Autonomous Bicol

TIWI GEOTHERMAL POWER PLANT. Sans autonomy, Bicol supplies cheap and clean power to the Luzon grid and yet Bicolanos pay for high electricity rates. PSALM WEBSITE

Editor's Note: Businessman and former newsman Noel de Luna, chairman of Kusog Bikolandia, was guest of honor and resource speaker during the press forum of the Philippine Press Institute (PPI) held last July 4, 2019 at Jen Hotel in Manila. His speech which called for an autonomous Bicolandia has been covered by reporter Daxim L. Lucas whose dispatch came out in yesterday’s “Biz Buzz”, a special column of the Business page of the Philippine Daily Inquirer. Here is the report

WHILE the government leaders are bent on federalism, a group of Bicolanos believes autonomy would be both a better and viable option.

Kusog Bikolandia founder Noel de Luna believes it is time for the region to reap the benefits from its resources, from geothermal power plants to rich fishing grounds and the blessings of the earth found in mining.

A more equitable distribution of wealth, power and opportunities among 5.9 million residents across six provinces, seven cities, and 107 towns.

“It shall also ensure the right of the people to participate and be equitably represented at appropriate levels of social, economic, political decision-making and in the formulation, implementation and monitoring of local, regional and national priorities, plans and programs, De Luna, a businessman by profession, said.

Kusog Bikolandia is an agenda-based regional party focusing on local and domestic interests. Of course, even before the Spanish conquistadores set foot on the Bicol region, locals have already been mining copper and smelting iron in Masbate that they fashioned into weapons, tools, and utensils and farm implements. Bicolanos were already mining gold in Camarines Norte and some parts of Masbate at that time.

The region is also home to the Tiwi and Bacon-Manito geothermal production fields but has been susceptible to power outages due to horde of problems since the Marcos era. Communities have remained poor as taxes are settled in Metro Manila where their head offices are located.

Hydropower is also a plus for the region. Agriculture needs all attention it can get, while the abaca and the coconut industries need all the support from stakeholders.

Of course, if the group’s proposal is considered, the region can have a fighting chance of lifting more of its inhabitants out of poverty. But whether the businessman’s ideas stand a chance against vested interests, both locally and nationally, is another story. For now, Bicolanos will just have to wait.