Tourism, water lack top Sagada bets' platform

>> Friday, May 6, 2022

By Gina Dizon

SAGADA, Mountain Province – Tourism and water supply are major concerns raised in  barangay-held rallies  attended by 27 municipal councilor candidates, two candidates for  mayor and two aspirants  for  vice mayor.
    In barangay Bangaan, economic recovery via tourism was the pitch of candidates.
    Sagada suffered major economic setback since it was hit by the Covid pandemic as tourism was closed.
    Vice mayoral candidate and businessman Conrad Aben cited need for support to local products to boost tourism being a major source of income for the residents of the town.
    Sagada produces highland vegetables as cabbage and tomatoes, jams and jellies, woven products, etag (smoked meat) and pottery apart from bread and cakes.
Increasing production and diversification of material source for food processing increase volume of goods for sale.
    A food processing establishment owner said some fruits are bought outside Sagada considering lack of local materials for jams and jellies.    
    Councilor candidate former vice mayor Richard Yodong said there was need to open more agri - tourism sites and that benefits of tourism be shared by residents.
    The past two pandemic years, people turned to farming.
Idle and potential farms were planted with vegetables, coffee or made orchards.
    Sites included Bangaan in northern Sagada, gateway to the popular Bomod ok Falls, Barangays Fidelisan and Ola Coffee Farms in Aguid barangay.
    Opening of more sites including Bandung Hill which carries a historical  story along with Mt. Sisipitan  was proposed  councilor candidate and incumbent  IMPR (indigenous peoples mandatory representative) Jaime  Dugao.
    Langsayan Hills located in Bangaan and Aguid was earlier opened to tourism but closed considering sanitation issues.
Municipal candidate for councilor former municipal tourism officer Robert Pangod said promotion was needed in bringing back tourists.
    Meanwhile, government officers’ visitation of Ola farms made it gain popularity not only by tourists but by those wanting to know more about coffee farming.
    Pangod said Sagada should be more inclusive and open up to more economic opportunities among other sectors of society including farmers.
    Same concern was raised by Yodong who raised concern on equal advantage among residents on benefits of tourism.   
Sagada has some 150 inns with zero accredited ones, more than 500 guides with some 100 accredited, some 50 souvenir shops and a few cafés and restaurants. With a few tourists coming as compared to the previous years which accommodated some 5,000 to 15,000 arrivals a month, tourist arrivals have gone down some 1,000 to 2,500 per month from December last year to March.
    With this, only a few inns book a few who come to nearly a hundred during the regular days and peak up to a 100 plus in weekends.
    With the maximum capacity of inns now to 50 depending on the number of beds, only a few accommodations take a slice of the pie.    
    This, as tourist guides who are accredited are the ones who can only guide.       
    It is only when some 3,000 tourists and more arrive at a given same time that a number of inns and homestays receive visitors.
    But that is not what it is every day in Sagada. A few inns regularly receive guests especially those located in the outskirts of the main town. 
    It is during long weekends and holidays that benefits of tourism spread out to more accommodations and more guides.
    The recent four-day Holy Week from April 14 to 17 saw tourists mostly domestic visitors who visited Sagada.
    With at least four roads leading to Sagada namely via Sabangan, via Nakawnag in Besao leading to Tadian on to Cervantes, via Balili  Suyo Road joining with the  Baguio-Bontoc road, and the Dantay-Sagada Road which forks towards  Bontoc-Baguio road, Sagada can be a convergence site for referrals to other places tourists may visit.
    Former vice mayor and candidate for councilor Richard Yodong said opening up a road from Sagada towards Ampakaw Hills on to Bagnen in Bauko would pave a Bauko-Sagada tourism connection.
    Bauko is where Abatan is located which leads towards Tadian on to Cervantes and the Ilocos region.   
Pangod said more roads should be built including a road from Aguid to Mainit Bontoc and Bangaan to Ampakaw Hills to boost tourism.
Water woes
Ample water supply had long been a problem in this tourist town with water sourced from mountain springs.
With the onset of the dry season and the opening of tourism, lack of water is again a big issue.
    Municipal councilor-candidate Fidel Bawing proposed building of water pumps to address water supply.
    Some households have water pumps and these have proven to be feasible.
    The central part of town has some 50 water springs supplying nearly 2,000 households. Water reaches the homes via rolls of plastic hoses from underdeveloped spring water systems with some having no reservoirs.
    Most of these springs are open and don’t have reservoirs so when heavy rains come, the water also get muddy reaching the households.
    There is a need to improve the current water system with durable water tubes and building of reservoirs, Pangod said, adding there was a need to study the volume of water vis a vis household use for a certain period of time.
    During the rainy months, some private domestic tanks have overflowing waters.
    While this is case, most households don’t have regular supply of water as some springs have few water supply during the dry season considering increasing population.
    With the opening up of tourism again, water is now getting scarce to supply households and business establishments. 
    The non- functional P36 million Boasaw waterworks installed in 2012 never reached households of intended 15 barangay beneficiaries except for the irrigation part of it reaching the ricefields of Tanulong.
    Said waterworks projects was sourced from then Sen. Teofisto Guingona with P18 million and P18 million counterpart from the Cordillera Highland Resource Management Project (CHARMP).
    Yodong said there is a need to review the already implemented Boasaw waterworks whether the problem lies on technical engineering or social preparation.   
    Dugao said there was need to organize a barangay –based water association to manage the town’s water system.
    For quite some time, Sagada had no organized barangay-based water users’ organization.
    Meantime, the fate of the re-opening of the previously much visited Kiltepan peak with its “sea of clouds” seen from the peak at dawn was discussed during the Antadao rally.
    Said site was closed since two buildings were burned at Kiltepan peak November 2018.
    The re-opening of the park is laden with pending legal issues on lot ownership.


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