Marinduque a century hence

BOAC, Marinduque – 2020 marks the 100th anniversary of Marinduque as a province of the Philippines. The centennial celebration is slated for Feb. 16-22 next year featuring a historical parade, cultural heritage shows, film festival, street dance competition, culinary arts contest, off-road jeep jamboree, groundbreaking for the Bantayog Wika monument in recognition of Tagalog-Marinduqueno, and the Gawad Marinduque awards night.

Governor Presbitero Velasco is expected to lead the 100-day centennial countdown on Nov. 14 at the provincial capitol grounds in this capital town. The National Museum of the Philippines will open a new collection at its satellite museum near Boac’s municipal hall, along with the launch of Marinduque’s centennial commemorative stamp by the Philippine Postal Corp.

Agriculture propels the economy of this heart-shaped island province at the geographical center of the country. Rice, coconut, handicrafts, and fishing are its main industries. Tourism is fast becoming an important revenue source, especially during the Moriones Festival when the Lenten season peaks in the summer.

Mining contributed significantly to the provincial coffers starting from the late 1960s. But the 1996 Marcopper environmental disaster at the minesite in Barangay Hinapulan abruptly halted a once thriving industry. Tragedy struck when the drainage tunnels of Canadian mining firm Marcopper’s open pit ruptured and spilled a huge amount of toxic waste that contaminated the Boac River, flooded adjacent villages, killed marine life, and affected the health of surrounding communities.

Almost a hundred years after its founding, Marinduque is still a fourth-class province in terms of income according to the Philippine Statistics Authority’s 2018 Standard Geographic Code. Among its six municipalities, only Boac and Santa Cruz are classified as first-class, while three others (Gasan, Mogpog, Torrijos) are considered third-class and Buenavista is rated fourth-class.

Many Marinduquenos are pinning their hopes for a better future on their lone district representative who happens to be the governor’s son, Congressman Lord Allan Velasco, mainly because he is positioned to become Speaker of the House of Representatives a year from now.

Under the term-sharing agreement forged by President Rodrigo Duterte last July, Velasco will assume the speakership for 21 months from October 2020 to June 2022 after the 15-month term of incumbent Speaker Alan Peter Cayetano.

House leaders have expressed elation over Cayetano’s high approval ratings in the latest surveys of both Pulse Asia and Social Weather Stations, which they said would redound to a better image for the lower chamber.

In contrast, former Speakers Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo and Pantaleon Alvarez consistently obtained low ratings that dragged down the reputation of the House during their terms in the 17th Congress. Judging from Cayetano’s survey performance, why would his fellow lawmakers risk imperiling their chamber’s improving image by letting another congressman replace him as speaker?

Meanwhile, people here are talking about Velasco’s grand celebration last month at the Makati Shangri-La Hotel on the occasion of the baptism of his youngest daughter Sara named after his political patron, presidential daughter Mayor Sara Duterte, who was a no-show at that party. But she showed up last weekend when Velasco hosted another lavish party in Davao City, also in celebration of baby Sara’s christening.

His actions seem to remind everyone about his closeness to the First Family after having thrown big bashes for the President. They indicate a sense of agitation that the term-sharing deal might be scuttled, despite assurances from Cayetano that the latter would honor the agreement. Aggravating the situation was a statement from Presidential Spokesperson Salvador Panelo that the President merely suggested the term-sharing arrangement and it is now up to the House members to decide for themselves whether the verbal deal should still stand.

Instead of indulging in ostentatious displays of wealth while majority of one’s constituents could barely make ends meet, the Marinduque legislator is well-advised to keep in mind that a stellar track record is the key to gaining peers’ respect rather than showing off one’s close ties to the powers-that-be.

This story was written by J. Albert Gamboa, and first published on Manila Bulletin.

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