The Political Science Department of Holy Trinity University (HTU) recently held a symposium on the division of Palawan into three provinces.
Alyssa Rocamora, a professor in HTU said that the symposium on October 23 was focused on raising awareness for the students to realize their roles in government affairs and decision making.
“Our main objective in this symposium is to deepen one’s responsibility in the affairs of the government; that the youth should realize that they play a vital role especially on matters concerning the future of Palawenyos,” she said.
“This issue is very timely and important because the majority of our college students are from the northern and southern parts of Palawan,” she added.
Invited were Atty. Robert Chan of Palawan NGO Network Inc. (PNNI), Atty. Grizelda “Gerthie” Anda of Environmental Legal Assistance Center (ELAC), and lead campaigner of One Palawan, Cynthia Sumagaysay-del Rosario for the anti-division.
Meanwhile, Commodore Armando Rodriguez AFP (RET), MNSA, PH.D., represented the pro-division as speakers from the province could not make it.
Atty. Gerthie Anda of Environmental Legal Assistance Center tackled the importance of the proper study of the division and the lack thereof, saying Palawan has a special role in maintaining the life of the country as it is rich in biodiversity.
Atty. Anda said that there have been a lot of scientific studies that actually establish the fragility, the uniqueness, the critical nature of Palawan’s forests and that the division should be studied carefully in many aspects.
“When you talk about development, always take into account the nature of the province. Palawan is an island ecosystem so if development needs to be pursued in Palawan, it should be in accordance with science, the basic law that created the strategic environmental plan in Palawan,” Anda said.
Anda also emphasized the importance to strengthen municipalities and barangays instead of disempowering them as they are the frontliners in the community.
Under RA 11259, there has been a specific increase in the province’s share of national wealth and a certain decrease in the municipality and barangay’s share. Anda said that the barangay officials were not consulted on the decrease of their share, this as one of the bases of the absence of proper public consultation.
Commodore Armando Rodriguez, who proudly announced that the division of Palawan was his dissertation said that the division is good for development and employment.
“It will harness the master development of this area. Magkakaron tayo ng maraming trabaho kasi kanya kanyang kapitolyo magkakaron ng maraming plantilla positions doon. Sa ngayon, sinong nakikinabang sa kapitolyo? Mga taga-Puerto Princesa kahit hiwalay sila sa Palawan. Kailangan natin yan, kailangan natin ng karagdagang trabaho,” he said.
He also said that the main reason he wrote the division is for Palawan to be its own separate region.
“The reason why I did that is in order for Palawan to be its own separate region, yun yung pinaka-motive ko kasi doon. Kasi masyadong malayo ang Calapan sa atin. Kung magiging federal system pa tayo edi lahat ng resources ng Palawan, sa Palawan lang yon, hindi mapupunta sa national government,” he said.
In a phone interview with Palawan News, Thursday, provincial information officer Winston Arzaga said that their speakers are out of town campaigning 3in1 Palawan in different barangays outside Puerto Princesa.
“Wrong timing lang kasi walang available na speaker, nasa iba’t ibang barangays. Ako, I’m in El Nido. I sent them to the vice governor pero wala rin. I don’t know baka may ibang commitments,” he said.
However, Arzaga said he is happy that the pro-division was still somehow represented by Commodore Rodriquez.
He also said that they will write the president of HTU a letter to request for another time where their speakers can explain the division of Palawan.
“Definitely we will write the president of HTU, we will ask for time para mag-dala ng speakers at audio-visual presentation. Nagkataon lang talaga wala kaming speaker sa bayan,” he said.
Asked about the updates on the division, Arzaga said they are now in the process of visiting barangays to campaign for 3in1 Palawan as ordered by Governor Jose Chavez Alvarez. After campaign awaits the plebiscite on May 2020.
However, Atty. Anda said that the pro-division’s evasion on symposiums or public debates like this is “an insult to our brains.”
“Ayaw nila kaming harapin, this is an insult to our brains because we are thinking people. This is all we can offer, facts. Wala kaming binibigay na bigas, delata. All we have is information,” she said.
Michael Von Mandapat, a biology student in HTU shared his thoughts on the importance of activities like this.
“The importance of this symposium is to raise awareness and educate the students about the division of Palawan. To inform the majority public on the pros and cons so they can make a balanced decision on the upcoming plebiscite,” he said.