Bro. Erle Frayne D. Argonza
[Writ 09 April 2008, Quezon City, MetroManila. The author was former convenor, provincial development council of Cagayan, in late 82 till early 83.]
Imagine yourselves as young development planners, managers and implementers, all dreaming of waking up a sleeping province, vastly rich in resources but poor. Representing diverse agencies of state, bonded together by the shared sense of vision and duty, you find yourself confronting a population and a culture that didn’t share your enthusiasm for ambitious projects.
Such was my situation in the early 1980s in Cagayan, Luzon island’s northeastern most province. Already a deputy provincial manater for the Ministry of Human Settlements), at so young an age, I was convenor of the provincial development council there, and so it was my duty to prepare the agenda and call on the participants.
Fresh from my successful stints of handling enterprise development (with micro-finance) and community development, in no time at all did I rise to managerial post and help oversee development for an entire province. I had the luck then of co-partnering with other state officials, both local and national, who were very intelligent, competent, and visionary-type. Being like-minded, we were so happy being together in interagency bodies, and this wonderful social ecology facilitated our production of radical ideas to catapult the status of this province from the backwoods to the center of an emerging global economy.
This was the time when our collective efforts accelerated the installation of electricity, irrigation facilities, water utilities, telephone, new piers and infrastructures, massive financing support for diverse enterprises, and more. All of these were covered by development plans and the master plan for Cagayan.
Within the aegis of such development visions, plans and implementations did we envision a gigantic industrial estate and international trading facility for the pathetically rural province. On my side, I had the privilege of presenting key ideas and consolidating some feedbacks and recommendations from other stakeholders, notably the provincial-level officials and the mayors’ offices.
Each of the interagency groups had their own assignments, and forwarded the results to the Office of the President then, thru the NACIAD and its arm for Cagayan, the CIADP. The Governor’s Office also had its consolidation works, which it likewise forward directly to the presidential palace. Wading through all those committee networks was itself tough, and tougher was it to go through all the outputs and coming out with a final, consolidated plan.
Sensing that my tour-of-duty for Cagayan will be brief, I used the opportunity to refine the framework and rationale for an industrial estate cum trade facility. We then agreed to call it the ‘Port Irene Project’ for simplification, Port Irene being the backward pier in the reclusive town of Sta. Ana. The ideas arising from these were then presented to the mayors and local-level stakeholders who, like some enthused movie viewers, simply stared at me with stony faces during the session meetings at the famed Kamaranan Hall.
I likewise explained to the stakeholders that, for a rural provinces development to be sound at all, no polluting light or heavy industries will ever be established in any town, save for Sta. Ana where such industries will be concentrated. Only cottage industries will be allowed per town.
No matter how energetic were my elucidations then, I only got stony faces. Anyway, our efforts eventually paid, as the project was put into final plan format (mid-80s), enabled with legislation (new Congress), and implemented. I had already moved on to other development concerns since I left Cagayan in late 83, even became a social scientist and professor, but my level of elation and sense of accomplishment over our ambitious deeds then remains till these days.
It pays to dream and envision big visions that are seemingly hard to take off. This I can personally put so much words to substantiate, based on experiences worth narrating to one and all.