Friday, May 2, 2014

DOT pushes rare Masbate livestock market as eco-tourism attraction
By Samuel M. Toledo

LEGAZPI CITY, May 2 (PNA) -- A rare livestock auction market is starting to draw attention from domestic and foreign visitors into this rural town of Uson, which is about an hour’s drive away from Masbate City in the southwestern part of Bicol.

No less than the Bicol director of the Department of Tourism (DOT) Maria “Nini” Ravanilla and other tourism officials have been providing direction to tourists to see for themselves the rare auction market activity being held every Thursday.

"We are including this livestock auction market to the package of tourist destinations in Bicol because of its environment-friendly economic activities that provide rural residents their sources of livelihood," Ravanilla told the Philippine News Agency on Friday.

Ravanilla said the local auction market, popularly known as Livestock Oksyon Market (LOM) and officially registered in 1970, has already started to attract small groups of visitors during the Rodeo MasbateƱo Festival held in March to April this year.

"And they were so amazed by the manner the livestock auction is being conducted and the way it spurs economic activities and provides livelihood to the local residents," Ravanilla added.

Gerardo Presado, Masbate-designated tourism officer, said the LOM is being participated by buyers coming from Luzon and Visayan provinces -- including Pangasinan, Batangas, Samar, Cebu, Tacloban -- and the Bicol mainland.

"This livestock auction market activity being held every Thursday in Barangay Del Carmen in Uson had been in operation already long before it was officially registered by the Uson local government with the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) in 1970. Meaning, it has been established in the tradition of the then barter trade system," Presado said.

Shirley Patalinhug, Uson municipal agriculturist and designated as LOM supervisor, said at least 150 to 300 heads of large cattle and 400 to 600 heads of small animals are being sold in the auction market every Thursday.

She said 70 percent of the sold large cattle are cows, while the rest are carabaos and horses, and the small animals are pigs, goats, chickens, ducks, turkeys and geese.

Patalinhug said the Uson LGU is earning revenues of up to P50,000 an auction day, or some P2.4-million a year.

She said that seven out of 10 of their farmers are engaged in livestock-raising.

"The local government helps our farmers through our dispersal program. Almost every farmer in Uson is raising animals through organic farming only. And they bring these animals to the auction market where buyers coming from far away provinces are waiting already," Patalinhug said.

But only animals with proof of ownership through a barangay or registration certification are allowed to be sold in the auction market, she said.

"Sellers of animals are required to pay the corresponding registration fees while the buyers are required to pay transfer fees," Patalinhug said.

Norman Capellan, Uson municipal administrator, said the organic or non-use of artificial feeds by the livestock farmers in their place is believed to be the main reason why buyers prefer their livestock.

"They prefer to buy our animals both for slaughter and dispersal purposes. Also, our animals are priced cheaper by their owners because they only raise them through organic farming," Capellan said.

He said that due to the continuously growing demand for their auctioned animals, the local government is increasing its budget for the animal dispersal program to further boost the town's livestock industry.

Enrico Eulalia and Ronie Ramirez, livestock buyers from Batangas, said they prefer to buy animals in Uson because they are only raised through organic farming.

"Of course, their cheaper prices of their animals attract us to this auction market," Eulalia and Ramirez shared.

Danilo Quilantang and Rox Patalinhug, livestock sellers in the market, said the auction selling in their town gives them enough income to support their daily needs.

"We can also send our children to school through livestock-raising," the local sellers said.

Rodolfo Letada, Uson tourism officer, said the sight of the local residents herding their large cattle and small animals into the LOM before and during the auction day gives a semblance of the Biblical event when people were bringing all types of animals to be offered as gift in the manger of Infant Jesus in Bethlehem.

"This sight attracts our visitors who come to our place to visit some scenic spots in Masbate. And they are amazed when told that these people and their animals are going to participate in the local auction market," Letada told the PNA.

He expressed optimism that once discovered by more tourists, this eco-tourism activity would contribute much to the development of Uson. (PNA) JBP/FGS/SMT/CBD/