By ALEX D. LOPEZ
KIDAPAWAN CITY, North Cotabato, Philippines — Over a thousand workers, peasants, youth and students, indigenous peoples and church workers gathered here on Monday to protest President Benigno “Noynoy” Aquino’s third State of the Nation Address, which they call “another rhetoric of an unpopular president.”
Bearing banners and placards, they converged in Lanao Village before they stormed various government agencies, venting out their disgust over Aquino’s “priority programs and projects” which they blame for the people’s continuing suffering.
Noli Lapaz, Chairman of the peasant group Kilusang Magbubukid ng Pilipinas criticized the Aquino administration for doing “nothing to uplift the lives of the ordinary farmers.”
“Ania kami karon sa karsada aron ipahibalo sa kadaghanan nga wala kitay mapaabot sa sona ni PNoy (We are here to inform the public there’s nothing we can gain from PNoy’s Sona),” Lapaz said.
Lapaz said peasants in North Cotabato have been calling for a genuine agrarian reform. “But instead of heeding our call, PNoy answered us with intensified military operations,” Lapaz said referring to Aquino’s “counter-insurgency” program Oplan Bayanihan that victimized peasants and lumads in the NoCot hinterlands.
The protesters then marched to the office of Metro Kidapawan Water District (MKWD). Here, student leaders lambasted the impending enactment of the Water Sector Reform Act or Senate Bill 2997, also known as “Angara Bill.”
The bill sponsored by Senator Edgardo Angara pushes for an “Integrated Water Resources Management approach,” a move which is seen to pave the way to the full privatization of the country’s water districts.
Even MKWD’s head of the Human Resources Office, Merly Avila, agreed with the protesters on this. She cited that they, too, are “against the privatization of water utilities.” She thanked the different sectors for supporting their stance.
The protesters then march towards the office and plant site of the Energy Development Corporation (EDC), formerly the Philippine National Oil Company. The plant is now owned and operated by the Lopez family through the government’s privatization thrust.
In a short program here, they denounced the massive transfer of government utilities “to the hands of foreign corporations through their local business counterparts.”
They also criticized PNoy’s “adherence to the mandate of US and IMF-WB (International Monetary Fund-World Bank).”
“Ang tinuod nga boss ni PNoy mao ang Estados Unidos ug ang mga dagkung kapitalista tungod kay gibahugan niya kini og maayo pinaagi sa PPP (PNoy’s real boss is the United States and the big capitalists because he feeds them well through PPP (Public-Private Partnership),” Darwin Morante of Kabataan Partylist said.
The PPP is a centerpiece program of the Aquino administration which enhances private business financing of government projects, including infrastructure crucial to social services.
The protesters then proceeded to the Cotabato Electric Cooperative where they further demonstrated opposition to such privatization scheme.
Ruby Padilla-Sison who spoke for women’s group Gabriela blamed the debilitating brown-outs in Mindanao on government, conniving with big power corporations to make it appear that there is shortage of power as a ploy to jack up power rates.
“Namakak ang panggamhanan ug ang mga dagkong negosyante sa dihang ilang gideklara nga kulang og supply sa kuryente ang Mindanao maong nakasinati kita og taas nga oras sa brownouts (The government and big corporations lied when they declared that Mindanao lacks supply of power, the reason why we experienced long hours of brownouts),” Padilla-Sison said.
She added that the power supply in Mindanao is already controlled by big corporations due to privatization. She cited the geothermal plant, which is just a few kilometers away from Kidapawan, is now owned by a private company “whose main concern is to gain profit and not service.” (Alex D. Lopez/davaotoday.com)World