MALAYBALAY CITY (MindaNews/29 June) – Bukidnon’s new governor has underscored his support to environmental protection by pledging to increase the allocation for the Mt. Kitanglad and Mt. Kalatungan natural parks from P1 million to P2-3 million each. At the same time, however, he said he favors the construction of the Pulangi V hydropower dam in southern Bukidnon as well as small-scale mining operations.
Calingasan ignored criticisms to the dam project, saying the economic benefits far outweigh the impending displacement of Lumad communities.
“It (displacement) is being addressed. It can be talked about,” he said.
He added the new hydroelectric power facility will bring cheaper power and attract investors to Bukidnon.
As long as the project goes through democratic consultations it should be pursued, he told MindaNews after talking to executives from Bukindon’s two electric cooperatives.
Calingasan also said he will review the provincial government’s policy promoting small-scale mining.
“I am still agreeable to small-scale mining, on certain conditions,” he said.
He noted that most of the mining exploration proposals are pushed by the Lumad communities themselves.
“We will have to assess if this really benefits them as a whole or just the few dealers,” he said.
But Calingasan refused to issue a statement on the proposed moratorium on the expansion of banana plantations. He said he will leave it to the municipal and city mayors to decide.
“They too are empowered to decide on this and they too know that the people need to balance between food security (and export crops),” he said, adding he would make environmental conservation and protection a leverage for provincial government support to local governments.
He said he will continue outgoing Gov. Jose Ma. Zubiri’s program to provide Bukidnon’s 464 barangays with funding support for road projects but only if they commit to turn their landscape into green.
But when reminded of the violations done by companies in Bukidnon against the terms of their environmental compliance certificates, Calingasan said: “As to the environmental concerns, that is where the people will come in. They will have to be vigilant,” he said.
In public functions shortly before assuming his new post, Calingasan also said he will fine-tune his predecessor’s programs and projects.
In his one-hour inaugural speech yesterday, he said his priorities in his first 100 days include streamlining the “over-staffed” provincial government workforce, noting that with its 2,323 workers it is employing more people than the big firms in the province.
The Capitol has at least 1,000 casual employees.
Calingasan said he has instructed the Human Resource and Personnel Office chief to evaluate the performance and tenure of the employees as basis for retention or termination.
The new governor also outlined his programs for agriculture and real property tax collection. He said he will assign more work to the Provincial Agriculture Office, which he said was sidelined in the past administration.
The Kaamulan Festival did not escape Calingasan’s attention. He promised to review the holding of the annual fanfare which critics said has become too commercialized and an affront to Bukidnon’s cultural heritage.
(Walter I. Balane/MindaNews)