Palawan fate decided via today’s plebiscite

The Commission on Elections said voting for the postponed Palawan plebiscite – which will divide the province into three – would start at 7 a.m. and end at 3 p.m. today (Saturday).

Palawan fate decided via today’s plebiscite
Color-coded map of Palawan shows how it will be divided into three, with each emerging province covering their areas of jurisdiction.

The voters will only be asked to cast a yes vote if they are in favor of the split and no if they are against it.

The Palawan plebiscite will ratify Republic Act No. 11259 dividing Palawan into Palawan Del Norte, Palawan Del Sur and Palawan Oriental.

All registered voters must comply with health protocols, such as maintaining physical distance outside and inside voting precincts, and ensuring that bottles or dispensers of alcohol for sanitizing hands are available in these areas, the Comelec said.

A lot is at stake in the division of the biggest province in the country in terms of land area at nearly 15,000 square kilometers.

Voters and everyone involved in the plebiscite would be required to wear masks at all times.

“The wearing of face masks is mandatory, whether they are poor or rich,” Teopisto Elnas Jr., Comelec deputy executive director for operations said.

Each voter would be required to fill out a health declaration form at health stations to be set up in voting centers.

While the Comelec is expecting a low turnout of voters to determine whether Palawan will be split into three provinces, this will not affect the result.

Comelec data showed that Palawan has 490,639 registered voters, with 2,959 clustered precincts and 487 voting centers. The same number of precincts and voting centers will be used for the plebiscite.

Proponents of the division say it will shatter the traditional center-periphery development pattern where everything emanates from the capitol in Puerto Princesa.

Breaking down the province would mean three provincial governments, each with its own Internal Revenue Allotment, set of leaders, and a seat of government that is more accessible to the municipalities.

Those who oppose the division say the reduction claim it will make them more vulnerable to external security threats and exploitation by private firms interested in the area’s vast mineral and other natural resources.

One of the three lawmakers who pushed for the division of Palawan has expressed optimism that the plebiscite to be held for the purpose would yield a positive result.

Rep. Franz Alvarez of Palawan maintained that splitting Palawan into three separate provinces to “bring closer expanded services to areas not previously served.”

Alvarez was one of the principal authors of a bill at the House of Representatives dividing the towns outside independent Puerto Princesa City into the proposed provinces of Palawan del Norte, Palawan Oriental, and Palawan del Sur.

The possible division of Palawan, he said, “will be advantageous as it will bring government services closer to the people.”

President Duterte signed on April 5, 2019 the law dividing Palawan into the provinces of Palawan del Norte, Palawan Oriental, and Palawan del Sur.

Under the proposal, Palawan del Sur will be considered the “mother province” and will be composed of the municipalities of Aborlan, Narra, Quezon, Rizal, Espanola, Brooke’s Point, Bataraza, Balacbac, and Kalayaan with Brooke’s Point as capital.

Palawan del Norte will consist of the municipalities of Coron, Culion, Busuanga, Linacapan, Taytay, and El Nido with Taytay as capital, while Palawan Oriental will be composed of the municipalities of Roxas, Araceli, Dumaran, Cuyo, Agutaya, Magsaysay, Cayancillo, and San Vicente with Roxas as capital.

Puerto Princesa City will not be part of the plebiscite and proposed division being a highly urbanized city (HUC).

The proposal provides that the election of the new officials for the three provinces will be during the May 2022 national and local polls.

Elected officials prior to the May 2022 elections will continue to serve their unexpired terms until after the election of new provincial officials.

In 2022, each newly-created province will have its own provincial governor, vice governor, Sangguniang Panlalawigan secretary and members, provincial administrator, provincial treasurer, and other provincial government officers.

Not all areas of Palawan are created equal. There are areas that have already gained headway because of investments made by past national and local governments, such as national roads or tourism development.

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