Friday, August 29, 2008

Signs Of The Times

It is, in many ways, an encouraging sight and clear proof that Lianga residents are finally waking up and taking advantage of the still relatively untapped economic possibilities of ecotourism in their area. It is a small beginning but, as they say, big trees grow from small acorns and this is one development, properly encouraged and directed, that could have enormous potential for becoming something really economically significant for Lianga.

Ever since Lianga tasted prosperity and progress by riding on the coattails of the local logging industry in the 1950's and 60's, it has always seen itself as an emerging industrial town and urban trading center in its part of the province of Surigao del Sur. The last two decades of the last century made the town see the folly of such ambitions as the Lianga Bay Logging Company gradually ceased operations and Lianga began facing economic decline and hardship.

With its fishing industry also in the doldrums because of rampant overfishing and abuse of the local marine ecosystem, it became clear that the town had to reinvent itself and find new ways to stimulate the local economy and bring in revenue from the outside. Only then did many local folks begin to realize that the natural beauty of Lianga's coastal beaches and shores could be a major key to that goal.

Of course, the town's resort and tourism industry is still in its infancy. It is still largely a young industry funded solely by wholly private investments and lacking adequate local government support and assistance. In fact, one of the primary reasons for its slow growth is the failure of the town political leadership to provide it with assistance in the areas of planning, resource management and infrastructure development.

There is also an urgent need to develop not only among those engaged in the local resort industry but also among the town's general population a more mature and focused awareness of the importance of protecting the local environment and the desirability of ensuring that Lianga's natural beauty and environmentally diverse ecology be protected as a matter of both self-interest and social responsibility. Sadly, the local town leadership remains mostly inutile in this respect.

In my talks with a lot of Lianga's government officials, I often get the notion that many of them still stubbornly dream of an industrialized Lianga, one with a market and trading economy that rivals if not surpasses those of its more prosperous neighboring towns like Barobo and San Francisco. I do not begrudge them that dream, no matter how unrealistic it may have become.

But this town has dreamed that dream for too long and has nothing to show for it except wasted resources and a deeply frustrated and disillusioned population wary of false promises and empty slogans. Perhaps it is the time to rethink the dream and discover new directions for this town in its quest for progress and development.

Perhaps all we have to do is look around. Heed the signs. And then we can carry on from there.

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