May 23, 2024

■  Harley F. Palangchao 

PILAR, Abra – For decades now, farmers in this fifth-class municipality have been improving their tobacco production, which has become the lifeline of the town’s economy and a major source of livelihood to countless farmers.

Unknown to many, this municipality is one of the country’s top producers of high quality tobacco such as the famous Virginia tobacco variety which are widely grown in Ilocos Sur and Pangasinan, both in Region 1; and Isabela in Region 2.

Aside from Pilar, the nearby towns of San Isidro, Villaviciosa, Tayum, Luba, Dolores, and Bangued are also growing tobaccos.

Of late, farmers in Lagayan, also in Abra, are also taught how to propagate tobacco as a secondary crop under close supervision of the National Tobacco Administration-Abra.

While Candon City in Ilocos Sur earned its moniker as the virginia tobacco capital of the country, Pilar made history in 2017 when it emerged as top earner among towns with shares from the tobacco excise tax as provided for by Republic Act 7171.

That year, Pilar received P594.4 million share from tobacco excise tax, a marked increase from the P427.7M it received in 2016.

Pilar’s tobacco excise tax share was way higher than its internal revenue allotment, now National Tax Allotment  share of P52.073M for fiscal year 2017.

For fiscal year 2020, Pilar received P650.5M share from RA 7171 Virginia tobacco excise tax fund. Overall, the province of Abra got P2.033 billion courtesy of tobacco-producing towns with Pilar as the major contributor to the excise tax.

Farmer Gilbert Gines, 52, who owns a four-hectare farm in San Juan West barangay, shared to Midland Courier that many tobacco farmers in the municipality have almost perfected the drying process of virginia and native tobacco leaves.

“One more thing, wood used in drying the leaves are widely available here compared to other tobacco-growing areas outside the province,” Gines said.

Another tobacco farmer, Constante Dela Rosa, Jr., 59, shared they are grateful that Pilar’s environment is conducive to tobacco, saying even the native variety locally known as “paltong” are of high quality.

Meanwhile, to ensure that the tobacco excise tax shares of tobacco-growing towns are properly allocated, the NTA has announced the programs and projects to be implemented by the beneficiary local government units using the fund to be included in their duly approved local investment programs and annual investment programs.

To the tobacco growers of Abra, they hope the industry will be sustained in more years to come with proper support from the government and proper use of the excise tax shares of the LGUs.