Tourism: The Hope for a better life
(Speech delivered by Gov. Junie E. Cua during the Regional Tourism Assembly hosted by the province of Quirino)
Let me begin by expressing our heartfelt appreciation for the presence of Sec. Mon Jimenez. This is a rare moment in the history of the Regional Tourism Council and the province of Quirino. I recall that the last time we hosted the general assembly of the council and also attended by the Secretary of the Department of Tourism was way back thirteen years ago when we had Sec. Gemma Cruz Araneta as our guest.
As a tradition, one way of honoring our guests is by gifting them the Bugkalot costume and requesting them to join the fun by wearing them. I remember Sec. Gemma wearing the Bugkalot red and blue dress and doing the unique and peculiarly Bugkalot dance steps accompanied by the Bugkalot bamboo instruments. Today, I am not sure if I should gift you with a Bugkalot G-string because you may not want to come back to Quirino anymore.
So, instead today, upon the advice of our elders, I will be honored to don on you a symbol of respect and veneration accorded only to the most exalted leader of the tribe. May I therefore ask everyone to stand up and join me in this privilege and share the joy of this conferment.
Finding time to spend with us today, I am sure, is not easy for a busy department secretary, therefore, your coming today can only mean we are important to you. Having said that, I can say with confidence that your presence here has definitely heightened our spirit, our enthusiasm and our passion in making tourism a driver of growth in the Cagayan Valley region.
Our region, by the grace of God, is blessed for being endowed with fertile land, crisscrossed by mighty river systems, the Magat, the Cagayan River and the many tributaries. It is bounded and in a way protected on three sides by great mountain ranges, to the south by the Mamparang, to the west by the Cordilleras and to the east by the reknown Sierra mountain ranges. It is inhabited by the hard working Indigenous People like the Ibanag, the Yogad, the Bugkalot, the Dumagat, the migrant Ilocano and the Cordilleran, who live mainly by farming.
As such, the Cagayan Valley has evolved to become the food basket of the country. It is second in rice production and first in corn in the whole country. Despite being the gateway to the many typhoons, the people have endured, year in and year out, they continue to plant for a living.
By the end of this year, I would have spent more than half of my productive life in the service of our nation. I had and continue to have the privilege of witnessing the development of the region and sheperding the growth of Quirino province. In six years and two decades, the Philippine congress passed landmark legislations, the Agrarian Reform Act and the Agriculture Modernization Law as well as appropriated billions of funds hoping to enhance agricultural productivity and emancipate farmers from poverty.
However, this has not happened yet despite the hardwork of the farmers in response to the investment of the government. While people have survived and avoided starvation, one cannot truly claim that they have been liberated from poverty as sending their children to college or having a decent health care when someone in the family gets sick continue to be a struggle. Even as the farmers have contributed greatly to our all-important food security concern, they have not been appropriately rewarded by society. While agro-processing has contributed more value to our products, and created pockets of employment, it has not really led to inclusive growth.
There is a need to augment the family income of farming households to have a decent life. We need a strategy that will result in higher disposable income of more families rather than a few. Growth to be appreciated and felt has to be widely or broadly spread. I believe that tourism, specially eco-tourism, can be a driver of more inclusive growth. Not only does eco-tourism provide source of livelihood, it also forces the community to protect and preserve the forest and keep the rivers clean inorder to make eco-tourism sustainable.
We are very happy to note that the national government also includes tourism as a priority program by investing heavily in tourism related infrastructure. Your convergence program with the Department of Public Works and Highways speaks unmistakably of the government’s commitment to tourism promotion. We feel very fortunate to be in sync with your thrust.
In closing, let me thank the members of the Regional Tourism Council for your attendance and giving honor to the province of Quirino in hosting this event. Finally, I take this opportunity to thank Sec. Mon for his unending support to our sports and eco-tourism programs.
From now on, I am all the more confident that achieving the Quirino dream is not farfetch, that if you work hard enough and play the rule, you ought to have a decent life and a chance for your children to have a better one.
God bless the Philippines! Mabuhay!