Speaker Alvarez’s waves of interest in Siargao

PANTALEON ALVAREZ. Speaker Pantaleon Alvarez addresses the crowd as President Rodrigo Duterte looks on. File photo from Malacau00f1ang.

The news about Karen Davila’s son running into a horrible accident in Siargao did not take too long before it elicited a response from Speaker Pantaleon Alvarez. The Speaker promised that public funds for safety-related projects on the island would be immediately released.

“Let me assure her and her family that the government is already addressing the lack of infrastructure in tourist destinations,” said Alvarez, who represents the first district of Davao del Norte.

The swiftness of the response was commended, but at the same time it stirred curiosity as to why a congressman, who represents a district of another province, suddenly showed concern over an incident in Surigao del Norte.

Two sources told Rappler that Alvarez and his associates have business interests on the island, thus explaining why the politician has gone back and forth to the country’s surfing capital.

Several international events on the island in the past also had Alvarez among the main guests. These included the Siargao World Surfing Cup in 2016 and the Siargao International Game Fishing Tournament in April 2017.

In the same month, Alvarez criticized Tourism Secretary Wanda Teo “for skipping major tourism events in the country, yet [she] frequently travels abroad.”

The politician’s interest in the island does not seem to ruffle feathers of leaders in the province. In April last year, Surigao del Norte 1st District Representative Bingo Matugas praised Alvarez for helping increase the budget for an international competition. Provincial leaders and Alvarez have also been constantly working on measures to transform the island into a world-class tourist destination.

In December 2016, an Edge Davao report revealed that the politician supported the Siargao photoshoot sessions of the Miss Universe 2016 pageants.

A Concept Central report also said Alvarez has owned a beach resort in General Luna since 1996 and “has been supportive of Siargao’s tourism development.” Thus, one of the sources said, it was crucial for the Speaker to respond to Davila’s complaint; otherwise, it “will be bad for business if not addressed soonest.”

But political observers have been saying that Alvarez, elected Speaker in July 2016 and current secretary-general of the ruling PDP-Laban, may be looking elsewhere for possible political alternatives in the future – especially after run-ins with presidential daughter Sara Duterte, who said the country would be better off without him as Speaker.

Sara formed her regional political party Hugpong ng Pagbabago last February that attracted members from other national political parties, including PDP-Laban. She is expected to field a challenger against Alvarez should the latter run for re-election. 

His nemesis, Davao del Norte 2nd District Representative Antonio Floirendo, who was expelled from PDP-Laban in October 2017, said he would support Sara. Governor Anthony del Rosario has also criticized Alvarez for slashing the public works budget of the province, supposedly to get back at the governor for being allied with Floirendo.

So if Davao del Norte is getting too crowded politically, is it time for Alvarez to look elsewhere and start planning for his future? Would it come as a surprise then if one day the island of Siargao suddenly became a province with its own governor and congressional representative? – Rappler.com