State of the Province Address of The Honorable Matthew J. Marcos Manotoc Governor of the Province of Ilocos Norte to the Sangguniang Panlalawigan


Natalged, Nakired, ken Napaspas

When I assumed the Governorship two and a half years ago, we resolved to bring more progress through investing in our people, encouraging everyone to join us in a brighter vision for a greater Ilocos Norte. 

Unfortunately, COVID-19 posed serious challenges to every sector, its impact has not only limited our progress but seriously tested our healthcare system and almost all of our industries. 

With that said, I believe our Province has fared better than most. First and foremost, early 

emergency measures were implemented to protect public health such as securing our borders while still ensuring trade and cargo continued. We quickly partnered with our hotels to become quarantine facilities. We donated a PCR machine and automated extractor to our praiseworthy partners at Mariano Marcos Hospital. We invested heavily in our COVID capacities and resources. We launched a myriad of financial assistance and economic stimulus programs to support and create livelihoods for our people. 

Together, we have withstood one of the hardest periods in the history of Ilocos Norte. Now, we are more knowledgeable and more equipped to manage this pandemic and we will continue to build back better. 

We have focused on making sure that all Ilokanos are safe and can provide for their families. Our efforts have led to a Province that is safe and strong amidst disasters and a Provincial Government that is swift in addressing the needs of our people. Natalged, Nakired, ken Napaspas. 

We have been able to carry out our vision of a "healthier" Ilocos Norte. We deeply thank all of our frontliners, from our medical frontliners, to our uniformed personnel, to our BHERTs, who continue to protect in this pandemic. Dios ti agngina. The cooperation from Ilokano communities, both local and abroad, and the assistance of the private sector have likewise improved our pandemic response.

Today, I am proud to announce that Ilocos Norte has the highest percentage with at least 1 vaccination dose in region 1 and 90% of our target population is now fully vaccinated. 

Even before the pandemic, the improvement of our 6 provincial health facilities was well underway. In the past 2 years, we have poured in over Php 291 million into improving the infrastructure alone of our facilities. One of which was the timely establishment of our medical oxygen refilling plant building at GRBASMH. We have coupled our infrastructure with more equipment and supplies to the tune of Php 212 million and the hiring of medical professionals. Doctor [Rogelio] Balbag has led the way as the executive director of our medical facilities. 

We shall raise the efficiency of our health services to meet the increasing medical demands of our kakailian. For 2022, Php 650 million was appropriated towards our improved health system and Php 35 million for COVID support programs. 

Mental health and well-being have been at the forefront of our response to COVID-19. We founded Speak up, I’m Here, a mental health center and hotline, which has become a sanctuary for our kakailian enduring social isolation, family and relationship pressure, disrupted education, and other difficulties. The Center has serviced almost 600 clients since October 2020, with clients ranging from adolescents, frontliners, returning residents, and COVID-19 patients in isolation.

We apportioned Php 1 million this year for our various mental health activities in the Province, such as art therapy sessions, mental health break camps, and psychosocial first aid and support training. Our "Search for the Best Mental Health Practices in Ilocos Norte" will underscore a whole-of-community approach to promote, protect, and care for mental health.

In line with the principle of preventive healthcare, we established numerous new parks in the Province including many barangay eco-parks wherein we allotted  Php 200,000.00 to each barangay to establish or improve their own park with a barangay farm. 

We also hope to inaugurate the Marcos Stadium by the middle of this year which will return as an exercise hub for all. Of course, this is part of our Big 3, along with Dap-ayan and the extension of our capitol which should all be completed by this year.

I would also like to highlight that our malnutrition numbers have gone down thanks to our nutribun and carabao milk interventions. From almost 11% stunting in 2019, we are down to around 6% stunting among preschoolers. Wasting and obesity have also decreased. We will distribute height boards and weighing scales to each of our 559 barangays. We commend our Provincial, City, and Municipal Nutrition Action Offices and our Barangay Nutrition Scholars. Ultimately, we stand by our belief that a healthy populace is a productive populace. 

As a province of farmers, the challenge of increasing productivity and profitability was met by the provision of Php 2 billion of appropriate infrastructure such as farm to market roads, enhanced irrigation systems, and equipment and agricultural inputs such as seeds, fertilizers, soil conditioners, and sprayers. For 2022, we have added allocation of Php 1.3 billion for agricultural needs from our Tobacco Excise Tax.

We take pride in being chosen as one of the five pilot provinces in the Philippines to lead extension services in agriculture and fisheries. INAFES, as it’s known, will strengthen linkages by sharing science-based knowledge and technologies with farming and fishing communities. We have pushed, incentivized, and supported our crucial shift to high value crops or HVCs to ensure our harvest is marketable by allotting almost 80M pesos to HVCs.  

After being one of the few remaining ASF-free provinces, ASF posed a crisis to our livestock sector. Much like COVID-19, we had to be on the ground immediately to contact trace and stem the infections. We provided relief packs for those who were affected, gave sprayers and disinfectants, facilitated their PCIC and DA indemnifications or payouts, allotted almost Php 14 million for those who were uninsured, and provided alternate livelihoods.  We are also hopeful that the establishment of an Animal Quarantine Station at the Ilocos Norte–Cagayan Valley boundary will help secure the income of our hog growers, including Erlinda Quezon of Solsona.

Gusto ko pong magpasalamat sa lahat ng ating magsasaka, mangingisda, mga livestock growers, at mga partners natin sa kooperatiba-ang ating mga COVID-19 “backliners” na tumutulong upang may sapat na pagkain ang bawat pamilyang Ilokano. 

Our agricultural action points moving forward are: 

Since 2020, the Sangguniang Panlalawigan passed Ordinances that have provided Php 370 million in cash to Ilokanos who were most vulnerable. The Sangguniang Panlalawigan demonstrated careful stewardship of our Budget as together, we initiated a solution-based and people-centered response, in the form of cash-for-work, emergency livelihood assistance, pay now work later, interest-free loans, and skills training programs. 

Our micro, small, and medium enterprises constitute 99.6% of the businesses in Ilocos Norte. To date, our programs dedicated to our MSMEs, such as financial assistance, micro-financing, livelihood starter kits and equipment. We allocated 40M pesos in cash to our MSMEs in 2021 alone. 

Moreover, our pop-up events and trade fairs have generated sales of Php 14 million reaching 11,000 MSME beneficiaries. We also waived the Governor’s Developmental Fees for non-essential MSMEs who were adversely affected by the pandemic. Cristy Baptista was one of our recipients of our NegoKarts. 

Nagaget ken naanus-we are industrious and we endure. Our hard work defines us as a people and we are proud that our kakailian worked through this downturn in our economy. In crisis, there is opportunity.  

For 2022, the Provincial Government will continue to invest in the preservation and creation of businesses, jobs, and livelihoods. We will continue to prop up ailing yet essential industries. We now see more stability in our industries and we believe our businesses are more sustainable. 

For Tourism alone, more than Php 29 million in aid benefited not only industry workers under the Tourism Livelihood Continuity Program or TLCP, but also our frontliners with the Leisure Incentive Program. Joel Idnay was one of our recipients of our TLCP. 

Meanwhile, our Tourism Employment for summer and the holidays continues to serve as an opportunity for short-term employment for aspiring tourism workers.

This calamity made us further appreciate our wealth of natural sites and allowed us to highlight our natural, outdoor tourist attractions. Even the New York-based international magazine Travel and Leisure listed Saud Beach as one of the 25 most beautiful beaches in the word, the only Philippine beach to make the list. 

We launched our strategic tourism partnership with the province of La Union which has strengthened our tourism network and we established the Tabacalera Food Park which has afforded Laoag City some nightlife. 

Thanks to our LGUs and tourism partners, many tourist sites have gained popularity, including our new solar-powered stacked stones installation at the Paoay Sand Dunes, Badoc Island, the Currimao Seawall, Solsona-Apayao Road, Piddig Sunflower Farm, Caaoacan Beach, Vintar Dam, Sexy Beach in Pasuquin, Darna Falls in Dumalneg, and Anuplig Falls in Adams.  

In the coming week, we should be opening the Paoay Lake Waterpark, the first of its kind in Northern Luzon. Soon, with the support of Congressman Angelo Marcos Barba, we will also inaugurate the “Magdalena Gamayo Center” in Pinili.  

Ilocos Norte was the first province in the Philippines to be awarded with the World Travel and Tourism Council Safe Travels Stamp for our adoption of globally recognized health and safety protocols. Our active tourism workers are 100% fully vaccinated. We are more than ready for the full revival of our tourism industry and we look forward to welcoming our kababayans to Ilocos Norte. 

We worked with the Sangguniang Panlalawigan to pass landmark legislation that created a medical scholarship and more recently, our agricultural scholarship and arts scholarship. With Php 65 million aligned for this year, we will continue to fund our bedrock scholarship programs. 

Amidst the pandemic, we have witnessed a thousand acts of perseverance by our learners and their families and our teachers and administrators, together bridging the divide of distance learning. We extended our support to our Schools Divisions by providing printing materials and machinery and coordinating with local radio stations for the delivery of lessons. The Provincial Government has distributed more than 12,000 mobile tablets to students across the province. 1 of the 12,000 recipients was Shanel Andres from Sarrat.

Of the 10 schools in Region 1 selected for the pilot face-to-face classes, Ilocos Norte had 9 schools. These classes were carried out successfully. We continue to make public our plea to the national government to adopt a localized education policy wherein face to face classes resume in low-risk areas. 

In Ilocos Norte, no matter the crisis, we have always survived and ultimately, we have prevailed. We have proven that the resiliency of Ilocos Norte is not only in its leaders but our true resiliency is in our people. We have seen that, regardless of the calamity, we stand tough and we stand together. The Ilokano spirit always prevails.

In the years to come, we shall rebuild a safer, stronger, and more prosperous Province: a Province that illuminates the young, equips the farmer, and empowers the small business owner. A province proud of its past yet fully committed to its future. For after all, this is our home. This is Ilocos Norte. Dios ti agngina.