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Batac: Ilocos Norte achieves golden feats in 2023

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Ilocos Norte province will remember 2023 as a year of golden harvests.

To start off, state-run Mariano Marcos State University (MMSU) produced topnotchers in the licensure examinations for physicians, teachers, physical therapists, foresters, nurses, civil engineers, lawyers, agriculturists and chemical technicians.

Dr. Aira Cassandra Castro led the cream of the crop after becoming the first MMSU graduate to rank first in the Physician Licensure Examination, with a rating of 89 percent in March.

She and the rest of the board topnotchers this year were immediately offered positions at the MMSU by school president Shirley Agrupis.

Castro is now a member of the faculty of the MMSU College of Medicine.

“I always want to serve Ilocos Norte. So, ang plan ko po before ako pumasok sa MMMHMC (Mariano Marcos Memorial Hospital and Medical Center) ay mag-academe po muna sa College of Medicine para po matulungan natin mag-train ang mga younger generations natin na (I always want to serve Locos Norte. So, the plan is before joining MMMHMC, I’ll join the academe first to help train the younger generation of) Ilocano doctors,” she said in an interview.

For her residency, she plans to go into either pathology or internal medicine, whichever has greater demand, she added.

Ilocos Norte Governor Matthew Joseph Manotoc believes that the people are the greatest wealths of the province, thus the provincial government continues to invest in education, healthcare, and livelihood to address poverty, migration, safety, and security among others.

The 2023 provincial budget was reduced to PHP2.1 billion from PHP2.4 billion in the previous year but this had little or no impact at all on the delivery of quality public service.

Latest data from the National Economic and Development Authority released this year showed that the province’s poverty incidence is the lowest in the region at 2.5 percent, registered in 2021, while employment rate is high at 98.9 percent in 2022.

In one of the domestic roadshows of the Philippine Economic Briefing, members of the Economic Development Group highlighted Ilocos Norte’s priority sectors to sustain economic growth — energy security and human capital development.

“This is a testament to the hardworking characteristic and resiliency of Ilocanos,” Cherrie Grace Asistin, president of the Philippine Chamber of Commerce and Industry – Ilocos Norte, said in a statement.

To support investments in human capital development and increase the employability of Ilocanos, the provincial government partnered with public and private agencies for the provision of various scholarship grants, skills training, capital startups, livelihood generation, and market matching activities, among others.

Tourism hub 

Ilocos Norte likewise continued to carve its name as the Philippines’ premier tourism hub after emerging as the grand winner of the 2023 Association of Tourism Officers of the Philippines Pearl Awards.

“Our unwavering dedication to promoting Ilocos Norte tourism has earned the province the prestigious award. This recognition is a testament to the entire province’s collective effort in making Ilocos Norte a top destination for travelers,” Xavier Ruiz, the province’s tourism officer-in-charge, said in a statement.

The province received the same award in 2018, and was the second runner-up in 2019, and first runner-up in 2016 and 2017.

Government records on tourism arrivals showed a significant increase from 800,000 in 2021 to almost three million in 2022.

Data on 2023 tourism arrivals has yet to be announced but the Ilocos Norte Tourism Office believes it has surpassed the 2022 record with the help of Philippine Airline’s new Laoag-Cebu direct route, which started Dec.15.

The province also garnered an estimated PHP8.8 billion in tourism receipts, which accelerated the recovery of the tourism industry that employs thousands, including those in the informal sectors.

Lower power rates 

Through efficient trading and continuing dialogue with independent power producers, the Ilocos Norte Electric Cooperative (INEC), under a new management this year, succeeded in reducing its power rates from PHP14.7368 per kilowatt hour (kWh) in August to PHP10.7656 this month.

Acting INEC general manager Cipriano Martinez vowed that in the first quarter of next year, power rates would continuously go down to single digit per kWh.

In October, INEC entered into an emergency power supply agreement with AboitizPower to lock down rates and supply ahead of the seasonal demand uptick during the holidays.

This means that majority of the power supply of Ilocos Norte has a locked-down rate of PHP6.65/kWh from AboitizPower for one year.

As an emerging partner of the government in ensuring energy security given its vast renewable energy potential and massive reserves of mineral resources for clean energy technologies, Ilocos Norte is eyeing to have a direct power supply agreement with solar firms here.

Agri-modernization 

Some 75,000 farmers also received assistance under the provincial government’s “Agri Ka Dito” program, participated in by the Department of Agriculture (DA), Bureau of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources, Agricultural Training Institute, Bureau of Soils and Water Management, National Irrigation Administration, and National Food Authority (NFA).

Farmers received machines and livestock while fisherfolk got fuel subsidy, among others.

On Dec. 1, a modern post-harvest facility worth PHP130 million was inaugurated in Barangay Saludares, Dingras.

Funded by the NFA, the facility will speed up the drying of palay (unhusked rice) as the facility will be equipped with at least four units of 30-metric tons capacity batch recirculating mechanical dryers.

In Vintar town, about 500 farmers will benefit from the construction of a PHP11.9-million multipurpose warehouse with solar dryer in Barangay San Jose.

Aimed to reduce post-harvest losses and improve productivity, the project is funded by the World Bank under the Philippine Rural Development Project and has counterpart shares from DA and the local government.

It is eyed to increase the length of viability of produce by at least 50 percent. 

By having structurally safe storage and dryer for rice, garlic, peanut, onion, and corn during the harvest season, DA estimates that farmers will be able to increase the selling price of various commodities to as much as 127 percent.

“The warehouse will surely increase the income of farmers by affording more quality produce. With the solar dryer, farmers will no longer dry their produce along road shoulders of highways which accounts for post-harvest losses,” Vintar Mayor Richard Degala said in a statement.

Safety and security 

Meanwhile, 28 new patrol cars and personal safety equipment worth around PHP37.4 million were given to the Ilocos Norte police this year as part of the Philippine National Police’s modernization program.

The year about to end was relatively peaceful, too, for Ilocos Norte, with a crime clearance efficiency of 99 percent and crime solution efficiency of 82 percent.


(Leilanie
Adriano)
 

(Source: Provincial Government of Ilocos Norte)

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