Bicol Poised to Draft Charter, Sees Autonomy as Way Out of Poverty - BM

IN the hopes of licking poverty and increasing investments, the Bicol region is in the process of drafting a charter that will turn all of Region 5 into another autonomous region similar to the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (ARMM) and the Cordillera Administrative Region (CAR).

bicolDante Jimenez, lead convenor of the Bicol Autonomy Movement, told the BusinessMirror that the move to turn Bicol into another autonomous region will allow them to take advantage of the natural resources of the region and benefit from it in full.

Jimenez said in an e-mail that some of the possible reasons provinces in Bicol like Masbate is poor is that despite it “virtually sitting on a mountain of gold,” the current system and the fact that the province benefits too little from its resources prevents it from moving out of poverty.

“Why is Masbate so poor? Again, I say, it could be the present system. With high hopes, if Bicol Autonomy becomes a reality, Masbate and even the entire region, though may not really be the best, will definitely be something much better than today,” Jimenez said.

bicol“The Bicol region is rich in natural resources and even manpower. We do believe that effective administration, utilization and distribution of our natural wealth will boost the current regional economy. We foresee increased gross regional domestic products,” he added.

Based on the latest data from the National Statistical Coordination Board (NSCB), the Bicol region posted a gross regional domestic product (GRDP) of 4.3 percent in 2008. This growth was higher than the national average of 3.6 percent.

However, the two other autonomous regions, CAR and ARMM, posted the slowest GRDP growth. CAR posted the slowest growth of 1.8 percent while the ARMM posted a growth of 1.9 percent in 2008.

“I am more inclined to say that to some extent, safety measures were not made in place in the creation of ARMM, so much so that the leaders got themselves entangled to almost the same bureaucracy that they wanted to free themselves from, before the establishment of their autonomous government,” Jimenez said.

bicol“On these, we, the proponents of Bicol Autonomy, put our leverage. If we could use the experiences of these two existing autonomous regions on their proper perspective both negative and positive, we believe the region can make a good difference,” he added.

Based on the 2003 Small Area Estimates on poverty released by the NSCB this year, poverty incidences of municipalities in the six provinces of the Bicol region were relatively high, ranging from 22.8 percent to 72.5 percent, except for those located in the province of Albay. The NSCB also noted that relatively high poverty incidence is concentrated in the municipalities of Masbate, while municipalities with low poverty incidences are concentrated in Albay.

Highest poverty incidence in the region was observed in Cawayan, Masbate, at 72.5 percent, followed by other municipalities in Masbate such as San Pascual with 72 percent and Claveria with 69.6 percent.

bicolPoverty is everywhere, regardless of the form of government. That is the general context. Autonomous or not, people can be very poor. Nevertheless, we believe systematic change can still be a great factor to reckon with in helping people and government alleviate poverty,” Jimenez said. He said the convenors of the Bicol Autonomy Movement will be meeting this week from September 4 to 6 in Buhi, Camarines Sur, to discuss the charter which will not only include economic provisions but a proposal to create the region’s own Court of Appeals, Court of Tax Appeal and Supreme Court, like ARMM, which has the Shari’ah District Court System.

The Shari’ah District Court System is provided for in Republic Act (RA) 6734 or the Organic Act of ARMM that includes the recent RA 9054, the ARMM’s charter. The Shari’ah appellate court together with the Shari’ah district courts and Shari’ah circuit courts has jurisdiction over cases involving persons, family and property relations of the Filipino Muslims.

bicolThe 1987 Constitution or the Freedom Constitution passed under the term of the late President Corazon Aquino provided for the creation of RA 6734.

Based on the proposal of the Bicol Autonomy Movement, the region is rich in natural resources. The movement said it is home to 13 major fishing grounds that supplies fish markets as far as Metro Manila; one of highest producers of palay, abaca, corn and coconut; has voluminous mineral reserves including gold, copper, silver, iron, phosphate rock, perlite, red clay, marble, guano and bentonite; and has many potentially good energy sources. These energy sources include geothermal like the Tiwi and Bacon-Manito geothermal plants, which substantially contributes to the Luzon Power Grid and three other indicative geothermal capacity additions located in Albay and Sorsogon provinces.

The region also has hydropower plants located at Buhi, Camarines Sur, and in Guinlajon, Sorsogon; wind resources in Baleno, Masbate; Donsol and Matnog, Sorsogon; higher terrains in Virac, Catanduanes and some parts of Burias Island; potential ocean thermal energy in Camarines and Catanduanes provinces; coal reserves in Batan, Albay, Cantanduanes and Masbate; and downstream oil facilities/depot in Pasacao, Camarines Sur, and Masbate, Masbate, with a total storage capacity of 87.9 million barrels.

The movement said the region also boasts of biomass energy through the use of coconut husks and rice hulls to generate energy. The movement said the technology was made by the Philippine National Oil Co. and Sukhin Energy Inc. (SEI) of Ukraine. Similar technology may be provided by the Department of Science and Technology to all interested investors.

Written by Cai U. Ordinario / Reporter
Monday, 31 August 2009 22:02
Source: Business Mirror