Mylene Socorro Victoria traveled all the way from Barangay Alimanguan in San Vicente along with around a hundred other supporters, pooling their own funds so they could hire a bus to bring them to the Puerto Princesa City Baywalk for the Leni Robredo-Kiko Pangilinan grand rally Wednesday.
Victoria, a laity leader, told Palawan News she wanted to recognize with her presence Robredo’s efforts in helping their community recover from the damage inflicted on them by the recent typhoon Odette.
“Nakakaiyak, maski ‘yong presensya niya lang noong araw na ‘yon, malaking tulong na sa amin. Kasi parang na-lift ‘yong aming nararamdaman, nagkaroon kami ng pag-asa. Pag-asa talaga ‘yong aming naramdaman noong siya ang dumating at mas lalong nagkaroon ng pag-asa kasi the following days, dumating ang kaniyang suporta,” Victoria said.
She wasn’t the only Robredo supporter who traveled from far away, motivated by a desire to express gratitude to the presidential bet for helping them in times of need.
Mary Ann Delima is a seaweed farmer-leader from the Calamianes in the northernmost part of Palawan. She and some 25 other seaweed farmers traveled by land and sea all the way from Coron just to attend the rally.
She said they wanted to show up to thank Robredo for helping their cooperative during the midst of the pandemic with livelihood assistance.
“Talagang sobra ‘yong tulong na binigay sa amin ni ma’am Leni. Hindi lang naibsan ‘yong nagugutom kami, nabago niya ‘yong mindset namin, ‘yong pananaw namin. Na ang mga babae hindi lang dapat nasa bahay, kailangan ma-empower siya, na maipakita ‘yong talento niya na tumulong na hindi ‘yong nasa bahay ka lang—nakita ko ‘yong empowerment ni ma’am Leni para sa kababaihan. Iyon ay nasaksihan naman natin ‘di po ba?” she said.
Robredo and Pangilinan were the first presidential tandem to visit Palawan as part of their campaign tour. In previous national electoral exercises, Palawan traditionally ranked low among candidates due to its relatively smaller voting population compared to other provinces.
Robredo exuded pride in coming back to the city to thank its local population for supporting her during the vice presidential elections in 2016.
“Ngayon, matitingnan ko kayo, mata sa mata, na ‘yong anim na taon na binigay niyo sa akin ay ginawa ko ang lahat para makapagsilbi sa inyo,” Robredo said during the rally.
The rally, organized by the Robredo People’s Council-Palawan, saw thousands of supporters donning pink garbs and raincoats. It was held Wednesday afternoon at the Baywalk. Organizers say the crowd reached a peak of about 9,100 as the sun went down and more people came out to see Robredo later in the evening.
In her speech, Robredo vowed to prioritize environmental protection as part of her agenda for Palawan.
“Ang Palawan, sinasabi na last ecological frontier sa Pilipinas. Thirty percent ng lahat ng mangrove sa Pilipinas, nandito sa inyo, 40 percent lahat ng coral reefs ng Pilipinas nandito sa inyo, 50 percent ng lahat ng forest, nasa Palawan. Ang priority natin dito talagang proteksyon ng kalikasan,” she said.
Robredo stressed that protecting the Palawan environment will also help the livelihoods of locals, avoid hunger and maintain the conservation of natural resources.
“Wala kaming sinasabi na sa amin ang lahat ng solusyon. Mangyayari lang ang lahat ng pangarap natin para sa bayan natin kapag tayo ay magtulong-tulungan. Pero ang taumbayan, tutulong lang siya, aambag lang siya kapag may tiwala siya sa kaniyang pamahalaan,” she added.
Robredo recalled the assistance extended by the Office of the Vice President (OVP) to seaweed farmers in Agutaya town and also the assistance extended in the city of Puerto Princesa during the start of the pandemic. She also recalled visiting Palawan, particularly the northern towns in December 2021, after the typhoon Odette’s onslaught.
She also emphasized the role of the private sector in OVP operations, which support is also observed in the campaigns being organized by the volunteers. The RPC-Palawan has over a thousand volunteers coming from Puerto Princesa and different towns in Palawan.
Before Robredo, Pangilinan also talked to the crowd, highlighting food security, combating corruption in the agriculture sector, and prioritizing the products of the local farmers. Pangilinan noted that RA 11321, or the Sagip Saka Act, helped to encourage farmers and fisherfolk to venture more into agriculture with the assurance of the right buying price from the government.
“Itong Sagip Saka Act, ito pinangako ko noong 2016. Sabi ko, babalangkas tayo ng batas na makakatulong sa mga magsasaka at sa mga mangingisda—2019 tinupad ko ang pangako, batas na ito. At ang mahalaga, dito sa batas na ito, ‘yong tinatawag na exempted na sa public bidding kapag bumibili ang pamahalaang lokal at national sa ating farmers and fisherfolk organizations,” he said.
Senatorial aspirants under the TRoPa slate also gave their speeches through their representatives, except Atty. Sonny Matula, who was present at the rally and personally talked to the crowd.
Atty. Neri Colmenares and labor leader Elmer “Ka Bong” Labog also explained their platforms, highlighting their fight against contractualization and commitment to increasing the national minimum wage.