WHY ARE WE SO RICH, YET SO POOR?
Bicol has a total population of 5,109,798 as of 2010 and growing at an average rate of 1.23% annually. It has two major sources of renewable energy, from the BacMan and Tiwi geothermal plants. The total power generated by these plants was 674.54 gigawatt-hours in 2009 while the total power distributed was only 740,509 thousand kilowatt-hours. Moreover, our region has strong potentials for other renewable energy sources.
Electricity consumers in Bicol pay P7-10 per kilowatt hour while consumers in Metro Manila pay only P4-7. A working individual who earns minimum wage here finds it harder to sustain electricity expenses than a student in Manila.
Aside from energy, we have abundant mineral reserves as well, both metallic and non-metallic. In Rapu-Rapu we have gold, copper, silver, zinc and other mineral resources, in Paracale and Aroroy we are rich in gold, in Catanduanes we have coal, in Camarines Sur we have marble, to name a few.
Our region is abundant with agricultural and forestry products such as abaca, coconut, corn, rice, timber, among others. We have abundant fishery resources around the Bicol peninsula. There is strong tourism potential in many areas of each of our six provinces. We had 46% increase in tourist arrivals in 2008 and by 2010 we topped other regions as number one in the country on tourist arrivals. We are surrounded by beaches and islands like the Caramoan peninsula, Calaguas Island in Camarines Norte and pristine waters in Masbate, to name a few. Sorsogon is ever popular of Butanding watching in Donsol.
But reports from the National Economic Development Authority paint a gloomy picture of our region. Bicol remains the fourth poorest in the country based on the economic well-being of individuals. Our region is the second poorest in Luzon, next to MIMAROPA.
Poverty incidence in Region 5 remained high at 51.1% in 2006 and 45.1% in 2009. This 2009 figure translates to about 2,422,267 poor Bicolanos.
CHARTER OF THE BICOL AUTONOMOUS REGION
The Charter of the Bicol Autonomous Region captures the major principles of the movement. It has six key components: (1) Fiscal Autonomy; (2) Strong Anti-Dynasty Provisions; (3) Strong Anti-Corruption Conditions; (4) More Effective and Efficient Justice System; (5) Principle of Territoriality; and (6) More Adoptive Educational Framework.
Fiscal autonomy gives regional and local government units the right to retain and enjoy a major part of the region’s income instead of giving the bulk of it to the national government as the present set up dictates.
Strong anti-dynasty provisions do not allow spouses and relatives of incumbent government officials of up to fourth degree of affinity and consanguinity to be appointed into office.
To institutionalize strong anti-corruption stipulations, the Regional Government will have quarterly reports on the state of affairs and finances of the region. Three private accounting firms will audit the financial accounts of the Bicol Autonomous Region.
A more effective and efficient justice system will be ensured through the creation of a Regional Appellate Court. Moreover, a Regional Planning and Development Board will be established to give the local government and representatives from all sectors opportunity to participate in the planning and making decisions for their own good.
The principle of territoriality will be carried out by giving the Regional Autonomous Government the power to control, regulate and supervise the exploitation, utilization and development of the national resources within the Bicol autonomous territory. This is in line with advancing regional patrimony vis-à-vis national patrimony. The principle of territoriality ensures that the communities affected by the different development projects shall have the greater benefits in terms of lower cost and more socio economic benefits.
A more adoptive educational framework should be meaningful, relevant and responsive to the needs of the Bicolanos. The Bicol Autonomous Region shall encourage the publication of textbooks and reference materials in the Bicol language at all levels. It shall promote the use of the Bicol language in national exams particularly, but not limited to, civil service, NSAT and NCAE.
IMMEDIATE CONCRETE STEPS
Presently, the Movement is governed by an organizational structure with a regional convenor and provincial convenors for each of the six provinces.
Representatives of the Bicol Autonomy Movement have been recently invited and attended a hearing sponsored by the Committee on Charter Change of the House of Representatives. The hearing tackled proposed amendments to the 1987 Philippine Constitution related to a federal form of government and possible autonomy of selected regions. The Movement shall primarily work within the framework of the Constitution through an amendment of Article 10 to include a Bicol Autonomous Region.
Another possible step shall be to pass a Bill in the Philippine legislature creating the Bicol Autonomous Region. Then a plebiscite shall be conducted throughout the six provinces of the region so that Bicolanos themselves will decide on the issue.
This is a summary of the roundtable discussion sponsored by the Institute of Politics, Department of Social Sciences and Economics Society last September 25, 2012. The main input was given by Mr. Renne Gumba, Director of the Institute of Politics and Co-Convenor of the Bicol Autonomy Movement. For comments/inquiries, contact Dr. Bernadette Gumba at Local 2013 or 09063877196 or firstname.lastname@example.org. Thank you.