Tabuk Citihood: Some Historical Notes

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Towards a Component City?

Tabuk as Regional Growth Center

by AUGUSTUS ULAT SABOY, 06.06.99, North Luzon Times

[Note: While this article was written seven years before Tabuk became the second city in the Cordillera Administrative Region (CAR) on 23 June 2007, the historical and political insights contained or expressed in this piece may still be relevant to present-day Tabuk. – smsaboy]

Geographically, Kalinga’s location in the Northern Luzon area is at the cross-section of the length and breadth of the Ilocos, Cordillera and Cagayan Valley regions. A simple fun with the map of northern Luzon folded lengthwise and crosswise will yield an interesting revelation of Kalinga being embedded at the center of the region.

In economic planning, geographical location is given an important consideration from which evaluations on directions, visions and strategies are drawn. Growth centers in the integrated area development (IAD) concept, for instance, are primarily studied from the vantagepoint of their being centrally situated in a given location.

There are 16 provinces and three cities surrounding Tabuk, as Kalinga’s capital town. In terms of accessibility, Tabuk links the Ilocos and Cagayan Valley Regions through the Abra-Kalinga national highway, which branches off at Ilocos Sur and cross Abra on the west from Tuguegarao, Cagayan on the east to Tabuk. This national road, when fully maintained into an all-weather thoroughfare, would become a major trunkline of the trade route of northern Luzon. It would cut by one-half the circuitous route from Ilocos to Cagayan via the coastal region of Ilocos Norte and Cagayan.

Road network plans of northern Luzon also show that Tabuk would be the confluence of the road system which includes the Ilocos Norte-Apayao road and the Isabela-Kalinga road system which would link Santiago City to Tabuk through the Mallig Plains. Within the Cordillera Administrative Region (CAR), the road system linking Baguio, Ifugao and Mountain Province to Tabuk is among the on-going projects now undertaken by the Department of Public Works and Highways (DPWH).

Agro-Secondary Growth Center

Tabuk has been identified by regional economic planners as the Secondary Agro-industrial Growth Center of the North Luzon Economic Zone (NLEZ). Conceived during the administration of President Ramos, the NLEZ would lump the northern Luzon provinces into one economic development arena designed to bring investment opportunities at the doorstep of the northern Luzon provinces and cities. This economic zone would serve as an “economic net trap” to “ensnare” investors from China, Korea, Japan, and Taiwan.

Kalinga’s agro-industrial potentials has been cited as among major reasons for Tabuk’s choice as the secondary growth center for the said economic quadrangle.

Concededly the “rice granary” of the Cordilleras, Tabuk is one of the principal sources of rice supply in northern Luzon. The National Food Authority (NFA) has classed the Tabuk-produced rice as of an “export quality.” Increase in rice production could be achieved with the expansion of the present irrigation system. Tabuk’s potential area to be irrigated, according to the Chico River Irrigation Project (CRIP), is placed at 17,000 hectares. Presently, only 7,000 hectares, more or less, has been irrigated by the CRIP.

Expected to be a major booster of Tabuk’s bid to be developed as a regional growth center are the metallic mineral potentials of the province. Kalinga has been identified by the Department of Environment and National Resources (DENR) as among the provinces in Luzon with rich metallic mineral resources especially copper and gold. The exploitation of these resources would transform Tabuk into a major commercial hub of Luzon.

Another industry potential of Kalinga is the Tourist Industry. The province’s being among the riches tourist potentials is grounded on its rich cultural and natural resources. Dubbed as the “Babel of the Philippines,” Kalinga boasts of its more than 30 ethnolinguistic groups whose cultural and ethinic idiosyncrasies have given color and cultural identity to this ethnic group.

The DENR is also maintaining a Protected Area econological zone in the municipality of Balbalan which incorporated the Balbalasang National Park. The Balbalan area is proposed to be developed as the “Summer Capital” of the Province. With Tabuk as the capital town, it automatically would serve as the transit point of tourist traffic, not only in the province but also for the entire north Luzon area.

CAR Regional Center

In 1974, leaders of the mountain provinces had agitated for the creation of a separate administrative region for the provinces of Kalinga-Apayao, Mountain Province, Ifugao, Benguet, and Baguio City. Throwing its full support behind the move, the provincial government of Kalinga-Apayao expressed in a position paper its bid to make Tabuk as the regional capital. The move is still pursued these days as one of the plans to be integrated in the proposals for a separate administrative region. In the last frustrated drive for regional autonomy, the proposal to make Tabuk as the capital of the autonomous region has been articulated by many Cordillera leaders. The sentiment is still alive today.

The offer to make Tabuk as the regional capital is based on merits. When the town site plan of Tabuk was on the drawing board, it was seen to it that it would be consistent with modern townsite development. IT has been said that Tabuk’s townsite plan was patterned after the city plan of an American city in the State of Missouri. The provision for sixty-meter main thoroughfare, government reservations, churches and schools and its checkerboard road and street layout are among the evidences of the futuristic plan of Tabuk – the only one of its kind in north Luzon.

Unfortunately for the province, the sprawling government center reservation was sliced off for an employees housing project – one of the biggest errors in governance ever committed in the history of the province. The housing village delimited the area to accommodate future regional and national offices, reserved – given that opportunity for Tabuk to be a regional growth center of Luzon. Today, squatters have invaded the remaining areas of the government reservation – thanks to the myopic planning and the lack of foresight of some of our political leaders.

Tabuk 2000

In the 1960s, the political fad was the creation of provinces and municipalities. The old Mountain Province was among those infected by the “creation fever” that swept the nation. Kalinga’s gain in this development was its being lumped with Apayao to constitute the Province of Kalinga-Apayao, a preparatory stage of the launching of the final journey to provincehood which was granted under RA 7878 after 28 years of twinship.

As the world enters the new millennium, questions are being asked if, within the next era, Tabuk will blossom into a full-grown regional center for Northern Luzon. Or, that as a bonus of achieving a growth center status, it would also flower to become one of north Luzon’s “component cities.” The fad for many progressive towns in the country today is to convert these towns into component cities. Santiago, a fast-growing town in Isabela, is now a city. Tuguegarao is agog with the near prospect of becoming a city. So too with La Trinidad, Benguet which had also served notice to its neighboring towns that it would seek citihood. One can name a litany of cityhood wannabes throughout the country.

It seems the disposition of our present-day leaders to develop Tabuk to become a city. This would frustrate every move to fragment this sprawling town into several municipalities. Whether or not Tabuk will develop towards its cityhood or be fragmented into municipalities will find its answer in the making of Tabuk as the convergence of multi-faceted development activities as in the area of agricultural development, tourism, mineral resources exploitation, as a regional educational center, and, over all, the commercial and trade center at the heart of Northern Luzon.

Quo Vadis, Tabuk?

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