The Commission on Elections (Comelec) has set Palawan plebiscite on March 13, 2021, allowing the local voters in the province to decide on the provincial split into three provinces.

Provincial Comelec spokesperson Jomel Ordas on Thursday confirmed to Palawan News that the poll body on December 16 approved Resolution No. 10682, the revised rules and regulations on the conduct of Palawan plebiscite, and the election calendar of activities through Resolution No. 10687.

“Approved na ng en banc ang March 13, 2021, as the date of the plebiscite, na-receive namin kahapon,” Ordas said.


3-in-1 vs One Palawan

Winston Arzaga, provincial information officer, in a separate interview on Thursday morning welcomed the development as “the right move” to let the public decide on splitting Palawan into three provinces namely Palawan Del Norte, Palawan Del Sur, and Palawan Oriental, ratifying Republic Act (RA) 11259 signed by President Rodrigo Duterte on April 5, 2019.

“While on its early stages, bill pa lang, we are already doing information education campaign (IEC) about it,” Arzaga said.

Cynthia Sumagaysay-Del Rosario, one of the convenors of One Palawan Movement, in a Facebook post on Wednesday, dismissed Capitol’s earlier prediction of a “landslide” affirmation of the division, noting that around 60 percent of Palawan voters did not vote for governor Jose Alvarez in the last elections, who is its main proponent.

“Ang total registered voters noong 2019 ay  523,314.  Ang botong nakuha ni JCA [Alvarez] ay 207, 875.  Ang nakuha naman ng ibang kandidato kasama si Mr. Art Ventura ay 142,954, at ang hindi bumoto sa sinumang kumandidatong gobernador ay nasa 172, 485.  Pag sinuma total ang dami ng mga hindi bumoto kay JCA ay nasa 315,439. Ito ay 60 percent ng kabuuan, higit na malaki kesa sa nakuhang boto ni JCA,” read Del Rosario’s social media post.

Arzaga for his part said One Palawan’s own assertion “lacks merits.”

“Paano nila nasabi ‘yon? Nag-magic ba sila?” Arzaga said when asked to comment on how the provincial government predicts the plebiscite turnout.

Palawan Governor Jose Chaves Alvarez earlier said that they are targeting the “undecided” individuals to “convince to be favorable” on the Palawan split.


Rules and guidelines

In the resolution promulgated on December 16 by chairman Sheriff Abas, Commissioners Ma. Rowena Amelia Guanzon, Socorro Inting, Marlon Casquejo and Antonio Kho Jr., the voter who will vote for its approval shall write the word “Yes” or “Oo”; and for its rejection, the word “No” or “Hindi”, or its conceptual equivalent in the blank box after the question, “Pumapayag ka ba na hatiin ang probinsya ng Palawan sa tatlong probinsya na papangalanang: Palawan del Norte, Palawan Oriental at Palawan del Sur alinsunod sa batas republika bilang 11259?”

The official ballots which already bear the date May 11, 2020 as initially scheduled, remained valid and shall be used, according to the resolution.

The voting will start at 7 a.m. and end at 3 p.m., except when there are voters present within 30 meters of the front of the polling place who have not yet cast their votes.

Counting of votes shall start from 3 p.m. onwards, with the municipal or provincial plebiscite board of canvassers convening not later than 6 p.m.

Members of the Armed Forces of the Philippines and Philippine National Police will be assigned to conduct a thermal check to all persons before entering the voting center and those with temperatures of 37.5 will not be allowed inside the polls.

The plebiscite is a move for the creation of three provinces namely Palawan del Sur, Palawan del Norte, and Palawan Oriental through the Republic Act 11259 signed by President Rodrigo Duterte into law on April 5, 2019.

Earlier set on May 11, 2020, the Palawan plebiscite was suspended due to the quarantine restrictions brought by the COVID-19 pandemic.