Friday, 6 July 2012

Libon to rise as rural tourism hub


LIBON:  This small but rich agricultural town in the third district of Albay may soon rise as a rural-tourism hub in Bicol, according to the visiting Senior Management Program (SMP) students of the Lee Kwan Yew School of Public Policy (LKY) of the National University of Singapore.

A case study by the 27 member SMP-LKY who had a weeklong visit in Albay found this town as a potential area for rural tourism given the adequate investment that would spur the town’s agriculture and tourism development.

The SMP-LKY students said farming, fishing, and the town’s beach resorts and sea ports are likely areas for investments that would transform the town into a rural tourism hub in the province.

An SMP study citing agriculture statistics indicates that Libon is the “rice granary” of the province having topped three other towns and one city in Albay in terms of rice production. These other rice-producing towns and one city are: Polangui, Oas, Malinao, and Ligao City.

This town’s 4,000 hectares of ricelands produce 30.4M kilos or 608,000 bags of palay per year.

Asked what he enjoyed most in his visit of this town, Nigerian Ambassador Emmanuel Oseimiegha Otiootio said he enjoyed experiencing planting rice with his fellow LKY-SMP 36-member students in the knee deep mud rice farms.

Chanting the country’s tourism slogan Otiootio said “indeed planting rice is fun in Libon.”
Scott Fritzen, LKY professor,  during the visit actually ploughed the field with a carabao.

This town is also the seat of the P200M Pantao Port, a regional port facility that links the island province of Masbate and the Visayas and Mindanao to mainland Bicol towards Southern Luzon and the National Capital Region.

The town, which is 45km away from Legazpi City celebrates the yearly “Paroy” (rice) Festival in June, a weeklong revelry that  showcases the  town’s cultural traditions, trade and religious events highlighting  its bountiful harvest of rice, vegetables, and crops.

Fritzen said his visiting group was impressed by how the local government officials led by Libon Mayor Agnes Dycoco address the challenges confronting the town.

Fritzen said the group’s case study indicates that the town, aside from being situated in a flood plain, is saddled with problems on health, social services, education, and water and health sanitation infrastructure.

Based on health statistics, malnutrition is also prevalent among the children and that there is a need for more potable water source.

The same case study concluded that the own needs to developed an investment plan that will seek to implement an integrated area development with emphasis on rural tourism, food processing, and infrastructure development.

Libon is a first class town with a total population of 71,527 living in 47 villages. The town’s economic activity is basically based on agriculture and fishing.

The SMP class is composed of 15 Singaporeans who are holding high-level positions such as directors and superintendents: four from Botswana with ranks of directors; three from China with positions as deputy-director general, chief accountant, and counselor; two from Hongkong with positions of senior superintendent and senior forensic accountant; a Nigerian ambassador to Japan; an Englishman with a senior superintendent and deputy district commander position, and an Australian assistant secretary.

The weeklong visit in Albay validated facts and figures in their case study entitled “The Municipal Governance of Libon: Sustaining Municipal Programs.”

 “Their visit is to validate what they’ve read and seen in the case, talk with actual stakeholders, visit sites  and address challenges. Particularly, four development areas—education, health, water and sanitation, social welfare; and an age-demographics of 0-18 years old, which comprise 51 percent of our total population,” said Dycoco, the only Filipino in the class of the sixth SMP batch in July 2011, and only the fifth Filipino in the program.

Dycoco said SMP was of limited admission, ensuring that participants are senior in experience, from private, government and civic sectors, and varied in fields of endeavor.

 “This is practically a convergence of field experts from various countries. The lecturers are all practitioners in their fields and have graduated from internationally renowned universities,” she added.

The National University of Singapore was recently adjudged by an international research organization, Quacquarelli Symonds Intelligence Unit (QSIU), as No. 2 on the list of top 150 universities in Asia.

The visiting international students also made a trip to Naga for actual presentation of Naga’s best practices in local governance before making a tour of the city and the CamSur Watersports Complex at the provincial capitol in Pili, Camarines Sur on their way back to Libon and Legazpi City. – Bicol Mail

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