Imee R. Marcos has decades of local governance and creativity under her belt that have molded her own distinct brand of proactive and innovative leadership.
Since 1975 to 1986 she chaired the Kabataang Barangay (KB), a village youth organization that provided platforms and opportunities for young Filipinos to engage in nation-building.
Imee R. Marcos was also director-general of the Experimental Cinema of the Philippines. With her prowess in media and the arts, she helped to produce cult classics such as Himala! (1980) and Oro, Plata, Mata (1982). She also produced, together with Nelson Caliguia, Sr., the 2011 indie film Pintakasi, which won “Best Full-Length Film” (New Wave Awards) at the 37th Metro Manila Film Festival.
In 1998, she ran for and was elected Congresswoman of the Second District of Ilocos Norte. She served for three terms, authoring and co-authoring bills with a primary focus on women, overseas Filipino workers (OFWs), and the youth sector such as the house bill for Magna Carta for students and house bill for Loan Filipino Migrant Workers.
In 2010, she bagged a landslide victory as Governor of Ilocos Norte, turning over a new chapter for the province. She largely focused on poverty reduction through local employment and investment; promoting tourism; and reviving the youth sector.
Her flagship program, “Task Force Trabaho,” paved the way for the provincial employment rate to reach above 98% through regular job fairs, job placement programs, an OFW Desk, livelihood assistance, and small and medium enterprise (SME) development. Moreover, she initiated the entrance of business process-outsourcing (BPO) giants Accenture and Alorica. The companies today create hundreds of local and well-paying jobs for the Ilocanos. Simultaneously, she launched the Capitol Express (CapEx), which involves the distribution of agricultural inputs, livestock, fingerlings, food packs, medicines and other needs of far-flung barangays directly to the residents.
The 2012 “Paoay Kumakaway!” tourism campaign likewise caused a boom in the industry: from around 200,000 total visitors in 2012, Ilocos Norte now welcomes two million tourists yearly with almost 500,000 coming during the Holy Week Season alone. The governor had invested in new activities in existing tourist spots, such as watersports in Pagudpud, horseback riding in Kapurpurawan (Burgos), and 4×4 dune-bashing in Paoay.
Likewise, new sub-sectors were opened: cultural tourism through premier events (“Himala!” Arts & Music Fest and “Tan-ok” Festival of Festivals) and new museums; film tourism, yielding undiscovered locations in the province to be featured and promoted through television productions; sports tourism, through the Tri Ilocos Norte triathlon and dragonboat racing; and the cruise ship industry, with Star Cruises’ Superstar Virgo docking at the Port of Currimao.
In late 2012, the Sirib Express began and the governor came face-to-face with the Ilocano youth, listening to their hopes and ambitions. Soon, the first Sirib Leadership Camp was held wherein participants themselves proposed and established the Sirib Ilokano Kabataan Association (SIKA) Inc., as an alternate platform for youth in public service and nation-building. This was in response to the suspension of the Sangguniang Kabataan (SK).
These thrusts were further coupled with programs to lower food prices while maintaining high agricultural production: the Kadiwa Pop-Up Market System was implemented in Ilocos Norte, with the Provincial Government acting as middleman for farmers, free of charge, and helping to sell their produce and other household commodities at lower prices without sacrificing farmers’ profits. She also expanded the agribusiness market, tying up with other local government units such as the Quezon City Government for producer-to-consumer bazaars.
Imee R. Marcos’ efforts and more, backed by her creative solutions to age-old problems, have paved the way for Ilocos Norte to become one of the least poor provinces in the Philippines. By 2015, poverty incidence among families in Ilocos Norte had fallen to 3.3%.
In October 2018, Governor Imee R. Marcos filed her certificate of candidacy for Senator of the Republic of the Philippines. What has been done in Ilocos Norte in the past eight years, we can do together for the rest of the country.