Governor Jose Alvarez addresses employees of the provincial government on May 31, 2019, as the campaign for the "yes" vote for the creation of three Palawan provinces kicks off at the Capitol. (Photo courtesy of the Palawan Provincial Information Office)

Governor Jose Alvarez has begun campaigning for a “yes” vote to the planned division of the province, starting in his own backyard, by encouraging Capitol employees to support the leadership’s initiative.

Speaking to Capitol employees on May 31, Governor Alvarez justified the scheme to divide Palawan as “the right thing to do” to achieve growth in the province.

“Magtulungan tayo para ipalaganap ang [patungkol sa] 3-in-1 Palawan kasi it is the right thing to do,” he said.

The plebiscite by which the residents of the 23 municipalities in the province will express their opinion for or against the creation of Palawan del Norte, Palawan Oriental, and Palawan del Sur will be in May 2020.

Alvarez said the separation of Palawan into three provinces will pave the way for the national government to increase the internal revenue allotment (IRA) from the current P2.4 billion to P6 billion.

He added that this means there will be more funds for projects and programs of the provincial government, including an increase also in the budgets for disaster risk reduction and gender and development and allowances for senior citizens.

Alvarez said current employees will not be displaced from their jobs when the division is implemented as it will even create more positions.

He said it will also be good to transfer and serve in the provincial governments that will be set up in Taytay, Roxas, and Brooke’s Point because the “cost of living” will be lower.

Alvarez added that there will be housing programs for them in the three towns.

“I promise you, walang ma-di-displace and ‘yong mga gustong lumipat sa Brooke’s Point, Roxas at saka Taytay mayroon tayong housing doon,” he said.

Alvarez denied anew his critics’ claim that he wants to perpetuate himself in power.

“In 2022, hindi na ako pwedeng tumakbo. Pinatanggal ko ang probisyon na iyon. Hindi makatarungan ‘yon,” he said.

A series of information, education, and communications campaign will also be done in the barangays to explain the 3-in-1 Palawan.

Meanwhile, board member Winston Arzaga justified the exclusion of Puerto Princesa residents from voting in the referendum, claiming that the city is not “directly affected” to warrant participation in the plebiscite.

He said the separation of Palawan into three provinces will only have an effect on the city if its income will be incised and its territory apportioned.

“Sa pag-create ng tatlong probinsya, mababawasan ba ang income ng Puerto Princesa, hindi di ba? Mababawasan ba ang teritoryo ng Puerto Princesa? Wala. In other words, it is not directly affected by the creation of the three provinces. Hindi na [rin] dapat kasali ang Puerto Princesa kasi as early as 2007 ay naging highly urbanized city na po ito,” he said.

Board Member Al Rama said Palawan’s biggest responsibility is how to bring down its 52 percent poverty index which had already been reduced by IHELP (infrastructure, health, education, livelihood and protection of the environment) from what was originally 67 percent in 2013.

He said 52 percent is still far from the 25 percent national poverty index average.

One of the solutions to achieve the further lowering of the poverty incident in distant barangays is through the creation of three additional provinces.

“Isa sa mga solusyon na nakikita para ma-address itong mataas na poverty incidence is to create additional provinces para ng sa ganoon ay mas mabilis ang pagbibigay ng serbisyo at mas maging responsive ang gobyerno sa pangangailangan ng mga tao,” he said.

Under the law, Northern Palawan, or the tourism and fisheries clustered province, will be composed of the towns of El Nido, Taytay, Coron, Linapacan, Culion, and Busuanga.

Palawan Oriental, the fisheries, tourism and fruit crops cluster, will be composed of San Vicente, Roxas, Dumaran, Cuyo, Agutaya, Magsaysay, and Cagayancillo.

Southern Palawan, identified as an agro-industrial tourism cluster, will be composed of the towns of Kalayaan, Aborlan, Narra, Sofronio Española, Brooke’s Point, Rizal, Quezon, Bataraza, and Balabac.

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is the chief of correspondents of Palawan News. She covers defense, politics, tourism, health, and sports stories. She loves to travel and explore different foods.