The provincial government has disclosed plans to lobby for the conversion of Bataraza into a city, through a bill that it will propose to Congress.
Governor Jose Alvarez said Bataraza’s P100 million income and land area qualify the southern town, which hosts a major mining company, into a city. It said its population requirement will be complied with.
He said the bill will be filed by Rep. Gil Acosta Jr. (3rd District, Palawan) as soon as the House of Representatives resumes its session in January 2020.
It will be co-authored by Reps. Franz “Chickoy” Alvarez (1st District, Palawan) and Cyrille Abueg-Zaldivar (2nd District, Palawan).
“By the first day of the session in January, we will file it kasi ang income ng Bataraza ay P100 million na. Sa area walang problema, sa population wala rin problema kaya magiging first city na ito,” Alvarez said during the inauguration on November 10 of the Bataraza District Hospital.
Alvarez said the next to become a city will probably be Narra or Brooke’s Point.
Reacting to this, Mayor Abraham Ibba said the conversion of Bataraza into a city will be favorable to them as their internal revenue allotment (IRA) will increase.
“Automatic ‘yan, ‘yong authority natin pagdating sa pulis at military ay talagang dadami rin. Madodoble o triple kasi city na, lalaki na rin ang budget,” he said.
Ibba said Bataraza is prepared to meet the challenges of becoming the first city in southern Palawan and the second in the whole province.
He said Bataraza is already qualified where its local revenue and land area are concerned. However, he admitted that they still have to figure out how they will increase their population.
Ibba expects they will have a sufficient population after the census in 2020.
Bataraza City with air, sea links
Alvarez said his dream is for Bataraza to become a city with direct flights from Manila, Cebu, Zamboanga, and other provinces.
He said the province will help Bataraza in the construction of its municipal airport that is expected to be operational in March 2020.
“Diretso na kayong lilipad, hindi malayo ang pangarap na ‘yon. Ang airport na ‘yan ay aayusin ko ‘yan para sa pinaka mabilis na panahon [ay matapos]. Ito sandali lang ito, maski walang pera ang provincial government ay tatapusin namin ni mayor Ibba ito, sisimentuhin para magka-direct flight na ang Bataraza to Cebu dahil ang layo ng Puerto Princesa City,” he said.
Alvarez said he is hoping there will also be an air link between Bataraza and Kota Kinabalu, Malaysia, where there are 1.3 million Filipinos now.
Ibba said that the municipal airport will be used for light aircraft. Phase 1 will cater to flights around the province, such as Bataraza to Puerto Princesa, Balabac, El Nido, and San Vicente.
“Ongoing na, ginagawa na ang municipal airport natin. Sabi ni governor na talagang gagawan natin ng paraan para maging international airport para may sarili ng biyahe ng Bataraza to Malaysia,” Ibba said.
“Medyo maliit lang din [ang budget] nitong Phase 1 natin pero, pinag-usapan namin ni governor na dadagdagan niya. ‘Yong in-allocate natin ay doon lang sa clearing, graveling, fencing, hindi ko ma-estimate ang saktong amount noon pero sabi ni governor pati concreting sasagutin nya,” Ibba said.
He said once the Buliluyan-Kudat sea link becomes operational next year, Filipinos can already go to Bataraza to get their passports.
Additional of congressional district
Alvarez added that after the plebiscite in 2020 for the creation of three provinces, another bill will be filed in congress for the additional congressional district in their expected Palawan Oriental.
“Dito sa south, pagkatapos ng 3-in-1 ng May 11 next year ay madadagdagan tayo ng isang congressman pa sa oriental kasi tatlong probinsya. Ngayon tatlo ang congressman, sa first district, hindi kasama ang Aborlan. Pero after 2022, ito ay kasama na sa south, isa na ang kongresista sa Puerto Princesa City, isa rin sa Sur. Automatic ang isang probinsya ay magkakaroon ng isang congressman. Ang Oriental magkakaroon ng isang congressman, magiging apat na ang congressman,” he said.
He added that the 310,000 population of indigenous peoples (IPs) in the southern part of the province is also a potential population to form another congressional district.
“After census of December, next year, magkakaroon kayo ng isang congressman o congresswoman para sa mga IPs kasi ang IPs dito sa south ay 310,000 people. Wala pang 50,000 ang narehistro, pero puwede na sila magkaroon ng isang congressional district,” he said.