Governor Jose Chaves Alvarez, along with key provincial government officials, on Monday afternoon formally accepted defeat in last Saturday’s plebiscite on Republic Act 11259 which had sought to divide Palawan into three provinces.
Expressing surprise at the “No” outcome of the plebiscite, Governor Alvarez admitted “disappointment” over what he claimed was a missed opportunity to improve governance in Palawan.
The press conference was held hours before the Provincial Board of Canvassers (PBOC) was to convene for the final tabulation of the vote counts.
“Taumbayan magpasya, hindi kami, nagsalita na sila tanggap na natin ‘yan,” Gov. Alvarez said.
Vice Governor Dennis Socrates pointed out that their holding of the press conference was intended to formally “concede” defeat.
“Hindi lang nabigyan ng diin, but ang purpose nitong press conference ay formally we are conceding that Yes has lost and No has won,” Socrates said.
Earlier, the PBOC decided to move the final canvassing of votes later in the day. Completed returns already received by the PBOC however had indicated a decisive outcome for the “No” vote, with an estimated margin of between 45,000 to 50,000 votes.
Based on the partial unofficial result of Palawan News, the Yes vote garnered 122,066 votes against 171,043 for No.
Gov. Alvarez said the rejection of Republic Act 11259 was not a personal loss to him but rather a missed opportunity for Palawan.
“Personally, I would say we did not lose anything. Ang nawalan dito ay ang sambayanang Palawenyo. No bitterness, nandito lang kami,” he said.
He cited the argument oft-repeated by the Yes campaign on the run up to the plebiscite that RA 11259 would have increased the IRA shares of Palawan by three.
“Yong nakakapanghinayang lang talaga ay ‘yong share ng tatlong probinsya sana,” he said.
Alvarez promised to move on from the setback and finish his projects before the completion of his third and final term as governor.
“Tapusin ko na lang ang tatlong ospital [bago matapos ang term ko],” he said.
Vice Governor Socrates admitted he did not expect the No votes to prevail over the division initiative.
“Actually, sa totoo lang na-shock ako sa resulta. Marami na akong talo sa election at kapag natatalo ako, babalik sa isip ko ang linya ni Abraham Lincoln na I’m too old to cry but I’m too sad to laugh,” he said.
Board Member Leoncio Ola also said that after the debacle, he will not support any other future plan to revive the initiative.
“Assuming na mayroong member ng Sanggunian na mag-file ng resolusyon na hatiin ang Palawan ay isa na ako sa mag-oppose dahil sayang ang aming effort. Tingin ko sa amin ay wala nang magpa-file ng ganitong panukala,” Ola said.
A separate formal statement was issued by the Capitol quoting Gov. Alvarez as stating:
“Sa kabila man ng ating magkakaibang pananaw at opinyon sa nagdaang plebisito, nagkakaisa tayo sa ating magandang hangarin para sa minamhal nating lalawigan at mga kababayang Palaweno. At bilang Gobernador, makakaasa kayo na patuloy tayong maglilingkod at magsisikap para sa kabutihan ng ating mga mamamayan.”
“Muli, nawa’y magkaisa po tayong lahat upang itaguyod ang kabutihan at kaunlaran ng minamahal nating lalawigan ng Palawan. Matutong rumespeto at igalang ang pagkakaiba ng ating mga opinyon at paniniwala. Maraming salamat po,” the statement said.