On the coming Palawan Plebiscite
SPECIAL TO MELO ACUNA REPORTS
𝗔 𝗣𝗹𝗲𝗯𝗶𝘀𝗰𝗶𝘁𝗲 𝗪𝗼𝗿𝘁𝗵 𝗪𝗮𝘁𝗰𝗵𝗶𝗻𝗴
By Mrs. Eva Maggay-Inciong
On March 13, 2021, a plebiscite will be held in Palawan to ratify a law (formerly House Bill No. 8055, now Rep. Act. No. 11259) dividing Palawan into three provinces: Palawan Oriental, Palawan del Sur and Palawan del Norte. It would be interesting to watch this plebiscite because in a single sweep, three new provinces were created under circumstances which oppositors claim was a transactional piece of legislation.
The next step therefore is crucial and worth watching, given the chance to freely exercise the democratic gift of a plebiscite, would the Palawan voters confirm or reject laws that bear the imprimatur of the highest officials of the land?
So much has happened since the bill was signed into law. The intervening period saw the invasion of the country by the COVID-19 pandemic causing the collapse of the national economy. The scarcity of funds has forced the national government to revise, even postpone, its development targets. Would the Palawan leaders and municipal officials reconsider the same in favor of more doable, innovative programs that are urgently needed by their constituencies. The improvement of existing provincial and municipal hospitals, schools, water and power systems, roads and bridges, ports, etc. also generate multiplier and inclusive benefits. They are the real drivers of development. Businesses usually follow efficient infrastructure and attract more investors who generate jobs. The increased IRA (Internal Revenue Allotment) and the stimulus packages under the Bayanihan programs will go a long way in relieving the present economic crisis. The simultaneous installation of the new provinces is expensive and might unduly stress local finances.
Indeed, Palawan is ripe – not for instant breaking-up but for development into a haven of safe human habitation. It is not prone to natural disasters. It is earthquake-free, has no volcanoes and is seldom visited by killer typhoons. Its growth potentials are enviable. The sprawling territory hosts world-class tourism jewels, rich and rare biodiversity, gas fields and fishing grounds teeming with marine life.
Palawan’s unique geographical configuration consists of the vast new mainland called Paragua in earlier times, now the capital Puerto Princesa embraces twelve (12) island municipalities and about 1,800 outlying islets, some called 𝘓𝘶-𝘭𝘪 (for lulubog-lilitaw) depending on the rhythm of high and low tides. The island municipalities have existed for centuries and are held together by a common culture and a governance system that would shame federalism.
Whatever may be the outcome of the plebiscite, it is hoped that the people who live in it will conserve and protect their God-given heritage.
Beware of the 𝘈𝘷𝘦𝘴 𝘥𝘦 𝘙𝘢𝘱𝘪𝘯𝘢 (Birds of Prey) – a term used by the late writer Teodoro M. Kalaw, referring to some “Ugly Americans” who descended on the Philippine countryside plundering our gold mines, logging our forests and raping our natural resources.
About the Author
Mrs. Eva Maggay-Inciong was born and raised in Puerto Princesa, the capital. She says that her heart never left Palawan. She still speaks Cuyuno fluently.
In her younger days, she taught history & political science and became national president of the Philippine Association of University Women (PAUW). After leaving the academe, she engaged in agri-business and became PSR (Private Sector Representative) for Region IV (MIMAROPA) – Regional Development Council and later co-chair for CALABARZON area. In Rizal province where she used to manage the family farm, she chaired the Rizal Council for Sustainable Development before retiring from NGO work. Now 87, she writes articles on national issues, once in a
Mrs. Eva Maggay-Inciong. (Photo credit to Atty. Bong Inciong)