Farming town sprints on development track
Widow Fe Ricafranca is enjoying a better life nowadays. She has been able to repair her house in Barugo town in Leyte province, and still has money in the bank.
Ricafranca, 56, a mother of five children, credits her alleviated condition to an increase in monthly income she receives for her work at a local cooperative. From P1,500 a month when she was a market vendor, she now gets at least P6,000 in dividend as a member of the Barugo Food Delicacies Producers Association (BFDPA).
The cooperative sells local delicacies, such as “roscas,” a cookie made of flour, egg yolk, oil and condensed milk.
In June, Ricafrente’s dividend doubled up to P12,000 from brisk sales. “I never thought that I will enjoy this kind of income,” she said.
The improved state of living may mirror the economic progress being enjoyed by Barugo, largely an agriculture and fishing town.
On verge of dev’t
According to the National Competitiveness Council (NCC), Barugo is the “most improved” this year among municipalities categorized as third-to-sixth class in terms of yearly income. This means that the economy of the town of over 31,000 people in 37 villages is on the verge of development.
The NCC, formerly known as the Public-Private Sector Task Force on Philippine Competitiveness, was created in 2006 by Executive Order No. 571. According to its website, it aims to promote a more competitive Philippines and “instill a culture of excellence through private-public sector collaboration as means to reduce poverty through inclusive growth.”
Using three indicators—economic dynamism, governance efficiency and infrastructure—the council recognized Barugo as most improved in its income bracket after its ranking went up to 56 in 2015 from 436 the year before.
With the new NCC ranking, Ernesto Montes Jr., senior industry development officer of the Department of Trade and Industry (DTI) in Leyte, said he expected more investors to come to Barugo.
“The award will serve as a tool and will encourage the investors to do business in Barugo as the survey made by the NCC was not based on perception but on actual survey in the three areas,” he said.
Montes said economic dynamism simply meant how the local economy was performing, while government efficiency referred to the competence of the municipal government in dealing with clients, like businessmen.
Mayor Maria Rosario Avestruz received the NCC award on July 14 at the fourth Regional Competitiveness Summit in Manila.
“We are thankful for this award. We are crossing our fingers that this will result in more investors coming to our town to do business,” said Avestruz, who is serving her first term as mayor after her husband, Alden, completed three terms.
She said she was merely reaping the benefits of the foundation laid down by the previous administration.
As a fourth-class town, Barugo depends on its internal revenue allotment (IRA) share of P75 million. Its annual income reached P5 million.
There are currently 80 registered business establishments in the town, 19 of which started operating in January. These provide employment to 375 people.
To attract more investors, the municipal government is crafting an investment code which will offer incentives, among others, Avestruz said.
“It is still being discussed right now so I cannot give you the details. But for sure, we will be offering some incentives to prospective investors who will do business here,” she said.
Avestruz, who was once the general manager of Leyte II Electric Cooperative based in the capital city of Tacloban, said she was making sure that doing business in the town would not be difficult.
First-time applicants get business permits within the day. Those who want to re- new their permits get the documents within 42 minutes.
The local development and investment promotion council has been activated to promote the town as an investment hub.
Barugo’s beautiful white sand beaches are potential tourist attractions. Aside from its local delicacies, it is also noted for “tuba,” or coconut wine.
The town has partnered with cooperatives and other groups to promote its products among tourists and in other provinces. One of these is the 10-member BFDPA, which was organized in 2011 after receiving P499,000 in grant from the Department of Labor and Employment.
Last month, the cooperative earned more than P161,600 and gave its members P12,000 each in dividends, double the average of P6,000 they get monthly.
With the improved economy, Ricafranca said she expected higher income because people would have extra money to buy their products either for personal con- sumption or as gifts to relatives living in
“With a bigger pay, I could afford to buy things for our house. From my earnings here in our cooperative, I was able to have my house repaired, and provide allowance and the other school needs of my children,” she said.
Two of her five children are working and have been helping her shoulder the family’s expenses. The rest are still in school.
Ricafranca expressed confidence that a better future lies ahead for her family, now that the economy of the town is booming.
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