(File photo)

Palawan’s civil society movement opposed to the division of Palawan have warned that the “substantial change” in the sharing of the proceeds from the development and utilization of the province’s natural wealth under Republic Act (RA) 11259 could lead to the oppression of smaller local government units.

One Palawan and Save Palawan Movement pointed out Thursday in a press conference that the “real motive” behind the creation of Palawan del Norte, Palawan del Sur, and Palawan Oriental is “questionable”.

Atty. Grizelda Mayo-Anda, one of the convenors of the two groups, said the act did not only increase by 200 percent the share of the provincial government but reduced by “almost half” the original portion allotted for the municipalities and barangays from the natural wealth.

“Dehadong-dehado ang munisipyo. Take a look at the 50 percent reduction sa municipality, 50 percent reduction sa barangay, [at] 200 percent increase sa probinsya. Dehado ang front liners… hindi ‘yan ang layunin ng Local Government Code. Sabi ng Local Government Code at ng batas, empower the municipalities, empower the barangays, hindi ang probinsya. Kung ganyan ang magiging gawi natin after the plebiscite [na] hindi naiintindihan ng mga mamamayan, mapanganib ‘yan sa hinaharap,” said Anda.

Anda reiterated that RA 11259 is “unconstitutional” and would only place municipalities and barangays in difficult situations in the future.

Anda noted stripping local government units (LGUs) of resources will lessen their authority and influence because it can also be translated as power.

She said the natural wealth is composed of Palawan’s “minerals, forest products, fisheries, natural gas, and quarry materials”.

Provided under Section 292 of RA 7160 or the Local Government Code, the sharing of natural wealth is divided into 20 percent for the province, 45 percent for the municipality, and 35 percent for the barangay.

But in RA 11259, she said this was “substantially altered”, where the province would get the highest share of 60 percent, while the municipalities and barangays only 24 and 16 percent respectively.

Anda pointed out this alteration in the share of wealth will actually centralize the power to the provincial government, and will soon form an autocratic system.

“Mapanganib siya at delikado. Bakit? Kasi sa panahon ngayon ng demokrasya sa buong mundo, ang bawat mamamayan ay mayroong karapatan na magsalita at lumahok, nasa Kodigo ng Pamahalaang Lokal ‘yan. Ang front liners o nangunguna sa bawat barangay [ay] ang barangay, [at] sa bawat munisipyo [ay] munisipyo. Ang taong bayan, tanungin mo ang mga katutubo, pumupunta ba ang katutubo sa kapitolyo? Hindi. Kapag mayroon silang problema, barangay ang pupuntahan. Bakit delikado siya? Kasi, hindi maganda na dinidiktahan lang ‘yong barangay at munisipyo ng probinsya… kapag ganiyan ang porma ng pamamahal sa Palawan, talagang matatakot, madidiktahan, madidis-empower ang [barangays at municipalties],” said Anda.

Anda reiterated this information slipped the knowledge of most Palaweños, because it is not being presented by the provincial government during their campaigns which kicked off on June 19.

She also pointed out that the provincial government is actually using the taxpayers’ money in these campaigns.

SPM and OP invited the media to discuss the recent petition they filed at the Supreme Court (SC) to nullify Republic Act 11259.

Beatriz Dioso, one of the eight petitioners, in the same press conference said it was on June 21 this year when the provincial government went to her place in Brgy. Calategas in Narra to promote the creation of three Palawan Provinces.

Dioso said representatives from provincial government distributed to those who attended the meeting “five kilos of rice”.

She said those who led the campaign mentioned only the positive impacts of creating three provinces, but withheld the increased share of the province for natural wealth.

“Dapat ipinaliwanag [din] nila [ang mga] ito. ‘Yong campaign nila ang magaganda lang ang ipinapakita nila…,” she said.

John Vincent Colili, also a petitioner representing the youth sector said presentations in the provincial government’s promotions for the creation of three Palawan provinces push only the benefits, but never the disadvantages.

He added what they only wanted is a transparency.

“If ‘yong gusto lang nilang marinig ay ang boses na nanggaling doon sa taas, nanggaling doon sa provincial government, bakit gagastusin ng provincial government ‘yong pera na binabayad ko in terms of tax [sa campaigns for this creation of three provinces]. We want a transparent government that would tell us [all the details, the pros and cons] and would let us choose,” he said.