Palawan di­vi­sion 'no con­nec­tion' to South China Sea is­sue

Sun.Star Pampanga - - NATION! -

THE im­pend­ing di­vi­sion of Palawan into three prov­inces has "no con­nec­tion" to the Philip­pines's mar­itime dis­pute with China, Mala­cañang said Mon­day, April 15.

Pres­i­den­tial Spokesper­son Sal­vador Panelo gave the guar­an­tee, af­ter op­po­si­tion Sen­a­tor Ana There­sia "Risa" Hon­tiveros claimed that split­ting Palawan into three prov­inces would give China an op­por­tu­nity to "in­fil­trate and in­flu­ence smaller lo­cal gov­ern­ment units."

"Walang con­nec­tion. Eh kahit na­man walang probin­sya, kung gus­tong mag-in­fil­trate ng mga lokong 'yan, eh (There's no con­nec­tion. Even sans the cre­ation of prov­inces, China will in­fil­trate, if it wants to do so)," the Palace of­fi­cial told Palace re­porters in a press con­fer­ence.

"Parang wala na­mang koneksyon na­man yun (It seems that there is no con­nec­tion)," he added.

On April 5, Duterte signed a law di­vid­ing Palawan into three "dis­tinct and in­de­pen­dent" prov­inces that will be known as Palawan del Norte, Palawan Ori­ent, and Palawan del Sur.

Un­der Repub­lic Act 11259, the three prov­inces would be cre­ated upon ap­proval by af­fected residents through a plebiscite that will be con­ducted on the se­cond Mon­day of May 2020.

Each prov­ince would have its own leg­isla­tive dis­tricts upon the elec­tion and qual­i­fi­ca­tion of their rep­re­sen­ta­tives on the se­cond Mon­day of May 2022.

The in­cum­bent rep­re­sen­ta­tives of the present Palawan prov­ince would con­tinue to rep­re­sent their re­spec­tive leg­isla­tive dis­tricts un­til new rep­re­sen­ta­tives have been duly elected, are qual­i­fied, and as­sume of­fice.

Crit­ics have raised worry that China, which con­tin­ues to step up mil­i­ta­riza­tion of the dis­puted South China Sea, would ben­e­fit more from Duterte's move to di­vide Palawan.

Palawan is the near­est prov­ince to the con­tested territories in the South China Sea.

Panelo main­tained that the Philip­pines, de­spite its im­proved ties with China, wants Bei­jing to avoid any ac­tiv­i­ties in the busy wa­ter­way that may sow ten­sion.

"We urge China to avoid any acts that will be con­sid­ered as ha­rass­ing our fish­er­men in that area or that might pro­voke hos­til­ity and it can even af­fect the bi­lat­eral re­la­tions be­tween two coun­tries," he said.

"We are sup­posed to be friends. So let's be friendly first. Pag-us­apan natin (Let's talk). That will de­pend on how the talks will pro­ceed. We have to forge a mu­tu­ally sat­is­fac­tory so­lu­tion to the con­flict in that area based on the di­rec­tives of each Con­sti­tu­tion, as well as the as­pi­ra­tions of these two coun­tries," he added. (Sun­nex)

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