In a bid to push for long-term transformation, Governor Imee R. Marcos in her fourth State of the Province Address launched a new vision, IN2020, which calls on Ilocanos “to create a future at home” and make Ilocos Norte the “best little province in the country” by the year 2020.

Held at the Plaza del Norte Hotel and Convention Center last August 26, 2014, her fifty-minute SOPA was applauded many times by the audience as she presented the achievements of the province for the entire year as well as all the upcoming projects of her administration.

“Ilocos Norte is great again and Ilocanos are greater still,” she added, referring to the previous vision, “Pasingkedan ti Kinatan-ok ni Ilocano” which she launched in 2011, her first year in service.

According to her, the progress in Ilocos Norte can be traced as early as 2011 with the launching of Tan-ok Festival of Festivals which, for the first time, converged all the municipalities and cities in the province. Previously “hollowed-out” and wallowed in a staggering 24% of poverty in 2010, Ilocos Norte is now economically-mobilized and culturally-charged province with the entry of major retail and renewables investments, tri-media production firms, and MICE (meetings, incentives, conventions and exhibitions).

“Napukawen ti kinakurapay—9.9% laengen ti nabati pay,” she said, citing in a visual presentation the abrupt decrease in poverty by 14.1 points since the beginning of her administration. This was achieved earlier than the Millennium Development Goal 2015 deadline set by the United Nations Development Programme. “Everyone who lives in Ilocos Norte is guaranteed the longest lifespan in the Philippines!” she added.

She also lauded the collective efforts to develop the frontline sectors in the province especially health and security. Child mortality as well as death by dengue, rabies and chikungunya was significantly decreased. Crime clearance also stands now at 73% and solution is at its highest peak at 59%, making the province the most peaceful area in Northern Luzon.

Her emphasis on education also championed the lagging National Achievement Test results and the lack of educational materials and facilities back in 2010 with the increase of enrollment which is now at 96.5%, and the decrease in the number of out-of-school youths.
Employment is at hype with Task Force Trabaho, a program she introduced when she pledged to create 20,000 jobs during her SOPA 2012. Today’s forecast stands at 44,609 jobs, doubling the amount she set. Now, Ilocos Norte has the highest employment rate in Region I and even higher than the national average.

In terms of transparency, Governor Marcos also highlighted the province-wide achievement of ISO, citing 9 municipalities ready to follow the lead of Laoag City namely Bacarra, Sarrat, Carasi, Currimao, Dingras, Marcos, Paoay, Pasuquin and San Nicolas.

“Bimmangonen ti Ilocos Norte,” Governor Marcos said, saying afterwards that the recent development in the province is owed not to the government but to “each and every Ilocano who pushed for change”.

‘IN2020: Metro Ilocos’
“With hope and ambition, let us now create a future for our families at home so that in 2020, Ilocos Norte will truly be a home we can be proud of—the best little province in the country!” Governor Marcos said, calling on all Ilocanos to convert this momentum of recent development into a continuing success.

She said that the key to modernization is to convert Ilocos Norte into “a learning province”. By embracing technology, she said that people should get reference from, rather than forget, the Ilocano heritage and values. Both the elderly and the young should be engaged in this modernization to “lifelong learning”.

“Still, as we modernize, we will manage urbanization, taking on the challenges of housing, transport and water management today while we still have the chance to map a sustainable Metro Ilocos,” said Governor Imee.
Among the governor’s initiatives related to this is the setting up of affordable city housing which is now happening through the Adigi Housing in Batac and the upcoming Ayuyang Homes behind Laoag stadium.
“The exorbitant cost of land, together with the opportunities offered by Metro Ilocos to students, employees and aspiring workers are the deadly combination for illegal settlers and slums. We must provide housing finance, construct with private developers and formulate a progressive legal framework,” Governor Marcos said.

She added that solving the issue of land ownership is another gateway to better housing opportunities as the government owns a total of 75.51% land area in the province which is supposed to be a vast “landbank” the Ilocanos can utilize. While Task Force Titulo a Natalged has already issued 12,351 titles, Governor Marcos said that this is not enough and called on the attention of various national offices to let their stagnated lots be used by the people.

Partnership with the private sector was also opened as she pledged to provide incentives and support for business men who will join the provincial government in providing the Ilocanos with more housing opportunities.
Expanded transport access is another initiative of IN2020. She challenged the transport operators to start alternative routes or even make transportation available during the night especially in transport points of Laoag City, San Nicolas and Batac City where there are “night life” activities.

“Eventually, we also must manage the flow of private cars into Metro Ilocos but first let us provide diverse public transport options, build more pedestrian walkways to increase walking time and learn to use public bicycles on designated cycling paths,” Governor Marcos added.

The third initiative IN2020 is “to address the extreme changes [Ilocos Norte has] experienced in rain and water supply. “Iyung dating 556mm na ulan tuwing Agosto, ngayon ay 270mm na lang,” she explained.

According to her, a province-wide water conservation is not enough and that “new and bigger sources of water” should be developed. IN2020, over one-third of the population will be living in Metro Ilocos which shall put pressure on the catchment areas of the Ilocos Norte Water District (INWAD). To mend this, Governor Marcos called for an extensive system of “3 provincial faucets”: first, a watershed in upland Pasuquin, second in Vintar to supply Laoag City, and third, a heavy reforestation around Paoay lake to provide for Batac City and the southern towns.

“Together with three provincial faucets, we must begin to plant the ‘Green Wall of Ilocos Norte”, a massive watershed of forest along the eastern mountains, which like the Great Wall of China, will protect our dams and fertile plains,” the governor said. This overall setup, along with the recently organized Provincial Resiliency Council, is expected not only to provide potable water to a larger population but also help in making Ilocos Norte disaster-proof.
Other initiatives mentioned in SOPA are the planned alignment of various infrastructures with the Metro Ilocos Masterplan and the promotion of the province as a cultural conservation and creative hub.

“Genuine resilience ultimately depends on people. We must foster the networks of friendship and family that hold our community together, develop the social capital that will leverage early recovery and find our leaders capable of overcoming these crises. Kabaelan tayo!”, Governor Marcos said.

A former representative of the second district of Ilocos Norte in the Philippine House of Representatives from 1998 to 2007, Marcos’ first sworn-in as Governor was on June 30, 2010. She reported that crises on security, health and economy welcomed her during her first 100 days in office.
In her first ever SOPA on June 29, 2011, she tried to combat the rising unemployment problem and pledged to help fellow Ilocanos on how to “INvest, INnovate and INspire”.

With the success of her three IN pillars, several achievements were reported during her second SOPA on July 9, 2012, with an economic “mini-boom” via tourism and rising number of investments.

As her year of action, Governor Marcos launched her employment battle cry “Namnamaenyo, Itultuloy ko ti Asikaso ken Ad-adu a Trabaho para ken Ilocano” during her SOPA 2013 on August 6 last year.

“For us the objective is simple: as a place for us to live, bring up our children, work and do business, and renew the soul, IN2020, as it is now, Ilocos Norte is the best little province in the country!” Governor Marcos concluded. (GRAZIELLE MAE A. SALES/PGIN-CMO)