The bill that seeks the conversion of Bataraza into a “component city” remains pending in the local government committee of the House of Representatives (HOR), according to mayor Abraham Ibba.
House Bill 6278 or the “Charter of the City of Bataraza” was filed in the HOR on December 2, 2020, by Reps. Franz “Chicoy” Alvarez, Cyrille “Beng” Abueg-Zaldivar, and Gil P. Acosta, Jr. after Palawan governor Jose Alvarez announced it in November 2019.
Ibba said in an interview with Palawan News that there was a delay in the processing and submitting of Bataraza’s papers to become a component city because of the coronavirus disease pandemic, but it is already 95 percent complete.
“About sa cityhood, meron pa tayong kaunting kulang na mga papeles, kasi marami [ang requirements]. Nataon pa itong COVID kaya medyo na-delay. So far nasa 95% pa lang ang nai-submit nating mga papers,” Ibba told Palawan News during the town’s 57th Founding Anniversary on January 25.
Ibba said among the requirements they still need to comply with is Bataraza’s annual income.
“Doon naman sa local income natin, ‘yong at least P100 million ang required… pero hindi po ganoon, average ‘yon ng 20 years back, at least 100 [million], so kahit nag-300 [million] tayo ngayon o nag-500 million tayo ngayon, ‘yong 20 years back, ‘yon ang average no’n. Kung noong year 2000, kung wala kang local income doon, mahihila [yung average],” he explained.
This was also the same reason that was said by municipal administrator Val Palasigue, adding that the application of the cityhood is still in “progress” and is currently pending in congress. He explained that there are additional requirements being asked since the local government made an “appeal” with regards to the municipality’s annual income.
“As far as I know, the status now of the proposed city of Bataraza is in progress. And ang alam ko nasa congress pa rin and then lately nga ay nagkaroon tayo ng [meeting] with regards to the requirements doon sa annual revenue ng 3 successive years. Ito yung nirerequire sa atin, na kung na-meet namin ‘yong 100 million. Ginamit natin yung term na ‘appeal’ kasi may year yata na hindi natin na-meet ‘yon [annual revenue]. Kung titingnan naman namin ‘yong mga situations, kaya talaga. Kaya ‘yon na lang ang inapela namin sa BLGF na i-consider na lang, and then kaya naman ng Bataraza na maabot ‘yong annual revenue na 100 million per year,” Palasigue explained.
On the other hand, Palasigue also told Palawan News that they don’t have an actual timeline for the process but claims that they are positive on the outcome.
“Actually, wala naman talaga kaming time na target, but if ma-workout namin ‘yan and if ever na kayang aprubahan ng congress ‘yan as soon as possible, masaya kami roon. Mas gusto naming ‘yon. Although, wala talaga kaming target timeline kung kailan, basta kami ang ultimate objective namin is maging city ang Bataraza,” he added.
What the local government is giving attention to now are the companies that expressed intention of starting business in the municipality. Ibba said there are private companies that are proposing to build infrastructure projects.
Palasigue added that these investors are a plus factor for Bataraza’s development. Aside from having the biggest population in the province, it is the last municipality in the southern part of the mainland Palawan.
“Marami pa [business opportunities], maliban sa mga bagong pasok ngayon, itong Haim, Caltex, ‘yong fishport natin, ginagawa. May proposed din diyan na gagawin na ice plant, cold storage, ‘canning’, plus may proposed din tayong gagawin dito pero hindi ko muna papangalanan from private business man pero 51% mapu-push through ito. Kung sa Manila ay may Araneta Coliseum, merong Philippine Arena, baka sa Bataraza, magkakaroon ng Bataraza Arena,” Ibba narrated.
He said becoming a city will be an additional factor for these investors, which will encourage them to continue their business in the municipality.
“This time, pwede namin sabihin na lahat ‘yan ay plus factor sa development ng Bataraza. Siguro dumadami ‘yong mga katulad ng investors kagaya ni Caltex may nakikita siguro sila na talagang ‘yong development ng Bataraza ay talagang di na mapigilan. And then ito namang para sa ina-eye naming cityhood plus factor lahat ‘yang mga pumapasok sa aming mga investors,” Palasigue said.
“At maliban diyan mayroon tayong about to start na, ‘yong call center. And base sa salita ng ating mayor 99.9% mag establish talaga dito ‘yong sardines company ng Zamboanga so that’s another employment opportunity. Ang Yamang Bukid naman, may area na, improvement na lang, siguro one of these days mag-start na sila. And another thing na big development naming coming is the Mindanao State University, magkakaroon tayo dito,” he added.
Aside from these investor companies, the local government of Bataraza also has its own ongoing projects that started during pandemic. There is the proposed P230 million-worth 4-storey municipal building and the ongoing construction of the Bataraza municipal port and fishport worth P150 million and the rest are the farm to market road projects.
Palasigue also added that the contributions of Coral Bay Nickel Corporation (CBNC) and Rio Tuba Nickel Mining Corporation (RTNMC) play a big role which helps them pursue the cityhood. He said that in Barangay Rio Tuba alone there is a 24/7 economic activity.
“Malaki ang naging contribution ng 3 big companies as far as the local revenues, not necessarily ‘yong share namin sa national but speaking of the local revenues malaki ang contribution kasi napakataas ng economic activity ng 3 company. So pwede namin sabihin na ang economic activity diyan, doon sa Rio Tuba is 24 hours. 24/7 gumagalaw ‘yong ekonomiya. Kasi 24 hours din ‘yong shifting ng trabaho and at the same time ‘yong ating mga local transportation pati ‘yong ating mga nagtitinda diyan ay 24 hours din ‘yong kanilang economic activity. So that contributed much to the local revenues,” he said.
Aside from these projects, the municipality also keeps an eye on its pineapple industry. Since it is tagged as the ‘Pineapple Capital of Palawan’, they continue to pursue and upgrade its industry by setting up additional plantations.
“Meron nang proposed na for construction ‘yong ating pinya processing and at the same time meron na tayong facilities sa Bulalacao. May mga training na kami para sa pinya producers, joint ng LGU at DTI. So, we are preparing for that na talagang kailangan maboost ang lahat ng ‘yan para sa proposed cityhood ng Bataraza,” Palasigue said.
For its tourism industry, Palasigue said that they are also preparing its tourists destination and activities. He said that it is being adopted by its Sangguniang Bayan and is just waiting for approval.
“Sa ngayon ay talagang inaayos na natin ‘yong ating tourism activities dito, although hindi pa naa-adopt ‘yong tourism plan pero almost finished na ‘yon. So it’s a matter of adoption na lang ng sanggunian. And then ‘yong mga tourist spot naman namin dito ay nandiyan lang, ide-develop na lang. Although na-start na naming i-develop ‘yan at mukhang isa rin ‘yang mag-a-aattract dito sa atin sa Bataraza, ‘yong ating mga turista at mga visitors, in support to the development of Bataraza in January,” said Palasigue.
Another possible tourist spot for Bataraza would be the construction of the marker of Magellan-Elcano circumnavigation, wherein it is said that he also landed in Bataraza making it historically significant. Palasigue said that this would also help boost the tourism of Bataraza and he is just waiting for the possible area to be approved for the construction of the said landmark.
“Dumaan sa office ko ‘yon, may letter na rin ‘yong DILG region to identify the possible area for the construction of the landmark of Magellan, somewhere in Buliluyan. And sa tingin ko mabo-boost natin ang ating tourism diyan kasi tulad ng sinabi niyo, ang south at Balabac is nandiyan ang ating mga Muslim brothers and ‘yong Buliluyan kasi entry point ‘yan and and exit point ng mga visitors and ng ating local residents,” he said.
“Kaya doon ‘yong identified location natin kasi at the same time nandoon ‘yong ating national port and then meron na rin tayong tourism office doon na na-establish. Nagwo-work out na rin ‘yon kasi ‘yan nga ang ating exit point from the mainland going to the island municipality of Balabac and the adjacent island of Bataraza. So historical talaga and significant,” Palasigue added.
As for Buliluyan port, Palasigue said that they are still on the process of working out together with the BIMP-EAGA. He also said that some businessmen from Mindanao are also helping out in the process. There was already an investor previously, but backed out. But Palasigue assures that they are working hand in hand with BIMP-EAGA and other municipality on how they would be able to utilize the national port.