NO GOVERNMENT fund was used for the installation of an artificial turf at the strawberry farm during the visit of Miss Universe candidates last week.
Valred Olsim, La Trinidad municipal tourism officer, and Kevin See, chief-of-staff of Representative Eric Go Yap, said the artificial turf was placed for accessibility, safety, and expedite the photoshoot.
Olsim said the turf grass placed in a portion of Benguet State University's (BSU) strawberry farm was removed after the photoshoot.
He added that one of the friends of the office of the Benguet caretaker offered for free to temporarily install plywood and turf grass.
"The point that the candidates must experience mud and farm life is well taken. I heard that they even hope to experience that in the future in better times, but the candidates came for a strict photoshoot only with limited time. If you are an event organizer, convenience and safety is paramount. Besides, the turf grass was not intended to be showcased in the photoshoot," added Olsim.
Olsim narrated that during the inspection at the BSU strawberry farm area, the pageant's working committee raised concerns on the muddy pathway going to the photoshoot area primarily on safety measures, and since a very short time and the strict itinerary is being followed.
On Monday, See said the plastic grass was placed for accessibility and safety purposes.
"The purpose really is just to make it accessible and presentable at the same time. There were no harmful effects and no government funds were utilized for it," added See.
He said when they visited the place, the pathway going to the middle of the strawberry farm was muddy and not passable and the organizers wanted them to showcase the farm.
He said it was placed for the Miss Universe Philippines candidate's photoshoot alone and it will not stay permanently because Yap is securing sufficient fund allocation for the improvement of the strawberry farm facilities.
After drawing flak from netizens on the current state of the strawberry farm, Olsim said they have recommended to BSU to improve the pathway due to several accidents and complaints by visitors due to the slippery mud.
Farmers also wanted the area to be improved as it slows their movement and agricultural activities.
Olsim said the Municipal Development Council maintained that BSU, as the owner and manager of the property, should be the one who will improve the area, as they have themselves derived income from the farm, stall rentals and parking fees.
The municipal tourism officer said the development for strawberry farm is long overdue as discussed and recommended in several meetings.
"In other countries with strawberry farms, walkways were covered with straws, wooden planks, and some are even made with concrete," said Olsim.
Josel Florentin, director of University Business Affairs of BSU, said various long-term plans for the strawberry farm has been eyed but have not been implemented due to budget constraints.
One of the long-term plans is to make the stalls inside the farm permanent with uniform colors and design.
There are at least 100 stalls within the farm that sells food, vegetable, and souvenir stalls.
Florentin said that before its implementation, the plan needs approval of the administrative council and the board of regents.