Pala-one or Pala-three

Palawan Daily News - - Opinion -

Congress re­cently passed the di­vi­sion of Palawan into three prov­inces pur­port­edly to pave way to the fast-chang­ing need of eco­nomic de­vel­op­ment and avail­abil­ity of re­sources to the peo­ple of the is­land prov­ince.

But many still op­pose to the move as this is not ben­e­fi­cial to the peo­ple. It will only ben­e­fit the politi­cians who like to build dy­nasty in the prov­ince. To the op­pos­i­tors this is ger­ry­man­der­ing and noth­ing less.

Last week, the Se­nate ap­proved Se­nate Bill 8055 au­thored by Sen­a­tor Juan Edgardo Angara, who is the chair­man of the Se­nate com­mit­tee on lo­cal gov­ern­ment. But Sen­a­tor Risa Hon­tiveros who voted against it said that China would greatly ben­e­fit should Palawan be sliced into three.

Save Palawan Move­ment Cam­paigner Cyn­thia Del Rosario who leads the move to op­pose the mea­sures to di­vide Palawan claimed that there was no pub­lic con­sul­ta­tion made and that politi­cians are the ones who will gain from it.

If the Palawan will be di­vided into three, the gov­ern­ment will be spend­ing more money to cre­ate po­si­tions, there­fore, there will be three gover­nors and three provin­cial gov­ern­ment units. There will be more money needed to be spent for the salaries and op­er­a­tions of the three capi­tols.

How­ever, this will also mean that peo­ple will no longer have to travel to the cap­i­tal city of Puerto Princesa to trans­act busi­ness. It will be eas­ier for them as re­sources will be more con­cen­trated in their lo­cal­i­ties.

At the mo­ment, there are 23 mu­nic­i­pal­i­ties, of which 13 are main­land and 10 are spread across is­land towns, which are only ac­ces­si­ble by ship, mo­tor banca or air­plane. Peo­ple have to travel hours and even whole day just to visit the Puerto Princesa to trans­act.

As per the Com­mis­sion on Au­dit Re­port in 2016, Palawan is sixth rich­est prov­ince in the coun­try with eq­uity of P8.2 bil­lion. With 433 barangays in 23 mu­nic­i­pal­i­ties, there are still ar­eas and roads that are not yet paved, and peo­ple are still liv­ing in poverty.

The is­land prov­ince is rich in agri­cul­tural prod­ucts and ser­vices, in­clud­ing min­eral re­sources and log­ging. Palawan has one of the rich­est fish­ing sanc­tu­ar­ies in the Philip­pines. Around 45% of the sup­ply of fish in Manila is be­ing con­tributed by Palawan.

With hav­ing nat­u­ral gas re­serves of ap­prox­i­mately 30,000 tril­lion cu­bic feet, Palawan is the only oil-pro­duc­ing prov­ince in the coun­try.

Al­ready known as one of the world best is­lands, Palawan tourism econ­omy is boom­ing.

With the pro­posed mea­sure to di­vide the prov­ince, will this mean that the re­sources will be equally shared and dis­trib­uted among Palaweños? How about the as­sets of the prov­ince? Will these be­come smaller and Palawan will no longer be hold­ing the sixth rich­est prov­ince? Or, will this sim­ply mean more politi­cians? Lesser cam­paign ex­penses? Eas­ier elec­toral con­tests? And more po­lit­i­cal dy­nas­ties?

Can’t Palawan be the show­case of the Philip­pines when it comes to e-gov­er­nance where busi­ness trans­ac­tions like get­ting per­mits, li­censes or clear­ances are done on­line? Can’t Palawan af­ford to just build more hos­pi­tals so that the peo­ple have quicker and eas­ier ac­cess to med­i­cal care? Can’t Palawan stay as Pala-one or be­come Pala-three? We must weigh the pros and cons and de­cide in­tel­li­gently in the plebiscite in 2020.

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