First 100 Days

PASINGKEDAN TI KINATAN-OK NI ILOCANO!

 

Speech delivered by Hon. Imee Marcos, Governor Province of Ilocos Norte at the Sangguniang Panlalawigan Session Hall 08 October 2010

Patpatgek nga kailian,naimbag a malem kadakayo amin.

Alam ng lahat na di ko sana gustong bumalik sa pulitika, at ninais na lamang manahimik sa paglikha ng digital media at sine. Subalit laking dagok sa aming pamilya, at lalo na sa ating bagong senador, ading kong si Bongbong, nung tinalikuran kami ng kamag-anak. Napilitan akong tumayo at ipaglaban ang iniwan ng tatay ko dito sa Ilocos Norte para sa mga magsasaka, magaaral at maralita.

Hindi rin lihim kaninuman na wala akong balak sumabak higit pa sa pulitikang local. Tulad ng tatay ko, lagi akung ilag sa local- kayat, sa totoo lang, ang aking karanasan sa local ay nagmula at nagtapos sa Kabataang Barangay, yung dating SK, at natuloy bilang diputada ng mahigit isang dosenang taon. Sino ba ang gustong makialaman ang mga mayor, ang mga pulis, manghimasok sa alitang personal at parokyal, kasama ng away ng mag-asawang sa huling banda ay nagseselosan lang pala. Ngayon pati bakbakan ng mga kapitbahay sa pag-aari ng naligaw na baboy,sa kapitolyo pa ang punta at nangangampanya raw si kapitan ! Ano ba itong napasukan ko?

On my first day at the Capitol, TV Patrol caught me carrying furniture to make way for a temporary governor’s office. What they mercifully did not show was the new governor cleaning out a ladies’ toilet, as all those in the Capitol were dysfunctional and antiquated. But my official family, the Sangguniang Panlalawigan had no such complaints- they had no offices at all!

Still the Executive had nothing on the Judiciary- after the fire that razed much of its upper floor, the Marcos Hall of Justice was an unsightly, unhygienic morass of burnt debris and ruin, the distraught judges heroically struggling merely to function. The Heroes Hall, the Dap-ayan and even the Marcos Stadium were all in similar states of disarray and disrepair.

Eto pala ang trabaho ng gobernadora, maging kapatas ng mga bulok na gusali- eto nga ba ang trabaho ng gobernadora? Ay Apo! Agad-agad kong inutos na ayusin lahat ng sira, ipaggawa ang kailangan. “Madame Governor po, magbabayad pa tayo ng utang, wala po tayong cash na ganyan.” Malaki ang utang ng probinsya, at tuwing babayaran ang interes at hulugan, halos wala ng panggastos sa mga hiling ng mga mangbubukid o barangay.

The financial position of the province was indeed dire, but our security red alert in July was even more alarming. While the province seemed peaceful, a series of high-profile political assassinations remained unsolved with neither witnesses nor evidence with which to start investigations. Television and relentless media attention made notorious a number of Ilocos Norte municipalities with “private armies” and other partisan armed groups. Meanwhile, the violence that marked the last election continued unabated, with the murder of broadcaster Lito Agustin and the ambush of Mayor Maja Sales.

And then dengue struck with full force. Already claiming the lives of 2 children unseasonably in February and May, the 4 new and vicious strains of this disease were ravaging hundreds of Ilocanos. It was no longer a rainy-season phenomenon, it was attacking our students and province-mates all year round. Mystifying even experts, doctors were frequently unable to identify the curious new symptoms, parents often too late and helpless against the deadly dengue fevers, hospitals bulging at the seams were soon unable to cope with the patients exploding into the hundreds.

I didn’t have a “honeymoon period” at the start of my 100 days. Instead, I had 3 crises on my hands.

First, we had to re- establish peace, order, and safety from Dingras to Pasuquin, from Bacarra to Pagudpud; Second- we had to bring dengue and its attending problems of healthcare and the hospitals, sanitation and the lack of solid waste management under control; Third- we tried to plug the hole of a province hemorrhaging financially.

With the new PNP PD in place Police Superintendent Marlou Chan, we have finally effected the arrest of  certain suspects for high-profile crimes.The suspected gunman in the murder of mediaman Lito Agustin, has finally been arrested, and the Department of Justice, to guarantee the continuance of this political case, has opened the possibility of  transferring it to Manila. The ambush of SPM Robert Castro & ABC Chairman Geoffrey Saguid in Dingras, resulting in the death of Councilor Joen Canete has finally yielded results in the arrest of a prime suspect. Also in Dingras, 4 suspects are in custody for the murder of Lorenzo Rey Ruiz  of INEC.

Even previous to the COMELEC gun ban for the upcoming barangay elections, the province has effected checkpoint and mobile searches in an intensive campaign to reduce the number of loose firearms in the province. Kapag walang baril, walang mababaril. We are working towards heightened police visibility, from today’s average of 1 policeman to 899 citizens to the recommended number of 1 policeman to 500 citizens. Security precautions are now in place in critical infrastructure such as the Laoag International Airport, the Currimao Seaport, the Capitol and what are known as “crime-prone” and ambush zones.

But we remain far away from our aspiration of safety and security. The BPATS and tanods will have a critical role to play in expanding police visibility. Mobile and more aggressive gun inspections require more patrol cars and hours on the road. The PNP continues to investigate the ambush of Mayor Maja Sales and the 2 resulting deaths. Last Monday, the cold-blooded murder of the treasurer of Adams Elpidio Sy once again beamed Ilocos Norte violence nationwide.

I need your help, together we must put an end to this culture of political violence. We enlist everyone in this crusade- the church, civil society, the victims that they are brave and steadfast, the prosecution and the judiciary that justice is neither delayed nor denied, all our communities and families that only want to live quietly in the security of their homes and their jobs, without fear of attack from politicians, their private armies or those in positions of power.

Our response to dengue has similarly been an emergency operation. Through Board Member Jese Galano’s initiative we have constituted the Provincial Dengue Brigades and their barangay counterparts. To that end we have disbursed over P12mil for larvicides, fumigation equipment and grassroots campaigns. Through my mother Congresswoman Imelda Marcos and her protégée now-Health Secretary Ona, the DOH has sent numerous teams and testing machines to expedite our cases. Finally in mid-September the disease appears to have abated and the incidence totaling almost a thousand has now dwindled to the few of the last month. But henceforth we shall treat dengue as a year-round disease, remain wary of its many variants, and stay clued into the dizzying number of symptoms the disease can manifest.

In the larger scheme of health, even as healthcare burned through 36% of the totaI provincial budget, I was dismayed to discover that the Provincial Health Board had not once been convened since 2006. Today, we have not only met our new health board, but we have expanded its membership to include our distinguished kailian Dr. Joven Cuanang of the St. Luke’s hospital group,  the Laoag City health officer Dr. Mateo and  Dr. Rey Mamaclay  representing the professional and private sector.

To plug the void left by the national devolution of health and hospitals, I have set up a Hospital Management Council under the leadership of Dr. Cesar Chua to govern the Ablan Provincial Hospital and the 4 district hospitals of Marcos, Dingras, Vintar and Bangui.

Where there was no public healh program nor budget at all, with Board Member Balbag’s close and inspired counsel, we have restored public health to its primary importance. The BHW has been organized under new leadership, the Philhealth re-focused on indigents and its true client base, and the medical supply and medicine chain realigned with the national formulary.

Finally, through the assiduous efforts of Treasurer Josephine Calajate and the local finance group, we have begun to plug the financial hole and the province of Ilocos Norte, I am relieved to report, is no longer hemorrhaging the enormous amounts that our loans had began to cause. After weeks of discussion, in August we successfully renegotiated the Convention Center loan with DBP, resulting in the overall savings of P151, 030,351.91 for the whole duration of the loan through 2021. By demanding the reduction of the old interest rate from 10% to the

new rate 8%, we have effectively saved P29milliion in the last 6 months, also releasing our pledged IRAA for use in other projects and program.

In a similar cost-saving effort, we have terminated the contract of Petco Events management of the Convention Center. We are presently reviewing and auditing a second contract with Paramount hotel management, and will be ready to take action before year-end.

Cost-cutting is never a pleasant task, and sadly we were unable renew a number of casual and job order contract employees. Personnel services had bloated to 62% of our entire budget, well beyond the 45% ceiling required by the Budget Department. We hope to come closer to the mandates of good management through the 2011 Regular Budget, and certainly, as our provincial finance grows healthier, I hope we will soon be  re-hiring and creating new items at the Capitol.

I must also make mention of the hotly debated RA 7171 fund that was to be “monetized”, or “demon-etized” depending on which side you were looking from, just before the last election. Through the untiring efforts of our then Vice Governor and present Provincial Administrator Windell Chua, we now have the total gross amount of P259, 401,000, released to us by the Land Bank, rather than much smaller figure of P179million then urged in the past. Instead of the onerous 31% interest rate recommended then, we have now saved the province P10m plus the cash flow advantage P61.4m over the next 6years. Best of all, we have protected the amount for the farmers, the zanjeras and the tobacco-dependent families who shall now have funds for the climate change adaptation assistance and safety nets they so direly need.

How quickly things can change, and today with our healthy cash balances, grant and lending institutions have begun to offer us deals and projects. Ilocos Norte is now back in business, able to provide counterpart funds and ready to partner with the private and foreign sectors. Not only do we again have money in our coffers, we are now collecting income generated locally.

But the lamentable fact remains that almost 99% of our income is our IRAA and whatever else the national government might send. Just as  many Ilocanos depend on remittances for sustenance, so too does the provincial government rely on Manila sending us money to survive. We must become more self-reliant and generate our own revenues to pay our own expenditures. Real estate tax is the largest local source of income, but we only collect P13million annually or a meager 42% of assessed value. In fact, we had failed to produce title to many of our most valuable Laoag properties- shockingly, we did not have title to our own motorpool, the NFA, Provincial Agriculturist and Veterinary offices, the stadium and the Marcos Hall of Justice, numerous properties including the Capitol itself!

I have constituted Task Force Titulo and at last, we have begun to own title to what we own, firstly through the efforts of Mayor Michael Farinas the Heroes Hall. With that we have revisited our tax mapping and have so far increased total assessed value of our assets by over 30%, or    P45,965,740.00. Soon the Museo Central will operate with a Duty Free and national food chains, the Rizal Park will have its climbing wall and overhead bridges, together with the stadium and Centennial arena consolidated into a sports hub. I am confident the province can one day earn its keep, no longer relying solely on the capricious padala remitted by the national government, but instead able to stand on its own, attract investment and generate jobs for our own citizenry.

Following the triple crises of finance, security and and dengue, we began at the Capitol to dig in, dig into the nitty-gritty of governance in a province that had grown used to benign neglect and poverty.By no measure are we a poor province and Ilocos Norte has been rated first class for many years. But just as the renowned economist Dr. Celeste Abito says, it is “jobless growth,” bloated by OFW and balikbayan remittances, sickened by unemployment and wasted talent. Alarmingly, ours is the only province in Northern Luzon witnessing a rise in poverty, from the 21.8% of 2003 to the 24% today.

What we see today is clearly a province in decline. 24% of school-age children do not attend school, giving us the highest rate of out-of-school youth in Region 1. Our drop-out rate is high, our NAT score low-to mediocre. Meanwhile, our maternal mortality and morbidity, as well as our infant health grow, with dengue, leprosy and tuberculosis still prevalent in the countryside. This is not the Ilocos Norte we knew and loved in bygones past, this is a province grown complacent from years of patronage and dollar remittance. It is time for us to change, to restore the nagaget nga Ilocano, the frugal, humble, resilient and resourceful men and women of the north. It is time to reject the easy but dangerous path of dependence, of business as usual, of resignation and acceptance of the old bad habits.

I am all too aware that governors will come and go, as will their pet projects, their slogans and the administrations they governed. In the end, governors, officials, civil servants and citizens, all of us will be judged solely by how we touch people’s lives, how we made pathways out of poverty for our constituents, whether the countryside was truly transformed and valid encompassing change is finally engendered. For this reason I issued Executive Order 04-10 creating the Provincial Millennium Development Goals (MDG) Office under the Office of the Governor because I believe we can eradicate poverty in Ilocos Norte in our lifetime, if we truly commit all our provincial and national government agencies, our Congressmen and Senator, our city and municipal mayors, our barangays and all our civic and religious partners to fighting poverty.  On Marcos Day we thus signed the MDG Covenant to make that promise before the entire province.

But reality bites indeed, so what did we have at the Capitol with which to fight poverty? An ageing and demoralized provincial government, employees inured to years of political infighting and disbelief that meritocracy could govern their careers. On the other side, we had an embittered citizenry, accusing Capitol employees through a barrage of texts, anonymous emails, letters, notarized complaints, whispered reports, of all manner of petty graft, sloth, immorality and worse.

Since July, we have sought to restore the processes of the civil service, including the Provincial Grievance Committees to hear and investigate these accusations yet providing also a venue for their defense. The installation of closed-circuit TV cameras has been controversial, but certainly they and the bar-coded IDs have allowed us to begin verifiable performance evaluation, tracking tardiness, absences, delays- but at the same time, allowing us to reward excellent and innovative public service. ITC and technology can be a tool for governance to be transparent, accountable, and responsive.

Since July, we have also discovered rare talents within, master’s degree-holders and multi-awarded workers sadly performing clerical or routinary chores. Now we have picked out these talents, even as we recruit young, highly qualified future department heads to work for local government. Career advancement activities have begun with the Development Academy’s Project Management 5-day workshop, the upcoming Tourism Capacity Building by UP-AIT and the UNDP-assisted MDG Capacity Development effort. I know that we can improve the bureaucracy in Ilocos Norte and transform it into the highly-motivated, truly outstanding civil service it must be to meet the challenges of this difficult millennium.

Together with a long-entitled “bureau-crazy,” we struggle today with an ancient if graceful Capitol where no one was proud to work in any longer; we have motorpools more like a junkyard full of non-functioning equipment and little to offer harried irrigators. As the governor and kapatas-in-chief, I have initiated a massive and aggressive infrastructure plan, upgrading our buildings to commercial and tourist standards. The Malacanang of the North in Paoay has been transferred to the Province and following the inventory next week, we shall have acquired yet another valuable but derelict property. As part of the Palafox Masterplan, we shall soon be signing a counterparting agreement with the DepEd for the development of the Paoay Plaza and the schools that lie within its grounds. And we have only just begun.

At last, I am happy to announce to the zanjeras in this rainy season, the new spare parts costing over P 4million have been installed, and we have 2 backhoes, bulldozers, trucks in service. I hope we can buy with the help of our Provincial Board 2 new backhoes, and much more equipment for the barangays and other sectors, very soon.

After a hundred days, we are ready to start up, to begin the business of governing in earnest. We are not a billionaire province yet, but we are rich indeed in talent and humanity. “Brain gain” is our policy to bring back the best and the brightest of Ilocos Norte to give back to their home province. Already I have mentioned Dr. Cuanang of Currimao, who has brought hospitals to IPO and stock exchange listings nationwide, now our healthcare adviser and the gifted hotelier of Sitio Remedios. Dr. Arsi Balisacan, my neighbor in Batac, is the international poverty guru and one of the best macro-economists working today, will be advising us on economic diversification and Millennium Development. Engineer Fel Agustin of Sarrat and Tarlac designed the prize-winning second terminal of the Clark airport, and he will show us how to develop an internationally accredited Laoag International Airport. Architect Michael Guerrero of Paoay is our very own expert on “green architecture” and is designing Bongbong’s long-awaited Provincial Library.

Perhaps the balikbayan we have become most familiar with in these last 100 days has been Architect Felino Jun Palafox, the world’s urban planner from Bacarra. His Masterplan for Tourism Development is not yet been complete, but already investors have been arriving to check out the province. He is a rock star, and we pray for others like him to help us! And we discovered local tourism rock stars too- Benny Arce and Tina Tan in sports tourism, Alma Oida of Pagudpud in surfing, Pastor Brian Shah in educational tourism, Sam Blas initiating gastro-tours, Karen Santos on the business of travel, budget marketing and tour operators, Dr. Calope and  bird-watching and Mayor Carly Abadilla with his barangay captains built the first zipline in Ilocos Norte. Last but not least, my deepest gratitude to a genuine provincial treasure Bishop Sergio Utleg, who has been a resource for everything from mountaineering, biking, heritage and music!

Consultation and participation- this is the spirit that informs our new and  pioneering Provincial Education Department under our own national Metrobank “Best Teacher” winner Dr. Jeanette Dialz. With DepEd, MMSU and the province, we are launching a vastly expanded provincial Student Scholarship Program, to include indigent elementary and high school students as well as academically gifted university scholars.  With Jeanette is Dr. Aris Cajigal, our youthful Fulbright scholar and a specialist in science education, set to ensure “100% free education” for the primary and secondary levels by assisting the schools with their utilities, repair and maintenance costs.  We must also rationalize the favorite Sagip- Maestra by counterparting with 1st to 2nd class municipalities to benefit smaller municipalities. But we are ready for the call centers and business outsourcers to come to Ilocos Norte, with 3 tax-free PEZA buildings to offer them- the MMSU Library, the Takuat training Center and the Heroes Hall- and we have a qualified workforce trained under MMSU’s C4 and TESDA eager to start work.

“Convergence” has become a fashionable buzzword, overused and rendered meaningless. But here at the Capitol, convergence has been our solution to share staff, resources and varied insights and perspectives. This has been the theme of our efforts to introduce new agriculture, diversified high-value crops, value-adding agri-business and processing. In Burgos, Manang Edita Dacuycuy has demonstrated how intensive cultivation of high- value, high-yielding dragon fruit can raise a farmer’s income as high as P100,000 a month- way above the paltry sums even hybrid and registered rice seed can earn a farmer. How can corn’s meager prices compare with Pastor Adriano Piza planting moringa or malunggay in Sarrat and selling to a boundless international market?

These are the champions of our new agriculture. San Nicolas and Batac bagnet, MMSU and Glad longganiza, Nana Rosa and Namnama cornix, garlic and lasuna chips were all assessed at the recent convergence conference of DTI, DOST and DA Agribusiness, a groundbreaking effort that Ilocos Norte hosted 2 weeks ago. Our local food champions used climate change adaptation to produce new and marketable products: already Camilo Abadilla exports duhat wine, basi, and other Cormel products to the Seafood Palace in the US, Banna Blend rice coffee from Bagnos MPC is gaining popularity. Off-season vegetables at premium prices, organic fertilizer production and organic produce markets managed by barangays, a lasuna trading post in Badoc perhaps- there are endless possibilities for new agriculture if we are open, if we listen intently and share with other departments, other agencies, other private groups to support the farmer in his bold and brave new enterprises.

The day before yesterday we finally held the usual visioning for the provincial government, a function I had postponed and rather dreaded. But after a whole day’s discussion, with our Board Members, department heads and key employees, we discovered we indeed had a vision for the province: Pasingkedan ti kinatan-ok ni Ilocano! Truly no one can stop us from being great again.

My father said long ago that leadership is teaching, I think today after 100 days with you that leadership is also learning. Perhaps because I was a most reluctant candidate, I had no big platform to impose or any ambitions to power. So I have just listened, and asked, and badgered, and many times you saw me get very, very angry. But I thank you all today because through it all, I believe we have learned together. Even as I hear from you, I hope you now share some of my thoughts and my goals. Together let us be inspired by the people we serve, listening to them, asking, watching always learning from the great and wondrous province that is Ilocos Norte.

Pasingkedan ti kinatan-ok ni Ilocano! Neither nostalgic nor wishful, we pledge for the next 3 years to generate jobs in a diversified and growing economy. We will ensure rapid and sustained growth, but we will guarantee also that it is inclusive, never leaving behind the weak, the poor, the challenged. We must uphold at all costs the social equity of small farmers and marginal fishermen, providing those in need with the safety nets of education, health, welfare and disaster protection We will promote an enabling environment of peace, good governance and investment. And through it all we will honor the Ilocano heritage and the values of a God- fearing people, hard-working, frugal and just.

Adun ti rumbeng nga intay aramiden iti las-ud ti tallo a tawen. Adu ti intay balbaliwan ken saranayen. Ket kalpasan ti naunday a panawen nga intay pannakairidep, nakariing tayon ken sisasagana nga agtrabaho ken tumulong manen.

Addaan tayon ti namnama, saan tay a rumbeng nga agbuteng. Agdadanggay tayo iti maymaysa a kalikagum – pasingkedan ti kinatan-ok!

Agyamanak kadakayo amin, ket sapay kuma ta itultuloyyo ti inkay pinagsuporta.

Siyak ti adipen yo nga natudyo nga agserbi.

Naimbag a malem tay amin