Bikolanos must fight for their lives and future!

This article is available in Pilipino

The Bikolanos are in a battle for their lives and future. With less than a hundred days in office, Marcos II’s regime, along with the local political dynasties that has installed it into power, has already bared itself as nothing but a perpetuation of the destructive, anti-poor Duterte regime. Across the six provinces of the region, a hundred and one faces of exploitation and oppression are currently being endured by the Bikolano masses.

In Camarines Norte, tricycle drivers assail the continuing delay of the promised oil subsidies in the wake of nonstop oil price increases. The transport sector has been heavily hit by the Covid-19 crisis which have led to loss of jobs and source of living for thousands of CamNorteños.

In the coastal towns of Catanduanes, repressive fishing laws still remain in place even amidst the heavy toll of price increases and high inflation rates. Government support for the sector also remains insufficient, if not virtually nil.

In Camarines Sur, palay production has decreased leading to more families driven to poverty and starvation as well as lower overall regional production for this year. Farmers cite the uncontrollable spikes in farm inputs such as petroleum, pesticides and fertilizers. More and more peasants are discouraged from planting rice and are forced to look for odd jobs or to work as farmhands for big landowners.

In Albay, the masses are locked in a bitter war against the greedy Albay Power and Electric Company (APEC) that has leeched upon the toiling Albayanos for more than eight years. In a recent consumer-member conference, more than 600 Albayanos have expressed their refusal to allow APEC to continue its control over the province’s energy supply and distribution. The general public has also been very vocal in their desire to take back their energy cooperative and be in charge of its rehabilitation.

In Sorsogon, more than 500 job order workers were not granted the promised P300 daily wage but were instead made to accept a measly P50 salary increase from their previous P200 daily salary. These job order laborers, despite fulfilling their job descriptions just as much as the next worker, only receives a percentage of a regular Bikolano worker which also only ranges from P325-P345 – a far cry from the P750 national minimum wage demanded by labor unions. These inhumane salary rates for regular workers especially job order workers are glaringly insufficient for an average Bikolano family’s daily expenses.

In Masbate, the continuing militarization holds the whole province hostage. From the islands of Ticao to the southernmost towns of Esperanza, human rights violations and persistent state brutality has been recorded. Just this year alone, 39 cases of violation were recorded – ranging from illegal arrests, torture, attempted rape and other forms of violence against women and children, extrajudicial killings and bombing of communities.

In the face of all these problems and a hundred more of its kind, it is nothing less than just for the Bikolano masses to unite and uprise. The Bikolanos must make the bureaucrats who have allowed, and even buoyed up, this level of exploitation to answer for their crimes against the people. Some of them are local political dynasties who have embedded themselves in power and have amassed obscene wealth on the backs of the toiling Bikolano masses like the Khos of Masbate, the Villafuertes of Camarines Sur, the Salcedas of Albay, the Chuas of Catanduanes and the Escuderos of Sorsogon. These traditional politicians have cheated, deceived and killed their way to power.

The only way for the Bikolano people to win this war for their lives and future is to realize the potential of their united struggle, to fight back and make all those who have betrayed them tremble at the feat of their collective action.

Bikolanos must fight for their lives and future!