by Ronald Leander
August 19, 2009
BALER, Aurora – President Arroyo visited today this historical town jointly celebrating its 400th founding anniversary, the 131st birth Anniversary of the late President Manuel L. Quezon and the townâ€™s annual fiesta celebration in honor of St. Luis Obispo de Tolosa, the townâ€™s patron saint.
The Chief Executive led here the unveiling of the commemorative marker for its 400th anniversary as a municipality and she was joined by Sen. Edgardo Angara, House Deputy Majority Leader Juan Edgardo Angara, Gov. Bellaflor Angara-Castillo and Mayor Arthur Angara and the rest of Balerianos here in the birthplace of Quezon, considered the father of the national language.
The President also led the ribbon-cutting for the â€œflora and faunaâ€ exhibit at the Museo de Baler and viewed the vintage presidential car of Quezon at the Quezon Memorial Park.
She also turned over P381,000 worth of cash incentives to 157 coconut farmers represented by their leaders.
The Chief Executive was later presented a commemorative stamp, pin and medal by National Historical Institute chairman Lamberto Ocampo.
Governor Angara-Castillo praised the President for not politicizing economic development by deciding to help the province which has only a small voting population saying PGMA is the only President who did not consider the size of a place in extending help but its potentials, adding the President even went here seven times in her eight years as President.
Senator Angara in his speech said that critics had been telling President Quezon that if he could not develop his hometown, how could he possible develop the entire country. And he answered that he is leaving the development of the province all up to his successors. And only President Arroyo took his word for it.
In her speech, Mrs. Arroyo said the people of the province, which belongs to the twenty poorest provinces or â€œClub 20,â€ will begin to feel the effects of progress and development once the economic zone starts commercial operation next year.
The President hailed the Aurora Special Economic Zone located in northern Aurora as the linchpin of the provinceâ€™s economic growth, saying the project would entice foreign investors to come to the impoverished province.
“Sa ngayon nararamdaman na ang kaunlaran sa Aurora. May kasunod pa at yan ay ang Aurora Special Economic Zone Authority (Right now, development is now being felt in Aurora. There’s a sequel to this, the Aurora Special Economic Zone Auhority)” she said.
She said that the economic zone would hasten the influx of investments and creation of jobs in the province and at present foreign investors who have expressed interest in the economic zone include Spanish, Japanese and European traders, saying she expects economic growth to start in the province by the first quarter of next year.
“At present, the rapid development of Aurora is now being felt with the construction of various infrastructures such as the Casiguran airport and seaport, the Tarlac-Nueva Ecija-Dingalan Port Road and the Baler-Casiguran Road” she said.
The province, she noted, even hosted last week the Mutya ng Pilipinas beauty pageant.
The Chief Executive also noted that the P150-million airport is now 80 percent complete while the P2.2-billion, 120-kilometer Baler-Casiguran is halfway through.
Echoing her favorite development battlecry, “Ramdam na ang kaunlaran sa Aurora (Aurora’s development is now being felt)” she said.
Mrs. Arroyo also lauded Senator Angara for pushing forward her economic reforms program that led to 33 quarters of economic growth.
Last December, Mrs. Arroyo issued Presidential Proclamation 1696 declaring the year 2009 as the “Year of Baler” in commemoration of its Quadricentennial. The proclamation ordered a year-round celebration of the town’s 400th year.
The celebration kicked off last August 12 with a zarzuela entitled “Baler sa Puso Ko” unveiling of the mural art group, chess tournament, motocross, agri-industrial and tourism investment fair, bingo/raffle draw, historical quiz bee, skateboarding competition, cycling challenge, shootfest, tuklas talino, street dancing competition, teachers’ day and cultural night, marathon and farmers’ and fishermen’s day, drum and lyre competition and the search for Miss Baler 2009 among others.
The festivities carry as its theme : “Ika-400 Taong pagkakatatag ng Baler, Kasaysayang bunga ng Pananampalataya, Pagkakaisa at Mahusay na Pamamahala (Baler’s 400th Foundation, A History borne out of Faith, Unity and Good Governance)” which pays tribute to the resiliency and gallantry of its people who waded through almost four centuries of challenges in its proud history.
Baler town was founded in 1609 and it was located 232 kilometers north of Manila on the shore of a horseshoe-shaped coastal valley overlooking the Pacific Ocean, is rich in cultural heritage not only as Quezon’s birthplace but also for being the last bastion of Spanish forces during the Spanish Revolution. (Ronald Leander)
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