The emergence of social media advocates opposing the division of Palawan is a welcome development that could spark spirited discussions and debates on the pros and cons of the proposal. Reading their posts, it is apparent that the group’s opposition is anchored on the lack of public consultations and of the exclusion of Puerto Princesa City from voting in the plebiscite slated in 2020.
Offhand, it could be said that the proposal was not without the necessary consultations. On two separate occasions, former Palawan leaders and incumbent officials from all of our municipalities were called to a meeting both by Gov. JCA and by the Provincial Board, to discuss the plan to create three new provinces. LGU officials also conducted their own consultations to gauge public reaction which they manifested during those meetings.
It may be apropos to ask why only officials were consulted, and why not everyone that matters? The reason is simple. Elected officials are presumed to speak for their respective constituencies. This is one of the tenets of a representative democracy. But let it not be said that the general public is deprived of a voice in the fate of the proposal. Theirs is the last say as final arbiters of the proposed law in a plebiscite to be called for the purpose.
Even during the Provincial Board deliberations on the Resolution calling for the creation of the three provinces, discussions in the media and in other fora were both exhaustive and inclusive. Also for a long while, the proposal was in the House Committee on Local Governments which conducted hearings on the subject with stakeholders and resource persons in attendance. Unfortunately, we didn’t hear or read about #OnePalawan making a stand or espousing its contrary opinion before the Committee – the most appropriate venue to oppose the passage of the measure. But they missed out. Vigilance is the price we pay for our advocacies.
As for the exclusion of Puerto Princesa from the plebiscite, its HUC status did it. As a City independent of the Provincial Government, the creation of the new provinces will have no effect on the structure nor the financial resources of the city government. Other provinces have every reason to oppose the Bill as the new provinces will affect the computation of the Internal Revenue Allotment of LGUs. But Governor JCA worked on the leadership of the League of Provinces, painstakingly explaining the cause for the division of Palawan. Consequently, the League endorsed the measure.
With an organized opposition to the creation of the new Palawan provinces, we expect its proponents to go all out in explaining its merits to the electorate. #OnePalawan should do likewise in exposing what they perceive as the weaknesses of the proposal. The essence of democracy is in dissent, in discussions, and in debates. The unanimity of the graveyard is anathema as much as the apathy of citizens when confronted with life-changing decisions. The task then is to incite, ignite and inspire everyone to be heard.
After all, when the dust of conflict and discord have settled, it is their informed judgment which will determine the future shape of Palawan and of the next generations of Palaweños.