Written by: Ronie Bautista

As the search for the first LGU partner in Mindanao area for the IPAT-SIAD implementation is in progress, SEA Inc. visited the town of Kolambugan, Lanao del Norte for due diligence last March 13-14, 2024.  A meeting was set for key personnel of the LGU including their Local Chief Executive (LCE) for data gathering and verification using a face-to-face interview as a method. Then it was followed by site visits and validation.  While observation has been made in the entire trip, the activity serves also as an opportunity in familiarizing the area taking note of some significant observable facts and features of the subject.

LGU Kolambugan

Why Kolambugan? Kolambugan was one among the 3 municipalities short listed by SEA Inc. with the strong support and help of Hon. Mayor Rommel C. Arnado the LCE of Kauswagan, Lanao del Norte and at same time the current president of League of Organic Agriculture Municipalities and Cities (LOAM-C) in the Philippines. Through his facilitation these three municipalities were identified and will be subject for area selection process using the criteria selection set by the SEA Inc. as agreed together with Life Bank Foundation, Inc. as the funder. After the exploratory and initial dialogue with the LCE (Hon. Alan M. Omamos) and one of the SB members (Hon. Atty. Brooke Lou T. Tapuyao), a letter of intent was sent by the LGU to SEA Inc. expressing their intention to be a partner of SEA in implementing IPAT-SIAD. Thus, it is imperative that Kolambugan will be subject for due diligence and assessment.

A glimpse of Kolambugan (Short background). The town, Kolambugan started as a settlement for migrants from the Visayas and a number of native Maranaos of Lanao. The early settlers of Kolambugan were fishermen and farmers. The name Kolambugan was derived from the word “Kolambog”, a plant species belonging to the genus Dillenia which grew in the area abundantly. On June 12, 1912, during the transition period between the American colonization and the commonwealth era, two enterprising foreigners, FINDLAY and MILLAR settled and established a timber processing plant named Kolambugan Lumber Development Company (KLDC) which opened the economic activity of the place where more people came in to seek for job opportunities. On June 15, 2015, KLDC said was renamed into Findlay Millar Timber Company (FMTCo.). The establishment of FMTCo marked the beginning of Kolambugan’s development as an industrial town, which spurred its economic growth. The presence of timber company triggered migrations and rapid economic growth. It became the Kolambugan’s major source of income contributing largely to the provincial government’s coffers. Kolambugan is the oldest settlement in the province of Lanao del Norte tagging it as significantly the “Mother Town of Lanao del Norte. It is also known as the “Sarimanok Capital of Lanao del Norte”’ signifying unity amidst cultural diversity as being inhabited by both Christians and Maranao settlers. From a barrio to a 4th class Municipality of Lanao Province, nowadays. Of 26 barangays, 3 are urban and urbanizing areas while the bigger 23 are rural barangays. The town was also blessed to have a total coastal length of 17 kms. within Panquil Bay (rich in marine resources) and has a total land area of 13,455 hectares mostly fertile and suited for agriculture. With regards to the total population, the town has 28,265 people (According to the 2020 census).

Meeting with the Mayor of Kolambugan

Why is it that Kolambugan was considered as a “Cliff Hanging LGU” …?  Literally speaking the location of the LGU was situated in a cliff along the national highway (Linamon-Zamboanga Road), facing to Panquil Bay and Osamiz Occidental, the capital of Region X. Furthermore, according to the statement of the incumbent LCE (as mentioned during the interview) the situation of the town was volatile in the sense that it was described as equal to” a LGU hanging on a cliff” in danger to fall in an abyss of desperation and hopelessness in spite of its glory days before. With the consideration of some facts, that the town was declared as ranked 10th among the municipalities on the national level in terms of high poverty incidence; no. 2 in Region X as to the number of teenage pregnancy cases; 9,000 more or less were jobless or with no permanent source of income from among its labor force; an LGU which is only dependent to Internal Revenue Allotment (IRA) shares from the national government with no other source of income other than from the taxes collected in spite of its vast natural resources; and the closure (ceased to operate) of FMTCo which was one of the town’s major revenue and economic contributor. With this following premises, the present LCE (a dynamic, decisive, visionary and an established successful businessman) had decided to return back to his home town because he was forced by these situations to run on the last election with a land slide vote from his constituent. This sought victory triggers his passion to serve back his people at his best. With the acquired experiences of 33 years in sales and corporate world in Manila, together with the cooperation and support of all stakeholders, other municipal employees and officials, the present administration aims high to transform the LGU to became a STAR (Self-reliant Good Governance driven with Transparency, Accountability and outmost Responsibility) as stipulated and published in the souvenir program of the FOOD CONGRESS cum Investment Forum held last June 23-30, 2023 at Kolambugan, Lanao del Norte.

Data gathering and validation with MSWDO : Cherry Love Sabihon

The path to progress and sustainability which the LGU decided to thread was complementary, supportive and somehow similar to the strategic direction and ultimate goal established by IPAT-SIAD. Without preempting the decision of SEA Inc. in choosing its first LGU partner in Mindanao. Thus, it is possible that Kolambugan will become an LGU partner either now or in the future.

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