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SAN FERNANDO CITY, La Union - The Pangasinan-Ilocos region is being eyed for development and promotion as an agribusiness and tourism hub, with government officials believing the area may play a more significant role for the country as well as the northeast Asian market.
The vision for this was spelled out in the report of the Trade Industry and Tourism (TIT) sector of the Regional Development Council (RDC) which laid out strategic plans to transform the region into an agribusiness and tourism center starting 2011.
The report was made during a recent State of Regional Development conference in Bauang, La Union where the TIT sector, headed by Department of Trade and Industry Regional Director Florante Leal, outlined a comprehensive plan that could spur Region 1’s agribusiness and tourism economy.
To achieve the dream of making the region the agribusiness and tourism hub under the administration of President Aquino, the ITT sector is pushing for the economic integration of the Pangasinan-Ilocos region with North-East Asian countries, taking into consideration the region’s location at the center of East Asia.
The region is already the food basket of the country, producing rice, corn, fish, vegetables, poultry, meat and others that can supply the needs of the whole country and channels the excess to the country’s Asian neighbors.
Another important product is tobacco -- demand for which may, however, be affected by the worldwide campaign against smoking.
In order to entice more business investors and tourists into the region, the TIT sector proposed the expansion of the region’s land, sea and air transportation networks, utilities and communication facilities, social service facilities and banking networks.
A new airport is now being built in Alaminos City in Pangasinan and an international seaport might soon be starting in Sual town. On the infrastructure side, the Tarlac-Pangasinan-La Union Expressway has already broken ground for the Tarlac-Pangasinan section.
A shipping port in Sual might give birth to ship building as an added industry which some potential investors have earlier indicated to pursue.
These and other infrastructures are expected to propel opportunities in the province thus the vast manpower available in Pangasinan need not be imported anymore.
Leal also said that in line with the new world economic order, Region 1 must be linked with East Asia in four of the eight targeted sectors of the Philippine Investment Priority Plan outlined earlier by the DTI, namely Agro-industry, Business-process outsourcing Information technology, Logistics, and Tourism.
However, in order to realize this vision, Region 1 must be made a successful tourist destination with Pangasinan, the gateway to Ilocandia and the region’s biggest and most populous province, leading the way.
The ITT sector noted that the province of Pangasinan under the administration of Governor Amado Espino Jr. is now developing a 250-hectare Eco-Tourism Zone comprising of a self contained community that will include an 18-hole golf course, beach front residences, high-end and mid-range subdivisions, commercial area, amusement park, resorts and hotels, restaurants and retail shops, water sport area and a yacht club.
The eco-tourism zone in Barangay Estanza, Lingayen in Pangasinan, an untapped piece of land available since 1995, is being offered to be developed by investors under the Public-Private Partnership.
The sector also expressed the strong need to develop local products through DTI’s product branding and certification to boost marketing of the “One Town, One Product” (OTOP) of local government units.
Among the OTOPs being eyed for promotion are the “abel Iloco”, "bagnet", "burnay" and ‘basi’ in Ilocos Sur, the milkfish, fish paste (bagoong) and salt in Pangasinan, and the like that can be packed and sold to businessmen and tourists visiting the region.
There will also be a need to develop competitive and skilled workers that will complement manpower requirements for tourism and outsourcing industry, among others, through continuous development and competencies of labor force to match industry needs.
Moreover, there is a need to engage the assistance of the private sector in the implementation of government programs and projects through volunteerism and enrolment of projects through the PPP and the “Bayanihan Bayan Program of Government Service.