Governor Jose Alvarez assured the Palaweños that they will have a say on the separation of the province into three smaller government units.
Alvarez said groups opposing the division of the province will have time to campaign before the proposal will be submitted to a referendum in May 2022.
The proposal to divide Palawan into three separate provinces is being met by stiff opposition from groups like One Palawan (OP) and Save Palawan Movement (SPM) that have launched an online signature campaign to block the passing of Senate Bill 8055.
The proposed law seeks to divide the province into Palawan del Norte, Palawan Oriental, and Palawan del Sur.
In a press conference over the weekend, Alvarez denied claims by the two groups that Palaweños were not consulted, especially residents of Puerto Princesa City.
He also dismissed as “baseless” the accusation that he is pushing to divide Palawan because of “greed for wealth and power” as his governorship is already on its last term.
“Yong iba sa Facebook [na] nagbabatikos [ang sinasabi] kasi out of greed daw. Kung ready ang probinsya ngayon, hatiin ko kaya? Pero nakita ko na napakahirap mag-manage ng isang probinsya na napakalaki, kaya minabuti namin sa provincial board [na magsagawa ng] consultation ng mayors. Lahat ng munisipyo kinonsulta namin, payag sila,” Alvarez pointed out.
The exclusion of Puerto Princesa City from voting in the plebiscite under Section 54 of Senate Bill 8055, he said, is because it is now a highly-urbanized city (HUC) from being a component urban area of the province.
He pointed out that when Puerto Princesa decided it wanted to become independent as a HUC, it also did not consult the municipalities of the province.
“Para bang sila ang nagdidikta sa probinsya, samantalang hindi naman sila bumuboto dito. Noong nag-plebisito ang Puerto para maging highly-urbanized city ay hindi rin naman kinonsulta ang probinsya. Ngayon sila ang maingay,” he added.
Alvarez also said that the time to discuss the proposed division would be after the midterm national and local elections in May 2019.
He said everyone has the right to speak out and express their opinions publicly and they will be ready to answer.
“Lahat naman may karapatan, kung ano ang saloobin nila sabihin nila. Wala naman tayong problema doon, sasagutin namin lahat ‘yan. Mayroong isang taon para mangampanya ang mga against at pro,” he said.
He assured that whatever the decision will be, they will accept because it is the will of the people of Palawan.
“Remember that the sovereignty of the government resides in the people, sila ang mag-decide kung ano ang gagawin. Kung inaakala namin na mabuti at sa tao ay hindi, we will bow to it because that’s the voice of the people. Lahat kami nag-aagree na after mapasa ito ay ibabalik sa mga tao para doon nila sabihin kung sangayon sila o hindi,” Alvarez added.
Earlier, Cynthia Sumagaysay-Del Rosario, leader of the One Palawan campaign, said it is wrong to hold a plebiscite for the division of Palawan that has “no clamor” and “no public consultation.”
“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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