(File photo)

Governor Jose Alvarez stood by his belief Saturday that the division of Palawan will be advantageous to residents living in far-flung areas amidst continuing unfavorable opinions and criticisms.

He maintained splitting Palawan into three smaller government units will speed up the delivery of basic social and health services and usher much-needed development in the countryside.

Governor Alvarez said this in an interview with Palawan News following the signing of Republic Act 11259 or “The Charter of the Provinces of Palawan del Norte, Palawan Oriental, and Palawan del Sur” by President Rodrigo Duterte on April 5.

The Act will pave the way for a plebiscite to be held on the second Monday of May 2020.

(File photo courtesy of Palawan PIO)

Alvarez said he respects opinions that “some people” may continue to have on the separation of Palawan, but they should also do the same and “follow the law.”

He said the scheduled referendum is the best period for Palaweños to vote if they want the province to be divided.

Alvarez said non-supporters can bring out their opinions by then but hopes they would do so based on facts and actualities and not baseless accusations against him.

“Batas na ‘yan, eh. Let’s respect the law may next year na plebisito ‘yan, doon sila magkampanya kung ayaw nila. Kung magboto ang mga tao ng probinsya na ayaw namin na maging tatlong probinsya, eh di wala. Kasi ‘yan naman sinasabi sa batas na sundin ang rule of the majority. Pero kung ma-approve sa plebisito, eh di tatlong probinsya na. Majority rules tayo… I will respect it,” he said.

He reiterated the division will not be adverse to Palaweños because “the delivery of basic health and social services will increase in speed and leaders will have manageable areas to administer for development and progress”.

Alvarez added he is not going to appease “doubters” who are from Puerto Princesa City because who “matters” to him are the residents in the municipalities.

“The division is not disadvantageous, it’s good for Palawan. Bakit naman negative ang paggawa ng tatlong probinsya? Mas mapapabilis pa nga ang pag-deliver ng serbisyo, mas liliit ‘yong area of management ng isang gobernador, mas madali mag-manage ng one-third ng kaperahan ng probinsya. Anong masama?” he said.

Currently, Palawan’s population is estimated to be around 1.8 million.

If separated, he said each province will have around 600,000 ”manageable” total population that will be reached by primary services fast.

On claims that Palawan del Sur will be left behind by the division because it does not have a lot of tourism potentials, Alvarez said it will have a bigger budget but he did not say in detail how much.

He said the province has also started exploring sites in the southern municipalities that can be developed into travel destinations that tourists who love the outdoors will like.

“Mas malaki ang budget sa Palawan del Sur kasi mas malaki ang area. Ang sur merong Balabac [na mayroong magagandang] areas na puwedeng i-develop para sa turista, meron ngang airport na ginagawa doon ngayon, eh,” he said.

Alvarez also repeated that he is not allowed to run for any position in any of the three provinces when his term expires.

“Matagal ko nang sinabi ‘yan,” Alvarez stated to belie claims the division will only serve his political interest.

Under the new law, Palawan del Norte will be composed of Coron, Culion, Busuanga, Linapacan, Taytay, and El Nido.

Palawan del Sur will be comprised of Aborlan, Narra, Quezon, Rizal, Sofronio Española, Brooke’s Point, Bataraza, Balabac, and Kalayaan in the West Philippine Sea.

Palawan Oriental will be established by grouping the municipalities of Roxas, Araceli, Dumaran, Cuyo, Agutaya, Magsaysay, Cagayancillo, and San Vicente.

Puerto Princesa City, on the other hand, will remain as a highly-urbanized city (HUC).

The Act shall take effect 15 days after publication.

It was approved by the House of Representatives (HOR) on August 29, 2018, and amended by the Senate of the Philippines on November 19, 2018.

The amendments were concurred by the HOR on January 23, 2019.

In terms of land area, Palawan is the largest island province in the country at 14,649.73 km2 (5,656.29 sq mi), composed of 23 municipalities and three districts.

Previously, the group One Palawan assailed the division, claiming its approval at the Lower House and the Senate of the Philippines had all the makings of being hurried without anyone seeing.

Cynthia del Rosario, one of its outspoken organizers, said there was no clamor for it and that it did not pass through proper public consultations.

“Ang feeling po namin kami ay na-blindsided, nadaya, bakit naman ganoon, walang konsultasyon. Ngayon [nga] lang nalaman ng iba about it. Iyon nga ang pinaka nire-reklamo namin, walang consultation mula sa umpisa. Sa ngayon kasi hindi kami nakonsulta at hindi na-representa ‘yong pros and cons, mas nakikita namin ‘yong mahabang cons. Sa ngayon, hindi natin makita ‘yong kagandahan. Mali ang pagsulong nila ng batas dahil walang konsultasyon [sa publiko],” Del Rosario said.

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has been with Palawan News since January 2019. She is its managing editor, overseeing and coordinating day-to-day editorial activities. Her writing interests are politics and governance, health, defense, investigative journalism, civic journalism, and the environment.