Marcos Year 2

Marcos gets cheers for NIR, jeers for inflation, rights concerns from Negros

Ambo Delilan

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Marcos gets cheers for NIR, jeers for inflation, rights concerns from Negros

BACOLOD ADDRESS. President Marcos Jr. addresses a crowd during his visit in Bacolod City on June 27, 2024.

Negros Occidental PIO

Local leaders celebrate the new region, but progressive groups criticize the Marcos Jr. administration for its handling of red-tagging, extrajudicial killings, and rising inflation concerns on Negros Island

BACOLOD, Philippines – The Marcos Jr. administration received mixed reactions on Negros Island as it entered its third year, with local leaders cheering the creation of the Negros Island Region (NIR) and activists jeering at its failure to address concerns about red-tagging, extrajudicial killings, and rising inflation.

The recent creation of the NIR marked a milestone, especially for local leaders who have long been pushing for it.

Even Negros Occidental Governor Eugenio Jose Lacson, who supported the 2022 presidential bid of President Ferdinand Marcos Jr.’s strongest rival, former vice president Leni Robredo, was all praises for the current administration for the NIR creation shortly before the President concluded his second year in office.

“Thank you, Mr. President, for making the dream of One Negros a reality,” said Bacolod Mayor Alfredo Abelardo Benitez.

Marcos signed Republic Act 12000, paving the way for the rebirth of NIR, carving out Negros Occidental from Western Mindanao, and Negros Oriental and Siquijor from Central Visayas to form the new region.

The region was first established in 2015 by the late former president Benigno Simeon Aquino through Executive Order 183, but it was abolished by his successor, ex-president Rodrigo Duterte, two years later.

Although Duterte cited financial constraints as the basis for its abolition, it was widely perceived that it was his way of getting back at political leaders of the Negros provinces where he lost to former senator and interior secretary Mar Roxas in the 2016 presidential elections.

Frank Carbon, chief executive officer of the Metro Bacolod Chamber of Commerce and Industry (MBCCI), said the legislative creation of the NIR will serve as Marcos Jr.’s legacy for the Negrense people.

“With NIR, more investments will create more and better-paying jobs that will help eradicate poverty and insurgency,” Carbon said.

Negros Occidental 5th District Representative Dino Yulo said the NIR’s rebirth should pave the way for an inter-provincial road network that would impact the government’s efforts toward sustainable peace and order on Negros Island.

Negros Occidental Vice Governor Jeffrey Ferrer said NIR is a fulfilled promise of the President to the Negrenses, which he made during the 2022 presidential campaign.

“It means he (Marcos) never failed us,” Ferrer said.

Power supply woes

The MBCCI and the General Alliance of Workers Association (GAWA), however, said much work still has to be done, and one is to provide a stable power supply in the NIR.

Carbon and GAWA’s secretary general, Wennie Sancho, said Negros’ quest for power security must be prioritized by Marcos as he embarks on his third year in office.

“The creation of NIR will be futile without a dependable, sustainable, and affordable power supply,” said Sancho, who is also one of the leaders of Power Watch Negros (PWN).

Carbon called for the creation of a regional power development council to address the unique power needs of the island.

He said, “We need to have our power development roadmap to come up with a viable and doable energy security program.”

Negros Island alone, he said, needs at least 300 megawatts (MW).

But as the island’s economy progresses, and to address the intermediate, peaking, ancillary, and surplus power needs, Carbon said as much as 450 MW needs to be generated.

Call for decent wages

Meanwhile, GAWA called on the Marcos Jr. administration and legislators to approve the proposed P100 across-the-board wage increase to help workers cope with rising inflation.

“A P100 daily pay hike for private sector workers is a significant benefit,” Sancho said.

The minimum wage in Negros Occidental is P480 a day, and Sancho said it was not enough given the recent inflation rates across the country.

Wilson Gamboa Jr., convenor of both Amlig Tubig and Amlig Kuryente in Bacolod City, said the Marcos Jr. administration failed to address inflation concerns, which aggravated the problem of rising poverty and hunger rates.

“Sad to say, almost everything now is beyond the reach of the poorest of the poor in Bacolod and Negros Occidental,” Gamboa said.

Data from the Philippine Statistics Authority (PSA) showed that inflation accelerated to 3.9% in May from 3.8% in April.

Add to that, Gamboa said, is the continuing corruption at all levels of government.

“Tapos, lingawon lang kita sa paayuda-ayuda (Then, we will just be entertained by the aid distribution),” he said.

Marcos was in Bacolod City on June 27, where he distributed cash aid of P10,000 each to 8,315 families adversely affected by the El Niño phenomenon. He also gave the Bacolod City government and Negros Occidental funds to help them with their El Niño disaster response efforts.

“The concern of the President for the Negrenses is truly felt. We can count on President Marcos to stand with us through challenges and triumphs alike,” said Lacson.

Killings continue

Human rights advocates on Negros Island, meanwhile, raised grave concerns over the series of killings of civilians and unarmed persons on Negros Island.

The Human Rights Advocates Negros (HRAN) said the killings were reminiscent of the situation in southern Negros during the first Marcos administration.

HRAN criticized the military, accusing it of justifying the violence by making it look like those who were killed were rebels who engaged soldiers.

The group cited as examples the deaths of Emaryn Pastedio, Christopher Ebarle, and Jose Caramihan in Barangay Pinapugasan, Escalante City, Negros Occidental, in February. HRAN said they were civilians killed on suspicion that they were members of the New People’s Army (NPA).

Worse, according to HRAN, the Marcos Jr. administration did not heed calls for the abolition of the National Task Force to End Local Communist Armed Conflict (NTF-ELCAC) and turned a blind eye to the red-tagging of people and groups critical of government policies. – Rappler.com

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