The provincial COMELEC office has proposed a March 13 date for the holding of plebiscite on the law dividing Palawan into three smaller provinces. While the date is still subject to approval by the Commission en banc, a local poll body official said they have begun preparations for the exercise.

Shiela Mae Guno, designated plebiscite team leader by the provincial poll body and current Araceli election officer, also said in a live podcast they are looking at holding a single-day voting instead of a 2-day exercise already allowed by the Inter Agency Task Force (IATF).

“Actually, we have a tentative date, but it requires the approval of the commission en banc, which is March 13, but it is not yet final,” Guno said.

“Last October 28, the commission en banc approved a single-day voting for the plebiscite,” she added.

Guno said there will be about 400 clustered voter precincts with 200 voters per clustered precincts. She did not further elaborate further details on the planned clustering. She added that official guidelines for the plebiscite are still in the planning and preparation stage.

“We have not yet talked about how the Palawan plebiscite will be conducted. We are just coordinating with the provincial government of Palawan with regards the health protocols to be imposed, the possible buying of COVID-19 supplies for workers, and of course the possible addition of the budgetary requirements of the conduct of the Palawan plebiscite,” she added.

Guno is part of a six-person team composed of Palawan election officers tasked to supply data needed to prepare for the upcoming Palawan plebiscite in 2021.

“The Commission created the technical working group for the Palawan plebiscite. It is composed of the directors of the different departments of the commission. Our regional director Atty. Gloria Ramos-Petallo, and our provincial elections supervisor Atty. Urbano Arlando, created the Palawan plebiscite team, which is composed of six election officers coming from the proposed provinces – Palawan del Norte, Palawan Oriental, and Palawan del Sur – to assist the technical working group in providing data for the upcoming Palawan plebiscite,” she explained in the podcast.

The plebiscite was formerly set to occur in May 2020 but was postponed due to the COVID-19 crisis. In October, it was announced by the national Inter-Agency Task Force (IATF) that the plebiscite would be held in 2021.

The current administration has long pushed for the division of the province and has already been making moves to get local government officials to support the division. On Thursday, a Liga ng mga Barangay meeting was held at the Palawan Provincial Capitol where ex-officio Liga head and provincial board member Ferdinand Zaballa explained the possible benefits of dividing the province into three.