Protests greet PNoy’s SONA in 3 Caraga cities

BUTUAN CITY (MindaNews/23 July) — Some 2,000 members of militant groups and other and civil society organizations from Caraga region took to the streets in three key cities to protest the alleged failure of the Aquino administration in keeping its promises.

The groups marched the streets of Butuan, Surigao and Tandag cities, calling for concrete reforms after two years of  the Aquino administration.

In Butuan City, protesters started arriving from different parts of Agusan del Norte and Agusan del Sur at around 10 in the morning then marched towards the regional office of the Department of Agrarian Reform and then the Commission of Human Rights before converging at corner of JC Aquino Avenue and Montilla Boulevard for their protest rally.

Atel Hijos, Gabriela-Caraga spokesperson said they wanted to ask the President “what happened to all the promises he made to the people. What we have experienced is that more people are out of work, hunger, poverty, human rights violations are still there. There are no concrete steps taken to really solve the problems that the people are now facing.”

The Gabriela spokesperson also said Executive Order 79 on mining is not a solution but would just add to the problem since favors large mining companies.

“The administration has been critical about its campaign on illegal logging here in Caraga but they failed to see that large-scale mining is seven times more destructive. His administration has approved a total of 270,000 hectares of lands to be mined all over the country. Here in Caraga, as of June 2011, 54 Mineral Production Sharing Agreement or MPSA have been allowed to operate, covering a total of 125,670 hectares. Almost half the land area of the entire region has an application on mining,” she said.

In his SONA, President Aquino said his administration “engaged stakeholders in a level-headed discussion in crafting our Executive Order on mining.”

“The idea behind our consensus we reached: that we be able to utilize our natural resources to uplift the living conditions of the Filipinos not just of today, also of the following generations. We will not reap the rewards of this industry if the cost is the destruction of nature,” he said.

Aquino added that the EO is “only the first step.”

“Think about it: In 2010, 145 billion pesos was the total value derived from mining, but only 13.4 billion or 9 percent went to the national treasury. These natural resources are yours; it shouldn’t happen that all that’s left to you is a tip after they’re extracted. We are hoping that Congress will work with us and pass a law that will ensure that the environment is cared for, and that the public and private sectors will receive just benefits from this industry.”

Jeremias Numeral, provincial chair of the Nagkahiusa Mag-uuma sa Agusan del Sur or Namasur said the administration has been deceiving the farmers.

“We are asking for a true agrarian reform from the government. They have deceived the people behind the fake CARPER (Comprehensive Agrarian Reform Program Extension with Reforms).  Only half of the 220,000 hectares targeted last year has been distributed to farmers and there has been no concrete support on services for the beneficiaries of comprehensive agrarian reform,” said Numeral.

Jonathan Talvide a youth organizer representing the different youth groups and organizationssaid  the President should be considering the future of the youth and not the continuing budget cuts on education.

“He should prioritize education. PNoy even offered to lend billions of pesos to other nations when in fact it would have been essential in helping the people especially with projects on the education sector and the welfare of the youth,” said Talvide.

Talvide added that even though the K12 program would have its advantages, it is not time to implement it since the people are not yet ready to have an additional burden just  to have their children go through school.

In his SONA, the President said the education budget for 2013 is P292.7 billion pesos compared with P177 billion in 2010. In 2010, the budget for state universities and colleges was P21.03 but next year’s budget, he said, is P34.99 billion.

“Despite this, some militant groups are still cutting classes to protest what they claim is a cut in SUC budgets. It’s this simple: 292.7 is higher than 177, and 34.99 is higher than 21.03. Should anyone again claim that we cut the education budget, we’ll urge your schools to hold remedial math classes. Please attend,” he said. (Erwin Mascarinas/MindaNews)