OPAL to be institutionalized as economic alliance in western Pangasinan

June 30, 2009 9:11 am 

By Lilia M. Micua

ALAMINOS CITY, June 30 — The newly-created One Pangasinan Alliance (OPAL) is set to be strengthened and institutionalized as an economic alliance that could provide new hope and opportunities to the people in six towns and one city of western Pangasinan.

This was disclosed by Mayor Hernani Braganza during the launching of the Local Governance Support Program for Local Economic Development (LGSP-LED) and the National Forum on LED at the Ayala Museum in Makati City on Monday.

OPAL is an alliance of Alaminos City, Anda, Agno, Bani, Mabini, Burgos and Sual, to be joined later on by the towns of Bolinao, Dasol and Infanta.

The activity was highlighted by the signing of the Statement of Commitment of Support to Promote Economic Governance in the Philippines by Interior and Local Government Secretary Ronaldo Puno and Canadian Ambassador Robert Desjardins.

Other signatories to the document are Governor Felipe Hilan Nava of Guimaras, Vice Governor Julius Herrera of Bohol, and Governor Rolando Yebes of Zamboanga del Norte, Canadian International Development Agency (CIDA) First Counsellor for Development May Wong, DILG Undersecretary Austere Panadero, Canadian Executing Agency’s Field Director Marion Villanueva, and Herman Ongkiko, program manager of the LGSP-LED.

OPAL, an economic alliance of seven co-equal local government executives in the first district of Pangasinan, is one of the four LGU alliances selected by the LSGP-LED Project Steering Committee throughout the country to undertake Phase 1 of CIDA-assisted projects.

Braganza explained that this is an eight-year collaborative project of the Governments of Canada and the Philippines aimed at fostering efficient, responsive, transparent and accountable governance at all levels.

A program of DILG and CIDA, it is implemented by the Canadian Executing Agency (CEA), a consortium composed of the Canadian Urban Institute (CUI) and the Association of Canadian Community Colleges (ACCC).

LGSP-LED, among others, seeks to reduce poverty by strengthening local governance and supporting sustainable local economic development (LED).

The project is also intended to enable an effective national policy and programs on environment and improving the prospects for local economy in the local governments.

“We have harmonized or thrusted new policies that will attract investments in the OPAL district,” said Braganza, who is the OPAL chairperson.

“We have set-up a system that will enhance our revenue enhancement programs for us not just to rely on Internal Revenue Allotments, and consequently modernize our governmental system," Braganza said.

According to Braganza, the biggest challenge to OPAL now is how to transform its natural resources into sustainable opportunities for its people in terms of business, jobs, or even incomes.

The OPAL district is basically rich in agricultural resources and in tourism potentials, being home to 75 per cent of the major tourist destinations, foremost of which is the Hundred Islands National Park and historical sites of Pangasinan.

On top of these is the fact that it has a power plant in the municipality of Sual.

All towns are covered by major telecommunication companies and are accessible by land 24 hours a day and the sea thru the seaport. Hopefully, according to Braganza, the first commercial airport in the province of Pangasinan will be built in the city by 2011 or 2012.

Water is not a big problem in the district, having two water districts and five municipal waterworks.

But despite all these natural resources, agriculture remains untapped, eco-tourism destination remains undeveloped, commerce is relatively young and the LGUs (Local Government Units) are dependent on their IRA share.

Poverty in the OPAL district, according to the Alaminos City Mayor, is still equal to the national average at 37 per cent.

Alaminos is a case in point which is almost 86 per cent dependent on IRA. This simply means that the city is not generating enough revenues locally.

"Our vision is to modernize our respective LGUs to empower or strengthen our capabilities to become enablers of opportunities or more great opportunities for the people in the OPAL district," Braganza said.

He said it is the vision of OPAL "to make our economy more vibrant as compared to the present", acknowledging that agriculture and tourism are the dominant drivers of growth in the OPAL district.

The mayor firmly believes that in a span of 15 months, OPAL will able to promote the natural beauty of the district. It will also be able to create more opportunities, not only among its constituents but reach out beyond OPAL and promote the economic and investment opportunities of the respective municipalities.

OPAL is also expected to come up with an integrated system and strategies to be able to provide opportunities for the respective LGUs as well as in the conservation, protection and rehabilitation program for its watershed areas.

After 15 months, we believe, that thru these programs, we will be able to develop more modules for agricultural enterprises," Braganza said.

He added that OPAL is expected to build more or less an average of 45 major cooperatives, or an average of 6 to 7 per local government unit that could reach out to almost five per cent of the total household in OPAL and three percent of the total number of agricultural lands.

"It is our belief that OPAL will have a major impact not only on our local economy, but in terms of attracting investors in the first district of Pangasinan or the OPAL district,” the mayor pointed out.

He added that in tourism, OPAL will be able to capacitate potential business partners and stakeholders that can immediately go into business within a 15-month period.

OPAL, according to Braganza, is expected to conserve and protect the natural beauty in the OPAL area and transform these into potential economic opportunities for integration of all these under one major program.

After 15 months of being together, we do sincerely believe that given an expensive preparation and capacity building program, we will be able to secure investments for the OPAL district,” he said. (PNA)

DCT/LVM/LMM/rma

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