Benguet Cong. Nestor Fongwan Sr. deleivering his message during the proclamation of winners of the province of Benguet in the May 2019 elections. (RMC PIA-CAR)
LA TRINIDAD, Benguet – The province of Benguet and the Cordillera region mourn for the passing away of Congressman Nestor Bagtang Fongwan Sr due to lingering illness.
La Trinidad Philippine Councilors League President and Benguet Board Member Nestor “Bobot” Fongwan Jr. confirmed the demise of his father thru the social media on Wednesday night, December 18. He was 68 years old.
Fongwan Sr. was elected as councilor of La Trinidad in 1988 and served until 1992. He was elected as the vice mayor from 1992-1995, where he served as acting mayor towards the end of his term and as mayor of La Trinidad from 1998-2007.
He served as three-term Governor of Benguet from 2007 to 2016. He was serving his first term as the lone district representative of Benguet following his landslide win in the May 2019 elections when he died.
Fongwan made La Trinidad more popular around the world with the entry of the town to the Guinness Book of World Records for making the largest strawberry shortcake in the world in March 2004. The cake which served more than 10, 000 people weighed 622.24 kilograms. It highlighted strawberries as the main ingredient which is the One Town-One Product of the capital town.
During his stint as a governor, Benguet was awarded the Seal of Good Local Governance by the Department of the Interior and Local Government (DILG) and topped the United Nations Development Program human development index report.
Benguet was also awarded with Cities and Municipalities Competitiveness Index award by the Department of Trade and Industry, Green Banner Award by the National Nutrition Council, Gawad Pamana ng Lahi and Seal of Good Housekeeping by the DILG, May Malaking Pag-angat sa Kaunlarang Pantao and May Mataas na Kaunlarang Pantao by the UNDP and the government of New Zealand, and a Philhealth award for having the most numbers of enrollees, exceeding the required universal coverage.
Known as the “Action Man of Benguet,” Fongwan Sr. had been active in public service particularly during calamities as he himself responds to the needs of affected people.
In 2009, Fongwan took the lead in the rescue and retrieval operations in one the province’s worst disasters when a massive landslide in Little Kibungan in Puguis, La Trinidad covered houses leaving more than a 70 dead.
After the tragic incident, Fongwan took actions to ensure that his province and constituents would be prepared and ready for calamities that would occur and that they would be more conscious of their environment. This also led to the strengthening of the Municipal Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Councils of the different local government units thru the conduct of various activities such as DRRM trainings, summits, drills and orientations for various audience including schools and offices to make then ready and prepared during disasters.
He advocated the improvement of farming in the province as well as made it easier for farmers to trade their goods linking market in the different areas in Metro Manila and other areas. He was also a strong environment advocate leading the protection of the various watersheds.
Benguet Governor Melchor Diclas remembers the late leader as person who takes actions on all problems that reaches him and even going the distance and personally doing things that would solve these problems.
Fongwan led the PDP Laban in the May 2019 elections with almost all their bets from the provincial governor down to municipal officials winning.
His fellow colleagues in Congress also took to social media messages for their late congressman.
Fongwan was vice chairman of three House committees at the time of his demise – agrarian reform, indigenous cultural communities and indigenous people, and natural resources.
Among the bills he authored include an Act to terminate the collection of toll fees along Kennon Road, the act to increase the bed capacity of the Benguet General Hospital, the act making the position of Social Welfare and Development officer and Agriculturist mandatory in the municipal level and the conversion of various national high schools in the province.
Just recently, he joined the Cordillera lawmakers in filing House Bill 5687 or the act establishing the Autonomous Region of the Cordillera. He was a staunched advocate of Cordillera autonomy which he sees will help in the resource management and the sustainable development of Benguet and the Cordillera region.
He is survived by wife Priscilla and children Marie Rose, Nestor “Bobot” Jr., Marilyn, Ma. Theresa, and Marson. (JDP/RMC- PIA CAR)