PRWC » NIR law facilitates neoliberal interests in Negros Island and Siquijor

June 26, 2024

The US-Marcos II regime recently passed Negros Island Region (NIR) Act, clumping together the provinces of Negros Occidental, Negros Oriental, and Siquijor into one region. For all intents and purposes, this law was railroaded to further consolidate the interests of big landlords and compradors, corrupt bureaucrats, and their imperialist masters.

The selling point of the NIR is that the people in Negros and Siquijor no longer have to go to Cebu or Iloilo to process professional licenses, papers, and other legal transactions, and there will be lesser time and money spent when regional offices will be relocated in Negros and Siquijor. However, this unsubstantial basis completely grazes over the fact that the law was passed without proper public consultation or information.

Logistical convenience for legal processes is a mere facade for the real intention of the NIR law. Behind this shallow mask is the neoliberal agenda to completely open up Negros and Siquijor for liberalization, privatization, deregulation, and denationalization. The NIR will only serve to facilitate landlord-comprador monopoly, promoting land-use conversion and reclassification, mining and quarrying, reclamation, and ecotourism, in utter disregard of communities in the cities and countryside. The pending infrastructure projects for the NIR will undoubtedly be a source of widespread bureaucrat corruption.

For example, plans to build regional offices of the NIR in Kabankalan City where an 87-hectare land distributed to farmers through the Comprehensive Agrarian Reform Program (CARP) in Barangay Orong will be reclassified to accommodate the regional centers and other lucrative businesses like hotels will displace communities and livelihoods in the area.

The NIR act will serve as political consolidation for the pro-Marcos bloc in the coming 2025 and 2028 elections. Among the three provinces, it is without doubt that landlord-bureaucrats in Negros Occidental (i.e. Albee Benitez, Eugenio ‘Bong’ Lacson, among others) will wield the monopoly of power, reigning over Negros Oriental and Siquijor. The Pamplona massacre victimizing the late Negros Oriental governor Roel Degamo, a staunch anti-NIR politician, and nine others was deeper than the Teves-Degamo rivalry as portrayed by the media. It was a systematic warning to those opposing the interests of US imperialism and the island’s local elites.

Alongside the economic interests of the ruling class is the assurance of heightened state fascism and terrorism at the hands of the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) and Philippine National Police (PNP). To protect and push the neoliberal offensive, armed mercenaries and butchers of the state have ramped up militarization with impunity amid already alarmingly countless human rights violations. The NIR will only bolster military abuses towards the exploited and oppressed masses even further.

Essentially, the NIR law does not address any genuine problem that the people are undergoing in the worsening socioeconomic and humanitarian crisis. It is important to note that the law was passed without much debacle, while the extreme effects of the El Niño phenomenon and the Kanlaon eruption are being given band-aid solutions, at best.

Clearly, the Marcoses are assuring its political victory in the bourgeois elections to prolong their reign as long as it can and with this, preserve the hold of US imperialism in the country.

Thus, it is imperative to expose and reject the elitist and anti-poor NIR law, especially its role in the entry of neoliberal interests all over Negros Island and Siquijor. The anti-imperialist, anti-feudal and anti-fascist movement on the island, and Siquijor as well, must be expanded and consolidated. The basic masses and the middle, patriotic, and democratic forces including church people must be aroused, organized, and mobilized against neoliberalism.

In the coming mid-term elections, local politicians must be challenged to address legitimate social ills overwhelming the island such as landlessness, skyrocketing prices of basic goods, hunger, poverty, job insecurity, community and environmental destruction, and the incessant human rights violations by state forces that are affecting the masses at large, instead of bickering among themselves for dominance and a share of the loot from the establishment of the NIR. ###

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