Feature: Frugal Ilocanos switch from saving to investing

More than the burgeoning business district in the capital city, what would further shape Ilocos Norte’s positive growth forecast is that more Ilocanos are borrowing money for investment, a turn around from the frugal profile that have traditionally characterized the Ilocos province or the Ilocano.

This was the result of a study conducted by the World Wide Fund-Philippines in partnership with the Bank of the Philippine Islands from January to September this year.

The study looked into the business-risk assessment and the management of climate change impacts of Laoag and three other cities namely Cagayan de Oro, Zamboanga, and Dagupan.

The study shows that among the areas assessed, it was in the Ilocos Region where new bank loans were highest.

Jose Ma. Lorenzo Tan, WWF vice chair and chief-executive officer, noted that while the province’s cash flow remains largely driven by OFW (overseas Filipino worker) money, Ilocanos are slowly coming to terms with the reality that OFWs would not last long.

“This is historical. Ilocanos are actually borrowing more money. It is also a positive sign,” Tan said describing the result of the study.

“The frugal spirit that characterizes the people of this region makes them naturally risk averse. To them, it seems that the future they see for Laoag City and Ilocos Norte, are clearly worth the risk,” he added.

The study also shows that Laoag emerged as the least vulnerable to climate change impacts among the four cities that were assessed which makes the city as likely the most attractive business hub, Tan said.

Already, the city’s downtown area has become a showcase of mall projects from SM’s Savemore and Hypertmart and Puregold. More mall chains are waiting in line to set up business.

Laoag obtained a vulnerability score of 5.80, followed by Zamboanga with 6.32, Cagayan de Oro with 6.68, and Dagupan with 6.91 in a scale of 10 as the highest vulnerability rate.

The study looked into the four cities’ climate exposure, socio-economic sensitivity and adaptive capacity.

The province’s tourism sector remains to be Ilocanos’ cash cow as domestic tourists continue to provide additional cash infusions in the local economy.

Based on the Laoag City’s Planning and Development Office, tourist arrival in Laoag alone rose to more than 73 percent from 102, 642 entries in 2000 to close to 200,000 in 2010. The data does not include the tourist entry of close to 700,000 during the Holy Week observance this year alone following the launch of Ilocos Norte’s tourism pitch “Paoay Kumakaway.”

While the provincial government has paved the way for a robust tourism, there is still, however, a dearth of basic facilities and amenities like decent comfort rooms and readily available shuttle service along tourist routes.

Tourist towns where gas stations are present have made arrangements to accommodate tourists looking for wash rooms and comfort rooms. Tourist spots which are off-road merely provide makeshift rest rooms which fall below decent standards. (ANL/CCA-PIA 1 Ilocos Norte)

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