ONE PALAWAN: Cynthia Sumagaysay-del Rosario (1st from right) during a media conference against the division of Palawan into three smaller government units. (File photo)

Civil society groups in Palawan are unfazed with the passage of the law dividing Palawan into three smaller provinces and vowed to “exhaust all available remedies and actions to stop it.”

Cynthia Sumagaysay-del Rosario, lead convenor of the One Palawan and Save Palawan Movement, in a video posted on her Facebook account Saturday, blasted President Rodrigo Duterte’s decision to sign the bill that was successfully lobbied in Congress by provincial government officials.

“We have done everything from lobbying with our senators and submitting two letters to the president appealing that he vetoes the law,” Sumagaysay-del Rosario said.

She said there are two remaining options left to oppose the move.

“We still have the plebiscite set in 2020 and the local elections on May 13,” she said.

Duterte signed Republic Act No. 11259 into law on April 5 and released its documents about a week later, dividing Palawan into the provinces of Palawan del Norte, Palawan Oriental, and Palawan del Sur, with the latter as the mother province.

The new provinces will be created upon approval of majority voters in affected areas in a plebiscite to be conducted and supervised by the Commission on Elections (COMELEC) on the second Monday of May 2020.

Residents of Puerto Princesa City – a highly-urbanized city – are not qualified to vote in the plebiscite and for candidates for provincial elective positions.

Puerto Princesa residents had earlier opposed this provision.

Provincial officials elected in the 2019 elections will serve their unexpired terms of office until the provincial officials of the 3 provinces are elected.

Del Rosario said residents in Puerto Princesa City “were not consulted leaving us with no province.”

The new law also violates Republic Act No. 7160 or the Local Government Code (LGC) and it lacks a thorough cost-benefit study, she pointed out.

“They base their reason for dividing Palawan into three provinces claiming it is too big to govern. But look at these politicians running in these elections. They are using all available means of transportation to reach all the far-flung areas to woo the voters,” she also said.

She said Palawan “does not need many politicians because the current problems of environmental degradation and poverty can be traced back to the kind of leadership we have right now.”

“We also need to take care of our fragile eco-system,” she said.

“We are going up against a big and moneyed wall. He is the richest governor in the Philippines,” she said.

Del Rosario also said that “this is all about money politics, especially during this election period.”

“There is a bigger war. This is a spiritual war. The war between good and evil. This is about doing what is right, ” she said.

Del Rosario called on all Palaweños “to express their opposition to this move through the May 13 local elections and the 2020 plebiscite.”

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