By Joy Sevilla
Alabel, Sarangani (October 22) -- SARANGANI Province is undeniably a must-visit province in the Southernmost part of the island of Mindanao. It is one of the premier tourism destinations in the Socsksargen growth area where every tourist is assured of a vast natural resources and rich cultural heritage of its tri-people comprised of Muslims, Christians, and the Indigenous People (IPs).
Sarangani is named after Sarangani Bay. Its name is legendary as stories were told about an adventurous Sangil sailor from the coast of Celebes of Indonesia whose voyages often brought him to the Sultanate of Buayan, now known as the City of General Santos. The sailor's character impressed the people, so was the bay was named in his integrity.
Former Congressman James L. Chiongbian, husband of Priscilla Chiongbian, who was the first governor of the province, is credited for carving out Sarangani Province from South Cotabato, an act that brought further development into the new province.
He was the principal author of Republic Act (RA) 7228 passed on July 27, 1987 that finally made Sarangani province as an independent province on March 16, 1992.
Meanwhile, the congressman's wife, Priscilla, became the first governor-elect of the province on November 28, 1992. She led the other officials to swear before then President Fidel V. Ramos at the provincial capitol.
With the leadership of former Governor Priscilla Chiongbian, the province was recognized as a key player in the Socsksargen area. Its major industries including coconut, fruit and vegetable, rice and corn for agriculture, and milkfish, tilapia, and prawn for the aquaculture sector, were widely distributed to its neighboring cities and provinces.
The Chiongbians are known for their political will. Based on research, James advocated enactments that stimulated socio-economic development not only in the Socsksargen area, but also in Mindanao when he sponsored the act creating the Mindanao Economic Development Authority (Meda). It is a bill that aims to strengthen the current Mindanao Economic Development Council (Medco), an agency that leads various socio-economic development efforts in Mindanao through the participation of various sectors in the region.
The congressman also value education. He worked for the construction of trade schools in General Santos City and in Glan, the Kling Comprehensive High School, and moved for the establishment of over 1,500 units of pre-fabricated school buildings during his tenure in Congress.
Later on, he established the Alabel Science High School in the capital of Sarangani Province, Alabel town, and provided scholarships to poor but deserving students of the province.
Through his initiatives, he was accorded by the people of Sarangani the First Sarangan Award in May 19, 1999 recognizing his leadership excellence.
His wife, Priscilla, on the other hand, has also introduced several programs and initiatives that have resulted to Sarangani Province's growth. The capitol building and other structures within the capitol park served as a landmark of the province's development during her administration.
She has also introduced environmental management initiatives and support systems during her stewardship such as the Luntiang Sarangani Program; Environmental Sanitation Program; the Provincial Forest Land Use Plan; Coastal Resource Management Program; Commercial Crops Development Program; the Upland Development Program; Water Resource Management Program; Environmental and Natural Resources Accounting Project; and the Integrated Solid Waste Management Program.
Every program implemented underwent critical analysis in order to identify the program's strength, weaknesses, and sustainability. Implementing these projects, Sarangani Province today is reaping the hallmarks of the good governance it had in the past. (Joy Sevilla/Sarangani Information Office) [top]