Splitting Palawan into three provinces will only further imperialist plunder and tighten the grip of political dynasties in the island.
Leona Paragua of the National Democratic Front (NDF)-Palawan said that the tactic “divide and rule” benefits imperialists and their local agents, with Gov. Jose C. Alvarez as their chief representative. In 2019, Philippine Pres. Rodrigo Duterte signed into law a proposal by Alvarez’s subalterns in Congress dividing the province into Palawan del Norte, Palawan Oriental and Palawan del Sur. A plebiscite will be held on March 13.
This means that Alvarez will not only remain in power and rake in the biggest share of bureaucrat capitalist loot, but will be able to install his friends and family for further bureaucratic corruption. More importantly, a divided Palawan is “vulnerable to heightened foreign intervention and plunder of its rich natural resources,” added the NDF.
Opposition to the division of Palawan say that with a new political setup, existing legislations that protect whatever is left of the province’s natural resources will be scrapped, thereby opening up the island to further exploitation. This will also spell displacement for the indigenous Tagbanua, Pala’wan, and Batak peoples, who are considered as the most vulnerable in Alvarez’s scheme.
As it is, big foreign mining corporations and their local business partners are making a killing off largescale ore extraction in Palawan, particularly nickel. Production of this mineral in the province comprises roughly 25% of the total nickel production in the country. In 2019, the mining industry in Palawan earned around P16 billion from nickel and related metal ores alone. China, which unlawfully claims parts of the province, is the final destination of up to 90% of Philippine nickel. China is also heavily invested in one of the top three largescale nickel mines there.
The NDF said further that Alvarez should instead prioritize the people’s urgent demands, which include resolving distress and poverty brought about by the government’s ill response to the Covid-19 pandemic. The provincial government should also stand up to China’s incursions and threats to Filipino fishermen, and oppose the US military for setting up its base in Ulugan Bay in Puerto Princesa City.
Alvarez, who boasts of having more than P4 billion to his name, is a known Marcos crony who was awarded vast logging concessions in Palawan during the former dictator’s rule. He would later be reported to have assisted former elections official Virgilio Garcillano to escape the country at the height of the “Hello Garci” cheating scandal against former president Gloria Arroyo. Currently, he is one of the staunchest supporters of Duterte’s “federalism.”