations in Ifugao’s 11 towns. Sadly, most of these roads are in poor condition. Simply, impassable at most times, to say the least. Small wonder, the tourism industry is in a dismal state.
In recent months, however, I was pleasantly surprised to have conversations with three knowledgeable individuals in the private sector and out of it crystallized the idea of collectively pushing the agenda of constructing more roads leading to these tourist destinations. Mind you, they’re immensely “knowledgeable” themselves on this subject matter, unlike those in the public sector. Too bad, they’re receiving hefty salaries from the government. When I heard a tourism officer spoke of petty things on the Gotad and Kulpi, I froze. I couldn’t believe the person was in front of me.
It is high time to level up and instead focus on improving the road network system vis-à-vis the over-all development plan to accelerate the tourism industry. Designing solutions to the low tourist arrival numbers in Ifugao is best seen and achieved by constructing all-weather roads to these famed attractions. This yearning easily directs Ifugao folks to the transformative change they are long aspiring for.
We’ve known for a long time that there are several wonderful tourist sites in Alfonso Lista town in Ifugao. To name a few: Domingo Integrated Organic Farm, Municipal Forest Library, Wetlands Eco-Tourism Park, BFAR Aqua Park and the Yao Jia Xi Dragon Fruit Farm. But, where are these places? How long is the travel time from Barangay Namillangan (the gateway of the town from Ramon, Isabela)? Strictly speaking, there should be a signage or a billboard saying so. There is a pressing need to provide directional advices to motorists- including local and foreign tourists. In their all-important trips, time is definitely not wasted on the road! This underscores the fact that modern technology and tourism are interconnected at all times.
Alfonso Lista is an agricultural town that harvests the best corn and dragon fruit in the country. But where is the signage to guide the visitors? How do you go to the famed Rancho Domingo?
The people of Alfonso Lista are hospitable, respectful and friendly. They’ll tell you where the barangay hall is located. But, a signage comes in handy, most especially at night.
The most impressive thought I gathered from Philippine Chamber of Commerce and Industry (PCCI)-Ifugao Chapter president Jasmin Deleso of Lagawe in a recent conversation, is her views on putting up an airport in the province. She is in favor of one and the site should be in Kiangan town. Deleso, a precociously gifted business wizard, is right is some ways. Of course, I disagreed. I’m still batting for one in Alfonso Lista. Nonetheless, we both agreed that there should be one in Ifugao.
Indeed, this is something to rave about in a province where, according to a staff of Board Member Agustin Calya-en, a vast majority of its populace are still living a simple way of life. And this easily explains the province’s underdevelopment.
The discussions on this matter should start quickly. Yes, well-meaning and knowledgeable folks should strive towards the greater possibilities that still await them. Let thousand voices be finally heard by Ifugao Rep. Solomon Chungalao!
Many are really worrying about the coronavirus (COVID-19) disease outbreak and threat. Still, many, many others are worrying of some other problems in their midst. For instance, cash-starved farmers are burdened by countless burdens. Farmers have complaint of inadequate post-harvest facilities, communal irrigation systems and farm-to-market roads.
In Ifugao, the provincial government has to face the fact that farmers do not and will not have the financial wherewithal to meet the infrastructure challenge of mechanized farming. The solutions, therefore, demand a lot of common sense and innovations. This is just a small part of the entire equation.
Likewise, the Land Bank of the Philippines board of directors should consider condoning the penalties imposed on arrears of farmers and paying their amortization.
Moreover, farmers should be provided farm-input assistance through a subsidized scheme. I’m talking of the provision of high-quality palay seeds and fertilizers.
If you cannot accept the backwardness of Ifugao farmer’s practices, let us then push for the acquisition of modern facilities such as surface irrigation systems.
Another noteworthy endeavor for farmers to engage is in the field of intercropping. Intercropping crops like coffee or cacao is profitable. Supplementing these crops with papaya, pineapple and banana is an excellent idea.
Modernization of agriculture is a must-do agenda in impoverished Ifugao. It shall ensure that the province not only produces good harvests, but, more importantly, bumper harvests. As the saying goes, you cannot kill an idea whose time has come.
The greatest shame for any self-respecting government is for outsiders to tell it to really take care of the needs of its people. Should not the Ifugao provincial government thus provide its employees their so-called “gratuity pay” in accordance to the wish of President Rodrigo Duterte?
I got it in good sources that job-ordered personnel are not receiving this benefit. In fact, I interviewed a number of them. I got the same information. To my mind, this is utterly wrong, unfair, unthinkable and disgusting. This runs counter to achieving the objectives and purposes for which Administrative Order 20, signed by the President on January 20, 2020, was originally designed.
In a government that looks at the welfare of its people as its primordial mandate, it is imperative that we provide the fundamental needs that our people seek.
The gratuity pay is badly-needed by these employees, most of them are from low-income bracket, because of the deleterious effects of the high cost of living. This is precisely the reason why President Duterte issued the said edict.
The refusal of the powers-that-be to implement the same has undermined the valiant effort of President Duterte to alleviate the plight of poor Filipinos.
The move to provide the have-nots a breathing space or relief in these difficult economic times through the Gratuity Pay scheme is emasculated by the provincial government’s misreading and misunderstanding of the intentions of the Chief Executive.
Provincial government employees ask why they can’t partake a piece of the pie, why is the provincial government adamant to the call of simply integrating them into the mainstream of the government workforce by ending “contractualization” of workers? Why is it difficult to give a gratuity pay of Php 2,000 for a length of service of 3 months or more but less than 4 months, when one is not asking for Php 1 million? It’s not hard to answer these questions.
Let us not shower them with praises for being “hardworking and dedicated to their duties,” but look at their wellbeing.
The job-ordered employees have sacrificed much for the province. They invested blood, sweat and tears, time and energies, and in return it is only fitting that the provincial government recognize their service by giving them their gratuity pay. They are frontlines of your offices. They can relate to your constituents. Fulfill your campaign promises to uplift their living standards.
For one, I’m fervently praying that the “bigwigs” of the provincial government finally see the light at the end of the tunnel. The job-ordered employees are your people- whether they voted or not for you!
Affirmative action by the provincial government on this concern- or the immediate grant of gratuity pay, at the end of the day, will bring a well-deserved remark from my end, and I’m pretty sure from many others. Enough of excuses and alibis!
I want to find a solution to their dilemmas by drawing on the governor’s and vice governor’s innate wisdom and compassion. I have full trust and confidence that they’ll heed their call to grant them their gratuity pay.
For our food delights corner: you may wisely consider chicken macaroni salad and onion rings for snack time. Merienda is certainly great with this all-time twosome favorite of mine. Try pairing them with chilled apple juice. Enjoy the break time with friends and don’t forget to pray for the blessings.
Finally, here are some thoughts for our dear readers: “I have a brain, and my brain has no gender. It is just as good as anyone else’s- a man or woman.” Former Immigration commissioner Andrea Domingo
“Our country is not yet debt-free, poverty-free, crime-free or corruption-free. So what are we free from exactly and why do we celebrate Independence Day?” Internationally-acclaimed singer Lea Salonga of the Philippines
“Do whatever he tells you.” John 2:5**

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