Dividing Palawan and its driving force

The move to divide Palawan into smaller provinces has shifted to a high gear, with Capitol at the driver’s seat of the initiative. Last week, members of the Provincial Board trooped to the House of Representatives to hand deliver their resolution outlining the plan. This week, Capitol officials proposed to the city government to consider forming a separate province of its own, in lieu of keeping its present status as an independent city.

Expect a bill soon to be filed at the lower chamber, jointly authored by Palawan’s three representatives. Palawan News sources indicate a province-backed lobby is in the works at the Senate and in Malacañang to ensure its passage.

The train has left. Many of its passengers either don’t know, know a bit but don’t care, or too busy to mind where it is going. We will just have to trust our leaders this is all for the common good.

There isn’t exactly a robust debate going on around town where ordinary people can chime in with their own views. No one is complaining; it’s a bandwagon. We might as well just join the ride and pray this will make things better.

The plan goes like this — going by the board’s resolution transmitted to the House, three separate provinces will be created from what is today’s Palawan – the Calamianes, North Palawan and South Palawan.

The city of Puerto Princesa will remain administratively independent. Naturally, it will cease to become the provincial capital, a status which isn’t clear, to begin with as to what it meant in actual governance terms.

Brooke’s Point wants to become capital of Southern Palawan, and so is Narra. Aborlan wants to bolt in with Puerto Princesa City, on condition that it will degrade its status to three separate towns, and then they will all join to form the province of Central Palawan.

It would seem that the idea for  Central Palawan came belatedly, or after the provincial board had completed its deliberation. Today, Capitol seems to be pushing for the creation of four separate provinces, with Puerto and Aborlan forming a unit.

Mayor Lucilo Bayron this week disclosed he had been approached by the provincial leadership to consider that scenario. He promised to consult, which should is good for a change.

One way to appreciate or understand what has been going on and what drives the enthusiasm of our leaders is to simply follow the money. Many have assumed that Palawan’s share from Malampaya gas is forthcoming as it had been promised by President Rodrigo Duterte even before the elections. Since last year we have made sure we are on the good side of Malacañang and our leaders have jumped from all windows to support the administration’s legislative and political agenda. We have not rocked the boat so we are good. All our officials are now PDP-Laban and we’re probably in good hands.

The amount is not clear because even the national government cannot yet exactly account the Malampaya funds. But under the present laws, Palawan has a 40 percent share of the total government royalty. It can run up to a ballpark of a hundred billion pesos. It’s a huge resource to really propel growth. It can also spouse corruption if people do not care and can’t even ask the right questions, as what had happened to the P4 billion windfall our former leaders got before.

Mayor Bayron admitted he had been warned that Puerto Princesa City may not be able to demand a share from it unless it joins into a province. The legal basis for this has not been openly debated but this is a questioned poised before the city administration.

How Malacañang will react to all this is not at all clear but it is certainly not yet a fait accompli. Even Speaker Pantaleon Alvarez when he was asked during a visit was cold and non-committal to the proposal.

Our leaders are giving this one a strong push. Maybe it will help if they realize it will be stronger if the entire body politic is behind it. But the ordinary folks first need to know, understand and agree.

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