Citizen Action Guide to Zamboanga Sibugay

 

Palawan at a glance

Area Profile

On February 22, 2001, then President Joseph Estrada declared Zamboanga Sibugay as the 79th province of the Philippines through Republic Act (RA) 8973.

The province of Zamboanga Sibugay has an approximate total land area of 3,228.3 square kilometers. It has 16 municipalities, 13 of which are coastal areas, and 390 barangays.  It is composed of two congressional districts, with Ipil as the seat of the provincial government. 

The 2010 census says Zamboanga Sibugay has a population of 584,685, of which 345,876 are registered voters. The municipality of Ipil is the most populous with 11.1 percent followed by Titay at 7.9 percent and Kabasalan at 7.1 percent.

Largest rubber producing provinceCitizens here are comprised of Christians, Muslims and the Subanen lumad (indigenous peoples). Majority speak Bisaya followed by Ilonggo, Tausug, Kalibugan, Ilocano, Subanen and Chavacano. 

Zamboanga Sibugay is now the largest rubber-producing province with an annual production volume of 143,143 metric tons and a total production area of 64,000 hectares as of 2011. It will be home to the Philippine Rubber Research Institute through RA 10089 or the Philippine Rubber Research Institute Act.  

Coal mining has been a major player in the region, but with the drop of coal content value in the global market, operations in the province ceased in 2013.  The closure of the Philippine National Oil Corporation in Malangas and Philex Mining in Diplahan affected the labor sector of the two municipalities. 

On other industries, aquamarine and seaweed industries continue to thrive while rice and corn remain as staple products in the province. Mango, calamansi and banana are its minor products. 

Want to invest in Zambo Sibugay?Mainly an agricultural province, Zamboanga Sibugay offers investment opportunities in coco-based processing; fruit and vegetable processing; rubber production and processing; rice, corn, abaca and fish production; and poultry, feed milling and seaweed culture. Other industries which make Zamboanga Sibugay a robust southern province are tree plantations, marble quarrying and processing, port expansion, presence of post-harvest facilities, ice plant and cold storage, brick and ceramic production, and real estate development. 

Tourism has started to flourish here, but the volatile peace and order situation in the region has quickly affected the influx of tourists as well as investors. Local travellers actually enjoy several natural sites such as the walo-walo sea snakes sanctuary in Olutanga Island, Tagbilat Falls in Titay, pristine beach Looc Labuan in Tungawan, Pandilusan Island in Payao and Litayon, “known as the sinking islet”, in Alicia, to name a few. One which quickly got national attention was the Buluan Island Marine Sanctuary (BIMS) in Ipil which bagged second Best Managed Marine Protected Area in the Philippines award in 2013.  The 24-hectare island is a testament to the concerted preservation and restoration efforts of the LGU of Ipil and the community through their Ipil Pride Campaign. 

Establishment of local economic enterprises in the 16 municipalities has significantly contributed in forging public-private partnership ventures and in augmenting municipal income. The presence of formal and informal financial institutions in every town is a manifestation that business is brisk in this part of the region. 

Other projects are continually implemented to accelerate progress in the province, for instance the establishment of farm-to-market roads, solar electrification of far-flung villages, and establishment of “Tulay ng Pangulo” (The President’s Bridge) and other infrastructure projects. 

 

Income of Zambo SibugayLGU Profile 

Gov. George T. Hofer was the first governor of Zamboangay Sibugay, ruling for three consecutive terms. He was brought into power through the support of the people’s organization YES Movement for the Creation of Zamboanga Sibugay. 

Poverty continues to be a major concern in the province, which ranks second poorest province in the region, with 37 percent next to Zamboanga del Norte, with 48 percent. Region IX, where both belong, ranks the fourth poorest among the regions nationwide. 

Zamboanga Sibugay is categorized as a second income class province with 2012 annual income of PhP 654 million. This is mostly sourced from the internal revenue allotment, which reached to PhP 624 million, while the rest, amounting to PhP 30 million, were from local revenues. 

The approved annual budget plan (general fund) for 2014 is PhP 730.1 million. The Local Government Code grants the LGU the fiscal powers, thus making way for room in programming priorities and empowering state actors, civil society, peoples’ organizations, and the business sector through the “bottom-up” approach. 

The Commission on Audit report in 2012, however, put to question several transactions of the provincial LGU. These concerned the: 

• Accuracy in inventories amounting to PhP86.2 million; 
• Provincial LGU’s failure to submit copies of contracts/purchase orders, and acceptance and inspection report of the Payapa at Masaganang Pamayanan (PAMANA) project amounting to PhP32.6 million; 
• Absence of reconciled property and accounting reports and ledgers and physical count reports of property, plant and equipment amounting to PhP880 million; and 
• Provincial LGU’s failure to maintain special accounts in the general fund for all long term-loans availed from 2006 to 2012 from different financial institutions, totaling 511.2 million as of December 31, 2012. 

Does Zambo Sibugay spend rightly?Thirteen years on since its birth, Zamboanga Sibugay continues to be confronted with political debacles, highlighted by former and incumbent politicians filing cases against each other and playing the game of musical chairs. 

But there is also some good news: In 2011, the municipality of R.T. Lim received the Department of the Interior and Local Government’s (DILG) Seal for Good Housekeeping for Local Governments Award. And in 2012, the province of Zamboanga Sibugay under Gov. Romel A. Jalosjos also received the Seal for Good Housekeeping for Local Governments Award along with the municipalities of Titay, Diplahan, Siay, Tungawan, Buug and Ipil. 

 

LGU-Citizen Engagement 

Programs to intensify institutional reforms, including mapping CSOs, helped sustain participation in local governance. Active CSOs here include the Xavier Agricultural Extension Services, Zamboanga Sibugay Rubber Farmers’ Association, different inter-religious organizations and cooperatives among others. 

Greater devolution of public resources has helped increase public awareness on current projects of the province. Incumbent officials are perceived to be more aware of transparency and accountability as tools in curbing corruption and improving decentralization. Ordinances and resolutions passed have brought positive outcomes, including increased participation of different sectoral groups since 2001. 

One move to increase citizen engagement began in December 2013 when the municipal government of Ipil launched its Transparency and Accountability Convergence program. This aimed to enjoin multi-stakeholders to get involved with and have a say on local governance programs of the town. This unique program has paved the way for the Ipil Pride Campaign among households. 

 

Opportunities and Threats 

Western Mindanao, where Zamboanga Sibugay belongs, is said to be envisioned to become the “gateway and trading hub” of Brunei Darussalam-Indonesia-Malaysia-Philippines East Asian Growth Area (BIMP-EAGA) because of its proximity to other ASEAN countries. Launched in 1994, BIMP-EAGA is a cooperation of the four national governments to “close the development gap” among the EAGA members as well as all members of ASEAN. Zamboanga Sibugay could benefit from the potentials of trade and commerce in the area. 

The Zamboanga City port is near Zamboanga Sibugay, and so activities here also have positive spill-over effects on the province.  The province sources primary goods from Zamboanga City, which is just four hours by land. Barter goods are also traded in the Zamboanga City port. The port also serves as the exit point of Zamboanga Sibugay’s agricultural produce, such as natural rubber latex which is exported overseas for ISO certification. 

The Rubber Summit in Zamboanga Sibugay in February 2014 strengthened the goal of taking full use of the rubber industry’s economic potential in order to help uplift socio-economic conditions of the estimated 50,000 rubber smallholders and the different stakeholders of the rubber value chain. 

More investments are pouring in the province as indicated by the increasing number of colleges, formal and informal financial institutions, and real estate subdivisions in the last four years. 

As part of threats, the unsettled 20-day Zamboanga City stand-off between government and the Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF) in September 2013 as well as the Bangsamoro framework agreement -- which will eventually lead to a plebiscite -- will continually raise concerns on peace and order situation in the province, and the region at large. 

The capital town of Ipil used to be part of Zamboanga del Sur. About noon on April 4, 1995, a month before the mid-term elections, the terrorist Abu Sayyaf group allegedly went on a shooting rampage in Ipil’s commercial district, killing 55 people -- mostly civilians, hurting 50 more, and burning its public market and commercial center. Since then, peace and order situation here has always been volatile and has been a major consideration of potential investors.