News, events, issues and controversies from Negros Occidental and Bacolod City
Reds warn of offensives versus mining firms; greens slam guv on coal plants
BACOLOD CITY – The National Democratic Front of the Philipppines (NDFP) warned that it will take armed action against mining companies in the province as it lashed out at Capitol officials who are supporting the entry of firms that would turn Negros “into a desert.”
Former Negros priest Frank Fernandez said in a statement sent to media outlets that the revolutionary movement in the island will “do all it can” to carry out the policy of the Communist Party that has declared a ban on “destructive mining explorations and operations.”
The NDFP represents the CPP and its armed wing, the New People’s Army, in ongoing talks with the Manila government in the Netherlands.
The “political and military” struggles of intend to “drive out” the ongoing mining explorations and operations of several companies.
Those mentioned by the NDFP are Philex Mining, Philmet Exploration Corporation, Essensa Mining Corporation and “40 other mining companies that have pending mining rights applications.”
Fernandez said allowing massive mining operations in the towns of Hinobaan, Cauayan, Binalbagan, Isabela and the cities of Sipalay, Kabankalan and Himamaylan in southern Negros Occidental and the areas of Basay, Ayungon, Bindoy, Tayasan, Jimalalud, La Libertad and Gihulngan in Oriental Negros will be disastrous.
“If this happens, Negros will be transformed into a desert and will be destroyed,” he said.
The NDFP pointed out that mining in these areas will mean the loss of 40 percent of the island’s total land area or 80 percent of agricultural land.
There is no independent check yet on the figures presented by the NDFP compared to that of the Mines and Geosciences Bureau in Western Visayas.
Environment groups have earlier pointed out that the southwest part of Negros is rich in mineral resources.
The molybdenum stock is estimated to be the largest reserve in the country. Molybdenum is an element that is used to toughen alloy steels and is used in the manufacture of armor.
There are also large deposits of gold, copper and other minerals in southern Negros, with Philex Gold Philippines operating its Bulawan project in Hinobaan and Maricalum Mining once operating in Sipalay City.
When the Mining Act was signed into law in the late 90s, the island saw a deluge of applications. Environmental activists said mining claims covered more than 600,000 hectares in both provinces of Negros. More than 20 companies were granted Mineral Production Sharing Agreements and Financial Technical Assistance Agreements.
Negros Occidental Vice Governor Genaro Alvarez said he “respects” the position of the NDFP but defended his pro-mining stance, saying that this was the result of “consultations” with local government officials in the south.
Alvarez served three terms as representative of the Sixth District that covers the towns of Candoni, Cauayan, Isabela and the cities of Hinobaan, Sipalay and Kabankalan.
Fernandez said the “insatiable hunger for profits” of big businessmen and landlords and officials in the province led by Governor Alfredo Marañon has made them ignore the “gargantuan destruction” created by it.
But Fernandez also praised Board Members Dino Yulo and Miller Serondo who are “steadfast in their demands to stop destructive mining operations” and have been consistent in “warding off the pressures” from Marañon and mining executives.
The Army’s 303rd Infantry Brigade chief, Col. Jonas Sumagaysay, expressed surprise over the statement of Fernandez.
If they are to launch military operations, they should have kept it secret, he said over local radio station dyEZ Aksyon Radyo-Bacolod.
“I can’t understand why (Fernandez) has to announce it but if they really want to go on the offensive, we will be ready for them,” he added.
Army troopers and NPA guerrillas have engaged each other in combat in several towns in the northern side of the province and in Oriental Negros.
Two weeks ago, a captain of the elite Scout Ranger was killed and another soldier wounded during two related skirmishes in Sta. Catalina town, Oriental Negros.
Several days later, Sumagaysay claimed that the NPA’s infighting has worsened resulting to the death of several rebels when their units clashed in the upland villages bordering Escalante City and Calatrava town.
Apart from that the deaths caused by infighting, Sumagaysay said the lack of discipline and military training has forced the rebels to commit operational lapses that resulted in misencounters.
“We don’t even need to fight them for their ranks to get thin,” he said over Aksyon Radyo-Bacolod.
The NPA has not yet issued a statement on the claims of Sumagaysay.
GREEN ALERT SCORES GOV
“Irresponsible” and “not well thought of” was how the environmentalist group Green Alert described the pronouncements of Governor Alfredo Marañon in favoring coal and nuclear power over solar energy.
Junjun Mojica, who signed a statement for Green Alert, said solar power is the cheapest at 12 centavos per kilowatt hour based on the Feed-In Tariff Rules of the Energy Regulatory Commission compared to coal and nuclear power.
Marañon, who is an organic farming advocate, had earlier said he is endorsing the construction of an 80-megawatt coal-fired power plant by the Global Business Power Corporation of the Metrobank group of companies that is also operating a similar plant in Iloilo City.
Mojica said coal remains to be the dirtiest power source even if it is considered as the cheapest fuel and is “one of the single greatest threats to our climate.”
The Youil Renewable Energy Corporation had earlier announced that it is planning to put up a solar farm in EB Magalona town, north of here.
The firm’s regional manager, Gregory Lofamia, said the farm is expected to generate between 30 to 40 megawatts of electricity. The construction is being supported by Bishop Vicente Navarra of the Roman Catholic Church’s Bacolod Diocese.
Aside from the solar farm, Green Alert said two hydro-electric plants are also planned to be built in the province. One that is expected to generate 40 megawatts will be built in Bago City while a 12-megawatt cascading plant is also planned to be built in Sagay City.
Green Alert said the combined 107 megawatts of solar and hydro power should make Maranon rethink his position.
KMU tells workers: expect wage hike lower than P22
The militant Kilusang Mayo Uno said workers in Western Visayas must expect increases not more than P22 after the National Capital Region wage board issued an order granting a P22 Cost of Living Allowance.
“We must not expect too much from a wage board dominated by capitalists in cahoots with the State that implements (a) wage freeze policy,” KMU-Negros spokesman Ronald Ian Evidente said.
The Region VI wage board is holding a hearing in Bacolod City on May 20 to determine if an increase should be granted or not.
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