Palawan’s in­ter­ests on the char­ter change pro­pos­als

Palawan News - - EDITORIAL -

The im­pend­ing de­bate in the Se­nate on a House of Rep­re­sen­ta­tives char­ter change pro­posal ini­ti­ated by Speaker Glo­ria Ma­ca­pa­gal Ar­royo raises a point of in­ter­est for Palawan and sim­i­larly sit­u­ated lo­cal gov­ern­ment units par­tic­u­larly be­cause of the pro­vi­sions on the ter­ri­to­rial ju­ris­dic­tion of lo­cal gov­ern­ment’s over wa­ters be­yond their 15-kilo­me­ter lim­its. The GMA char­ter draft has taken the wind from the sail of the Puno Com­mis­sion draft backed by Mala­canang, which had lost mo­men­tum in the crest an inane and ig­no­rant cam­paign at­tempted by the Pres­i­dent’s fa­vorite blog­ger Mocha Uson such that Duterte de­lib­er­ately avoided even a men­tion of it dur­ing his State of the Na­tion ad­dress. The GMA pro­posal, on the other hand, seemed to have emerged from nowhere and has been tak­ing in­tense crit­i­cisms be­cause of its at­tempt to re­move the vice pres­i­dent in the line of suc­ces­sion, as part of its tran­si­tory pro­vi­sion. This, along with its re­moval of term lim­its and the Puno draft ’s pro­vi­sion against po­lit­i­cal dy­nas­ties. The Puno Com­mis­sion draft re­solves in fa­vor of Palawan the long-stand­ing dis­pute over the Malam­paya en­ergy re­serves, as it cat­e­gor­i­cally states that lo­cal gov­ern­ments have rights to a share of pro­ceeds from the uti­liza­tion of nat­u­ral re­sources that are found even be­yond its 15-kilo­me­ter mu­nic­i­pal wa­ters. This wasn’t re­it­er­ated in the GMA draft. In its place, how­ever, is a pro­vi­sion that cur­tails for­eign part­ner­ships in en­ergy ex­plo­ration and as­serts Philip­pine sovereignty in the en­ergy-rich West Philip­pine Sea. It is the Puno draft that has em­bold­ened Palawan’s po­lit­i­cal lead­ers to lobby for the prov­ince’s sub­di­vi­sion into three sep­a­rate provin­cial en­ti­ties. They bank on a plan to­wards the end process to re­unite as a re­gion or fed­er­ate as a state. The at­ten­dant ad­di­tional cost of man­ag­ing a bu­reau­cracy bloated three times over, cou­pled with a sig­nif­i­cant re­duc­tion in each of the smaller prov­inces’ in­ter­nal rev­enue al­lo­ca­tion, can fi­nan­cially be ad­dressed by wind­fall profit shares from oil and gas ex­plo­rations that Malam­paya con­tin­ues to deny them. Palawan’s dis­trict rep­re­sen­ta­tives have ap­par­ently failed to en­sure the Puno draft pro­vi­sions on nat­u­ral wealth shar­ing was also re­flected in the GMA char­ter change that is now pend­ing in the Se­nate. By hind­sight, how­ever, it is a tall or­der con­sid­er­ing that it was Ar­royo when she was pres­i­dent, who as­serted that Palawan has no le­gal or ad­min­is­tra­tive ju­ris­dic­tion over Malam­paya. Con­sti­tu­tional an­a­lysts have pointed to the more re­mark­able pro­vi­sions in the GMA draft, par­tic­u­larly its more re­al­is­tic ap­proach to fed­er­al­ism, the main mo­ti­va­tion for the char­ter change ini­tia­tive of the Duterte ad­min­is­tra­tion. The GMA draft also at­tracts big­ger de­bates on its pro­vi­sions on the ap­proach to fed­er­al­ism, mar­tial law and hu­man rights. Ex­pect lo­cal gov­ern­ments that are host­ing en­ergy ex­plo­ration ven­tures in­clud­ing Palawan to as­sert the Puno pro­vi­sions on nat­u­ral wealth shar­ing and side with the Ar­royo draft on mat­ters re­lated to fed­er­al­ism shift.

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