IT IS undeniable that the people of the highlands of the Cordilleras have been coffee drinkers for a long time immemorial. It has become a part of the tradition and lifestyle of our people. In the 1990s when I was based in Bontoc, Mountain Province, we would be able to taste the different coffee of the different ilis where they grow, process and drink their own coffee. I remember when I was desk-bound in Baguio, I nearly got addicted to coffee, if there was such a thing as addicted to coffee.
Then I moved on to be with the tea drinkers of the Himalayan region. This was a change for me, but tea is part of the culture and history of the Himalayas. Yet, every tea plantation I have visited, I was given or buy a tea package with the name of the tea producer. In the tea plantation, there is where the processing center is located, it is an industry of itself.
My involvement with coffee for Baguio started when the city council was invited to join the medium-term Executive Legislative Agenda meeting from July 23 to 25, 2019. I was paired with the City Veterinary office led by Dr. Brigit Piok, in that initial meeting, reviewing their executive agenda, I suggested that we include the Baguio Coffee Branding as one medium-term goal. This was accepted, appeared in the presentation and approved ELA in Clark as part of the City Vet Office goals and program. It also appears in their 2020 and 2021 AIP.
After the ELA setting, the CVO (now CVAO) provided us a copy of their inventory of coffee growers taken in 2018. I organized an orientational meeting with the international award winner, author and entrepreneur Chit Juan at the City Vet office with the 38 listed coffee growers. She gave a very informative process on how we can develop our own Baguio Coffee. As a result of that meeting the coffee growers requested a benchmarking activity, I sponsored one benchmarking activity with the City Vet office, Benguet State University and Tublay coffee farm.
We also conducted ocular visits to coffee farms in happy Hallow and Pinsao as we were building up partners in the coffee branding goal. That was when we proposed to DTI through the SSF. It took some time as we have to undergo some process. I was part of the writing and review of the proposal before it was presented by our city veterinarian Dr. Brigit Piok to the panel in DTI.
However, in the council deliberation, there was an issue raised by a fellow legislator because the ordinance and the project proposal are seemingly similar. Because I was involved since the beginning, there should be no issue when the proposed and now approved Ordinance and the project proposal are seemingly similar as we wanted that what the legislative should approve will be the one implemented by the executive branch, and it be the coffee branding in a unified view and direction. Similarly, the executive committee has included me in their preparatory activities. That is why the proposed ordinance is worded as such and in conformity with what we have all worked on for six months of preparation. In March 2020, the proposed project proposal was submitted to DTI and I submitted the proposed Ordinance to the city council.
Unfortunately, this was set aside as DTI had been advised that most funds were directed in responding to address issues related to the pandemic. That delayed our efforts. However, last November, DTI advised that the SSF will push through and so we continued our work related to the proposed ordinance and project. I was again called by the LGU team to assist them in complying with the different requirements, thus we were able to assist in coming up with the location after the inspection team rejected the proposed Beneco (Benguet Electric Company Inc.) site. Together with Councilor Levy, and other partners we facilitated the alternative site as the SK building in Irisan. The needed MOA (memorandum of agreement) and City Council Resolution was completed which is part of the requirement of the assessing team. The City Building Office has worked on the renovations and the needed structures in the venue.
The Coffee Processing Plant Ordinance just passed the third and final reading. It will inspire our people to continue the production of coffee as we are a coffee drinking people. Let us support our farmers and vendors, they are as essential as the front liners in this pandemic.