By Argyll Cyrus Geducos
Palawan, the country’s biggest province, is now split into three – Palawan del Norte, Palawan Oriental, and Palawan del Sur.
President Duterte signed into law the measure dividing Palawan into three provinces last April 5. It will be effective 15 days after its publication in the Official Gazette or any newspaper.
Under the law, the province of Palawan del Norte will be composed of the municipalities of Coron, Culion, Busuanga, Linacapan, Taytay, and El Nido.
The province of Palawan Oriental, in turn, will be comprised of the municipalities of Roxas, Araceli, Dumaran, Cuyo, Agutaya, Magsaysay, Cayancillo, and San Vicente.
The province of Palawan del Sur, which will be considered the “mother province,” will be composed of the municipalities of Aborlan, Narra, Quezon, Rizal, Espanola, Brooke’s Point, Bataraza, Balacbac, and Kalayaan.
The three provinces will be created depending on the results of a plebiscite in the affected areas. It will be held on the second Monday of May, 2020. The election of new elective officials will be held on the second Monday of May, 2022 during the national and local elections.
The incumbent representatives of the present province of Palawan shall continue to represent their respective legislative districts until the new ones are elected.
Each of the three new provinces will have a provincial governor, vice governor, sangguniang panlalawigan secretary and members, provincial treasurer, assessor, accountant, budget officer, planning and development coordinator, engineer, health officer, administrator, legal officer, agriculturist, social welfare and development officer, veterinarian, and general services officer.
Early on, the proposal to divide Palawan into three provinces met negative criticisms, one coming from Senator Risa Hontiveros who expressed concern that if China has aggressively and arrogantly exerted its claim on the West Philippine Sea, it can now easily conquer the three provinces which are now reduced as small local government units.
But Senator Sonny Angara, who endorsed the bill, explained that the proposal was not “motivated by partisan political concerns nor a gerrymandering exercise.” He said it was appropriate since Palawan is the biggest province in the Philippines in terms of area.
What happens to Puerto Princesa?
Under Section 9 of the new law, each province created shall have its own legislative district comprising of the municipalities enumerated and will be effective upon the election in May 2022.
However, in the case of the City of Puerto Princesa, it shall “have its own legislative district effective upon the election and qualification of its representatives” in the May 2022 polls.
Residents of Puerto Princesa City are also not qualified to vote in the plebiscite and for candidates for provincial elective positions.
Also, real properties in the highly-urbanized city owned by the current Palawan province or held in trust for the national government will be “co-owned and/or co-managed be the three (3) provinces for the mutual benefit of its constituents.”
“Decision as to its use and disposition shall be made upon consensus of at least two provinces to be embodied in a memorandum of agreement duty entered into in accordance with the Local Government Code of 1991, as amended,” the law said.