Latin America

Q and A: What’s UNA’s stand on Mindanao issues?

Ayee Macaraig

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UNA candidates voice their stand on the Mindanao power crisis, the peace process, and the Pablo protests

TOUCHING BASE? UNA tries to court Mindanao voters and visits Bukidnon as its first stop. Do they adequately address the concerns of people in the region?

CAGAYAN DE ORO CITY, Philippines – The opposition claims Mindanao as a bailiwick but where do its candidates stand on major issues in the region?

The United Nationalist Alliance (UNA) began campaigning in Mindanao over the weekend, visiting Bukidnon, Cagayan de Oro City, and Iligan.

In their sorties, press conferences and media interviews and statements, some UNA leaders and senatorial bets talked about their views on issues such as the Mindanao power crisis, the Sabah standoff, the peace process, and the protests of survivors of Typhoon Pablo.

Here is what the aspiring lawmakers think:

Q: What solution do you propose for the lingering power crisis in Mindanao?

Zambales Rep Mitos Magsaysay: Para sa akin, simple lang eh. Tutal P3 billion to P5 billion lang naman para i-repair at rehab ang Agus-Pulangi [hydroelectric power plant]. Bakit hindi gastusan ng Aquino administration iyong Agus-Pulangi? Bakit natin ibebenta sa private sector iyan eh alam naman natin na once binenta mo ang geothermal plans natin, hydroelectric power plans, hindi naman recurring iyan eh.

Ang problema, ‘pag naubos ang source mo, wala ka nang power supply so bakit mo ibebenta? Eh alam naman nating once it goes in the hands of the private sector, definitely they are there to make profit. Ang akin lang, kapag mga utilities importante nasa gobyerno pa rin iyan eh para kahit paano ma-subsidize ng gobyerno ang lugi.

Government is not here to make money. Government is here to make service to the people. And as long as the power rates in Mindanao are too high or too steep, walang papasok na negosyante sa Mindanao dahil ‘di sila makaka-compete globally dahil sa mahal ng presyo ng kuryente.

San Juan Rep JV Ejercito: Di ko maintindihan. There was a budget for Agus-Pulangi river facility. I want that investigated kung ano nangyari sa [Department of Energy, National Power Corp], why they did not implement this. This power crisis would have been averted. They economy of Mindanao will be severely affected.

This is alarming, if the situation continues, the power crisis continues, this will definitely affect the economy of the whole of Mindanao. Definitely business will shy away and even some of the business establishments will probably close down and we will have a big problem there because we will lose jobs and we will lose potential jobs as well. We have to improve the power situation in Mindanao by rehabilitating our Agus-Pulangi facility.

Former Bukidnon Rep Migz Zubiri: UNA is against the privatization of Agus-Pulangi power plants para mabalik sa 100% capacity, para wala nang brownout. Bakit po ayaw nilang budgetan iyan? Gusto nilang sabihin defective na, ibenta natin, ibigay sa pribado. Tutol po kaming mga taga-Mindanao.

That is our last resource. That is our last cheapest source of energy available in the region. All the rest are diesel-powered. Kung i-privatize yan kawawa ang mga tao sa Mindanao.

MEET THE LOCAL PRESS. Former President Joseph Estrada leads UNA's press briefing in Cagayan de Oro City with local and Manila reporters to address issues about UNA and Mindanao.

Q: Former President Joseph Estrada declared an all-out war against the Moro Islamic Liberation Front. Does UNA support the Bangsamoro peace deal under the Aquino administration?

Joseph Estrada, former President and UNA chairman: Let’s give [President Aquino] a chance and let’s hope and pray he’ll succeed. At the same time, I’m apprehensive that this might be a repeat performance [of] the time President [Fidel] Ramos created [the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao] and made [Nur] Misuari governor and there’s a splinter group. I hope there’s no repeat performance like what happened before. 

Now, there’s the [Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters]. They said they will [oppose the peace talks]. I hope it will not happen. In UNA, we are constructive oppositionist so we want this (peace process) to succeed.

Former Sen Richard Gordon: Dapat ilabas ng administrasyon ang mga annexes. Dapat malaman natin na we cannot parlay our territory. It’s in the Constitution. Have we given up on Sabah? What’s going to happen with ARMM?

(For UNA’s stand on the Sabah standoff, read here, here and here.)

Q: How would you assess the aid given to Typhoon Pablo victims in light of recent protests against the Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD)?

Magsaysay: DSWD is not performing well. Pababayaan ba natin ang mga kababayan natin diyan sa Mindanao, nagugutom na nga sila tapos sasabihin mo, sandali lang, ‘di para sa inyo ang relief goods so aanhin pala ang relief goods? Nagkaroon tayo ng breakdown sa administration as far as delivery of services and implementation ng mga priorities nila kasi nakatuon sila masyado sa kampanya eh.

Zubiri: Obviously, there was a major lapse on the part of the DSWD and other concerned agencies in the implementation of relief operations. While there’s an apparent supply of food housed in its warehouse in Davao City, there was a failure on the part of the DSWD officials in the distribution of the said supply.

Desperation caused these people to do such things. Ang taong nagugutom kahit sa patalim kumakapit.The government should have [understood] them.

What were the DSWD’s protocol in distributing relief goods? Why were they so slow in releasing the aid? If they lack manpower to effectively implement the relief operations, they should have tapped the Philippine Red Cross, which has the capability and system to implement such operations.

Gordon: I’m very disturbed that DSWD is being ransacked by people. That’s a very bad sign. We all know what the problem is. Northern Mindanao has a port called CDO. We should make this port big. We can also do that when the airport comes in. We must prepare zones for Mindanao when the new international airport comes in.

[About] 150,000 people have no jobs because of Compostela, Pablo yet the government has done nothing. That’s why you see a rise in insurgency. Del Monte, Dole are raided kasi kapit sa patalim ang tao.

Are you impressed with their answers? What questions do you want to ask them about Mindanao? Let us know in the comments below. –

IMPRESSED? Bukidnon residents listen to UNA candidates as they explain their platforms and views on Mindanao issues. Photo courtesy: UNA  

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