Fr. Frank Fernandez
NDF – Negros Spokesperson
PRESS RELEASE | August 5, 2018
The National Democratic Front (NDF) – Negros Island disputes the recognition of Negros Occidental Governor Alfredo Marañon Jr. as champion of the environment. He is most undeserving of this title and the broad masses does not owe him any gratitude for his contributions in Negros’ social, economic and environmental destruction.
All throughout his political career, Marañon embodies the greed and cruelty of big land lords in Negros. He uses his political power and influence to amass wealth for himself, his family and the local ruling class. He opened Negros to private and foreign companies who denuded the Island’s mountains and forests, hazardously extracted mineral resources and polluted its rivers, watersheds and seas. The local ruling class gains from this plunder in expense of the Negrosanons who are deprived of the natural resources in their own locality and, as a result, suffer from poverty and hunger.
The provincial government under Marañon uses deception and force in implementing its anti-people and anti-environment projects. It engages in pro-environment gimmickry to attract support especially from the middle class. Marañon rationalizes the investment of multi-national and transnational corporations as a big source of income for the province. But, in reality, it is an additional source of graft and corruption. The promise of employment for thousands of Negrosanons actually means thousands still chained to contractualization and cheap labor. Behind the pro-development propaganda is the despotic character of the big land lords that hires the Philippine National Police (PNP), the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) and private armies to quell dissent and resistance mainly from the peasants, farm workers, indigenous peoples and affected communities.
Marañon is an environment devastation advocate in supporting land conversions that harm the peasants’ livelihood and the environment. In implementing Marañon’s pilot project in Murcia, the Negros First Ranch, farmers were displaced from their farms. Insisting on the Provincial Government’s claim over the 155-hectare agricultural land, the Philippine National Police and troops from the 303rd Brigade were deployed to intimidate the farmers who assert their right to till. Instead of encouraging biodiversity, vast plantations of cash crops is promoted.
In Hinobaan, Japanese company Tsuneishi Heavy Industries will be constructing a $300-million ship recycling facility that will surely destroy the surrounding ecology covering 15,000 mangroves and deprive the fisherfolks of their fishing grounds. Additionally, the Southern Negros Industrial Estate, where Tsuneishi will build its facility, covers 150 hectares of agricultural land that has already been distributed to farmer beneficiaries by virtue of the Comprehensive Agrarian Reform Program. Instead of protecting the environment and people’s rights, Marañon is siding with its Japanese clients and is insisting on the illegality of the Department of Agrarian Reform’s distribution of Certificates of Land Ownership to the farmers.
Mining in Negros has also become rampant under Marañon’s watch. From north to south, mineral resources are extracted and exported out of Negros. What is left are the consequences of mining such as poisoned rivers and watersheds, flash floods, soil erosion and landslides. In Sagay City (Marañon’s bailiwick), magnetite mining guised as dredging operations in the mouth of Himogaan River deprived 1,000 fisherfolk families from their main source of livelihood. In the southern parts of Negros (i.e. Sipalay), open pit mining has devastated the area and big chunks of mountains are no more. The repercussions of this damage is felt in the whole island especially with the onset of climate change. Common to all mining activities is the presence of state forces, the Revolutionary People’s Army and private goons to intimidate the surrounding community.
The cases mentioned above already paints the distressing picture of Negros. It is clear and unquestionable that Negros Occidental Governor Alfredo Marañon Jr. is anti-poor and anti-environment. He is insensitive to the people’s plight and represents the interests of the Negros elite. He promotes the plunder of Negros’ natural resources and uses state forces to enforce the interest of the few. Marañon, like his fellow bureaucrat capitalists, is undoubtedly Malacañang’s lapdog. His fascist and corrupt leadership of the provincial government is not far from Duterte’s strong-man and tyrannical style. In this manner, Marañon is outstanding in perpetuating further the exploitative and oppressive status quo in Negros.#