Romblon's mainly agriculture-based economy got a boost from Department of AgricultureSecretary Proceso Alcala who visited the province last April 4 and 5.
The visit was made possible through the efforts of Romblon Governor Eduardo "Lolong" Firmalo. The Governor said, "Secretary Alcala's visit provided a clearer roadmap in harnessing Romblon's potentials in agriculture.""Romblon has a great potential in agriculture," declared Alcala upon arrival at the Port in Looc, Romblon where a well-protected fish sanctuary is also located.
In a short arrival speech before the crowd of Bantay Dagat and town officials led by LoocMayor Leila Arboleda, Alcala pledged to provide the town's small fishermen 18 new fish cages (payao) on a rent-to-own basis to boost their income thru aqua-culture.
He also encouraged the fishermen to apply a "bibingka strategy" by growing abalones and sea cucumbers underneath those payaos. "Para may kita na sa itaas, may kita pa sa ibaba," the jovial cabinet secretary explained.
Locally known as "balat", "sabra-sobra", "lapas" or "kapinan", abalones command high price in Chinese restaurants and especially when exported to Hong Kong, Japan, Korea, Taiwan, Singapore, China, Australia, USA, Canada, Spain and, Netherlands. The same is true with sea cucumbers (with 23 local names) which price ranges from PhP 180 to PhP 850 per kilo depending on size and the kind of specie.
Alcala had lunch at the popular Aglicay beach in another town, Alcantara, where he met with Mayor Eddie Lota to discuss the town's needs for agriculture.
After Alcantara, the Secretary proceeded to Odiongan where he graced the town's Agro Fair and a turn over ceremony of a newly-built food terminal warehouse. His visit also coincided with Odiongan's 164th foundation day and town fiesta.
In his speech at the food terminal's turnover ceremony, he assured Governor Firmalo, Odiongan Mayor Boy Firmalo and other town officials that his department will do all it can to provide Romblon the necessary assistance to develop its agriculture, including the idea of putting up a trading post which he pioneered in Quezon.
"Kung anong maitutulong ng national government, ating pangungunahan," he told the euphoric crowd of Odionganons who appreciated the secretary's down-to-earth style in dealing with the people.
In a public forum that followed, he responded positively to the request that liquid freeze facilities be provided in Odiongan, Romblon, and for other towns if possible, to prolong and broaden the marketability of the province's fish catch. The liquid freeze facilities, which he had been discussing with Governor Firmalo prior to his visit, will come in two weeks time. He likewise offered Odiongan the rent-to-own scheme for payaos that he offered to fishermen in Looc.
He also instructed the National Irrigation Administration (NIA) regional director to evaluate the province's irrigation and water impounding systems to see if there is a need to rehabilitate them or if necessary build new ones; the Bureau of Animal Industry (BAI) to upgrade the animal culture in the province; and for other agencies under the DA to make additional farm to market roads and other facilities such as flatbed driers, shallow tube wells, as well as supplies of seedlings.
The DA also handed down checks representing tuition fee subsidies for the province's Agricultural Training Institute (ATI) scholars.
After the turnover ceremony, Governor Firmalo showed Secretary Alcala the Farmers and Youth Training Center at Barangay Rizal which needs additional funding support to become operational.
Boracay as market
Throughout his visit, Secretary Alcala kept stressing on the importance of making Boracay Island as Romblon's main market owing to its proximity to the province and the island resort's ever growing need for high value agricultural products such as seafoods, vegetables and fruits. Boracay is host to almost a million tourists every year.
He told the town officials and the crowd that a DA team is going back as soon as possible to formulate a master development plan for the whole province of Romblon and integrating it to the national plan.
He also recognized the inexhaustible energy of Governor Firmalo in trying to make Romblon a great province. Alcala and Firmalo became friends as they were both members of the 13th Congress. On his part Firmalo thanked Alcala for taking the time out to visit Romblon.
With Miss Gina Lopez
A dinner hosted by the provincial government on the night of April 4 had Secretary Alcala and ABS-CBN Foundation Managing Director Ms. Gina Lopez as main guests. Lopez was also in town advocating the rejection of mining operations in the whole province of Romblon.
Speaking before the ecumenical gathering jointly organized by the Aglipayan and theRoman Catholic churches, Alcala echoed Gina Lopez's view that by experience mining does not necessarily bring development to host communities. He told the faithful that the real alternative rests on the development of Romblon's agriculture and that the national government is willing to help the province achieve this goal.
Meeting with local leaders
On the morning of April 5, Alcala was accompanied by Firmalo to Barangay Canduyong where a possible site for the PhP 15 million marine breeding station is to be built. Once implemented, the project is expected to enhance the development of aqua culture industry in the province.
Before proceeding to the town of Calatrava to join local officials led by Mayor Bong Fabella in inaugurating the new fishport terminal, Alcala went back to a resort in Odiongan to meet with top local leaders from Romblon's 17 municipalities.
In Calatrava, he instructed his aides to evaluate the possibility of expanding the fishport terminal and putting up a coco coir facility.
And before catching up a flight back to Manila, Alcala led the release of baby sea turtles in the beautiful coastal barangay of Bunsoran in Ferrol town where he also met with local officials led by Mayor Jason
8 April 2011
Office of the Governor
Province of Romblon
Contact: Wilson Fortaleza