Exactly a month ago, Gov. Alvarez invited several individuals for a brainstorming in what could be considered as a widest representation yet of the people of Palawan – incumbent and former political leaders, government officials, civil society, religious representatives, academicians, business people, elderly, young people, among others.
There was only one item in the agenda – dividing the one province into two or several provinces. For the governor, the objective is to enhance the delivery of services down to the remotest barrios of the province. He confided that even with his always-ready fleet of means of transportation, Palawan’s terrain and the distinct geographic features make it even more challenging for him to visit the entire jurisdiction.
With the onset of federalism being advocated by the Duterte administration, Gov. Alvarez believes that now is the right time to push for a Palawan Region, or perhaps, for a Federal State of Palawan.
On account of the proposal, it is but natural to ask – into how many provinces? How will we go about it – by referendum or plebiscite? By an act of Congress or by a stroke of a pen of the President? Which of the municipalities will take the seat of the government as the capital? But prior to these details, the foremost question that must be addressed– is it necessary to divide Palawan?
Vice Governor Dennis Socrates set the tone. In his opening remarks, he opined that it is necessary. He noted that Palawan has been “pinagpapasa-pasahan”, that at one time, we were part of the Region 4, the Southern Tagalog. Later on and up to the present, we became Region 4-B, MiMaRoPa. At another time, we were knocked up one day with the infamous EO telling us that we have been moved to become part of another region, Western Visayas.
Furthermore, there was SPCPD, MinSuPala, ARMM, Bangsamoro– all claimed the province as part of Mindanao. Hence, instead of being thrown here and there, now and then, it is indeed better that Palawan must now stand on her own. “An independent region must be or if possible a federal state,” contended the Vice Governor.
The indefatigable Former Deputy Speaker Amor Abueg brought with him loads of documents pertinent to the subject matter. All the documents showed that the issue of dividing the province has had numerous attempts already – resolutions in the provincial board as well as in Congress.
Further, the elder Abueg expounded on the ways on how to go about dividing Palawan. He demonstrated as well the possible number of provinces that will compose the Palawan Region. Or, Palawan as it is, as Puerto Princesa City by virtue of being highly-urbanized could already qualify as a component of the region, Abueg explained.
Veteran politician David Ponce de Leon, for his part, expressed surprise that a sitting governor is initiating the division. This would mean a smaller kingdom for the incumbent leader, he said. On the other hand, he disclosed that during his time he was the one who was spearheading the move. “There are two considerations in creating a province, one is population and the other is land area,” he said. Thereupon, he has directed his son and namesake, an incumbent member of the provincial board, to refile the said proposal.
Mayor Lucilo Bayron expressed support to the plan. “Basta makakabuti sa Puerto, at anumang biyaya ay dapat meron din ang lungsod,” he said. The mayor wished to be reassured.
Fast forward. Every attendee, led by the three Palawan congressmen, had the chance of the microphone and was heard. At that night, no one has manifested opposition to the roadmap of Palawan. Not one yet, perhaps.
The next task is to do widespread and intensive consultation throughout the entire territory. The proposal requires a serious study and discernment so that the true sentiment of the people will manifest. Every Palaweño must speak out and be heard (and be considered consequently).
Opposition, both “ad intra and ad extra”, could indeed surface along the way. Hence, any enlightened opposition must be welcome for it will certainly purify the intentions and clarify the plan. The question will keep on lingering, a question that will be encouraging but at the same time disquieting – Quo vadis, Palawan?