Palawan Governor Jose Alvarez has warmed up to the use of social media to directly engage his constituents, including critics, on heady local issues and policy debates — lately concerning the controversial coal plant project eyed to be established in Narra, and the plan to divide the existing province of Palawan into three smaller province through a referendum set in May next year.
Governor Alvarez has been aggressively pushing for the coal plant project of DMCI Powers Inc. intended to supply baseload electricity to the mainland’s power grid. He had stated on various occasions that such is needed by the province in order to attain economic growth. He has dismissed claims by opponents of the project about its health and pollution risks.
The recent granting of an environmental compliance certificate to the DMCI facility has triggered criticisms on social media, mostly on Facebook, about the project, with Alvarez also on the receiving end of criticisms often bordering to personal attacks.
Alvarez, in a recent Facebook comment in a Palawan News thread, openly criticized some leaders of the Save Palawan Movement (SPM), the main anti-coal lobby against the project, who have warned about the negative effects of coal to the environment.
“Hindi totoo mga sinasabi ng Sopsop na ‘yan. Ako mag-harap dyan sa Biyernes, papuntahin mo sila.” He stated as a rebuttal to a comment by Professor Glenn Sopsop of the Western Philippines Univesity (WPU) and challenging him to a debate in a rally that was going to be held in Narra by anti-coal protesters.
Alvarez, who is also the chief architect of the recent law which calls for a referendum in may next year on the issue of dividing Palawan into three smaller provinces, has gamely taken on the opposition to push for a Yes vote.
In a story posted by Palawan News dated Semptember 1, about the lack of proper study on the environmental impacts of the proposed creation of three Palawan provinces, Alvarez, in the comment section invited a certain Kim Pagente to “form a constructive group so he [Alvarez] can explain why three provinces are better to manage than one.”
Being the main champion behind such controversial initiatives, Alvarez is actively trolled by his critics. Receiving his fair share of online bashing, he won’t be stopped dishing his own, calling his critics names too.
Palawan News sources at the capitol disclosed that even Gov. Alvarez’s own staff have raised concerns over his security, as he is prone to even make his own appointments via Facebook.
Last week, Alvarez arranged a meeting with Narra vice Mayor Crispin Lumba in the comment section of Palawan News’ video clip of Dr. Glenn Sopsop, head of the Department of Forestry and Environmental Science (DFES) of Western Philippines University (WPU).
“Vice, invite mo sila lahat mga anti-coal. Punta ako dyan mga 8:30, pakinggan natin sila pero making din sila sa atin,” he wrote.
Alvarez was also seen to entertain netizens at random in Palawan News’ posts.
Take another example, a multi-million coconut plantation by company Lionheart Agrotech in Rizal, covering thousands of hectares in barangays Candawaga, Culasian and Ransang in Rizal. A Palawan News story on August 30 about the Indigenous People (IP) protest against the joint venture agreement between the said company and the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) saw the governor tangling with the project’s critics.
Alvarez said that the IPs were only propelled by the Palawan NGO Network Inc. (PNNI), spearheaded by Atty. Bobby Chan and that Lionheart are good for the indigenous people of Rizal.