By Ben Rosario
PUERTO PRINCESA CITY – Oppositors to the proposal to divide Palawan into three provinces have found a strong ally in Hugpong ng Pagbabago and Davao City Mayor Sara Duterte.
Interviewed by the media at the sidelines of an HNP senatorial campaign rally here on Wednesday, mayor Duterte warned that provinces and other local government units that are subdivided will have to scrimp on smaller budget compared to what they have been receiving as a whole LGU (local government unit).
Earlier this month, President Duterte signed into law Republic Act No. 11259 that will divide Palawan into three provinces – Palawan del Norte, Palawan Oriental, and Palawan del Sur.
But the new provinces may only be created if majority of qualified Palawan voters will vote for the division in a plebiscite scheduled on the second Monday of May, 2020.
Mayor Duterte explained that unless the funding problem can be addressed, dividing LGUs should be avoided.
“Hindi magandang idea na hati-hatiin ang isang lubar dahil liliit ang budget,” she said. (It is not a good idea to subdivide a locality because the budget will become smaller).
But the HNP senatorial team campaign manager said financial issues brought about by the splitting of provinces, cities, and municipalities may be addressed if government implement fully a Supreme Court decision granting LGUs a share in the collected taxes not yet included in the annual Internal Revenue Allotment granted by the national government.
Opposition to the proposed splitting of Palawan has been registered even during the congressional hearings conducted in the House of Representatives.
The three congressmen representing the congressional district of the province did not comment on Mayor Duterte’s stand on the issue.
The three, Reps. Franz Alvarez, Frederick Abueg and Gil P. Acosta, are the principal authors of House Bill 7413 that sought to create three new provinces to be carved out of the main province that has a total land area of 14,896.55 square kilometers.
The three solons noted that at present the efficiency and effectiveness in the delivery of basic public services by the Palawan governor is “hampered and made challenging” due to geographical distance between the Capitol and the northern and southern tips of the province.
The three proponents of the measure said that HB 7413 provides that the P2.37 billion IRA of the province will be divided proportionately to the three new provinces, depending on the land areas and population.
“The proposed division of Palawan into three provinces will be able to bring closer expanded services to areas not previously served,” they said in the explanatory notes of the bill.