Bukidnon eyes scrapping exclusive sponsorship contracts for Kaamulan

MALAYBALAY CITY (MindaNews/1 May) – Exclusive contracts with major sponsors may no longer be allowed during the Kaamulan Festival, an official said as Bukidnon prepares for the province’s centennial celebration on September 1 this year.

Joe-An Bayona-Henderin, provincial tourism officer, told MindaNews Wednesday that during the fourth meeting of the Bukidnon Centennial Committee, Gov. Jose Ma. R. Zubiri Jr. said he wanted “free enterprise” to ensure livelier and more enjoyable festivities.

Henderin said the practice in previous years of the Zubiri administration of allowing exclusive sponsorship contracts was criticized by other officials and those participating in bazaars at the capitol grounds, the site of the festivities.

She said allowing competition is expected to raise more funds from sponsors and bring down the prices of products at the Kaamulan site.

In 2013, Datu Magdaleno “Mayda” Pandian , indigenous peoples’ mandatory representative to the provincial board, told MindaNews the practice of allowing major sponsors to operate exclusively in the Kaamulan sacred grounds has to stop.

He said the practice contradicted the openness espoused by the indigenous peoples in the annual festival dedicated to the province’s seven tribes.

“This is supposed to be a gathering that promotes openness, why are we allowing others to be isolated?” said Pandian, who presided over an indigenous peoples’ congress on Feb. 25 last year.

Henderin admitted that when she assumed in 2012 the practice of exclusivity has been there for years.

She said this year major sponsorship contracts will be opened for the telecommunication companies, television networks, and beverage firms, among others.

She said on March 1 last year they used about P7 million for the 2013 fest, P5 million from the provincial coffers and P2 million from sponsors. This year the proposed budget for the celebration is P9.78 million.

Last year, the major sponsors namely San Miguel Beer gave P400,000, Smart-Talk N’ Text P300,000, Coke P200,000 and Nature’s Spring Water P50,000. They were given exclusive rights, that is, shops at the Kaamulan site should only sell their products, not those of their competitors.

The memorandum of agreement between the provincial government and bazaar operators required the latter to observe the exclusive rights of the major sponsors.

Pandian said then that if the interest of the organizers is to get more sponsors and more resources for the festival, then it should reconsider the exclusivity policy.

He vowed to support the move should it be referred to the Sangguniang Panlalawigan. “We are not against them making money. We are against unfair practices,” he added.

Juanito Aroa, chair of the Kaamulan field operations committee, said in an interview last year that he had been raising the issue against exclusivity in the past celebrations of the Kaamulan.

“The cultural openness welcomes that there will also be open market for other players to take part,” he added.

Both Aroa and Pandian said granting exclusive rights favors those who can afford to give big donations.

Loreta sol Dinlayan, a social science teacher at the Bukidnon State University said the practice promotes monopoly instead of openness in a gathering for unity, which is what Kaamulan means.

Kaamulan came from “amul-amul”, which in Bukidnon means “gathering for a celebration”.

A day before the street dancing competition last year an employee of a major sponsor went to the Provincial Tourism Office and insisted that a tarpaulin put up by their competitor in an establishment along Fortich Street be removed citing the exclusivity provision in the sponsorship contract.

The employee said they had exclusive rights along the route of the street dancing parade and at the Kaamulan Grounds until March 10 last year.

Until last year, Kaamulan was held from February to March mainly because local officials reckoned Bukidnon’s founding date to be March 10. But during the time of former governor Carlos Fortich the province celebrated Kaamulan in August and the province’s anniversary on September 1.

Last year, the National Historical Commission declared that Bukidnon’s correct founding date is Sept. 1, 1914. (Walter I. Balane/MindaNews)