3 senators oppose bill splitting CamSur province—SottoBy Cathy Yamsuan
Philippine Daily Inquirer
MANILA, Philippines—Senate majority leader Tito Sotto on Thursday claimed that three senators have indicated plans to oppose the bill carving Nueva Camarines province from the existing Camarines Sur.
Sotto named these colleagues as Senators Sergio Osmeña III, Antonio Trillanes IV and Joker Arroyo, a native of Camarines Sur.
While the Senate awaits the report to be submitted by local government chairman Ferdinand Marcos Jr., Sotto said he was already gearing for a “difficult” period of interpellation that would follow once Marcos delivers his sponsorship speech.
At the weekly Kapihan sa Senado, Sotto said that Trillanes had already expressed “displeasure” over the aggressive lobbying of Camarines Sur Representative Luis Villafuerte to have the bill approved.
Sotto said Trillanes questioned Villafuerte’s presence in an all-senator caucus called by Senate President Juan Ponce Enrile earlier this month where the Nueva Camarines bill was on the agenda.
While Sotto explained Villafuerte’s presence as “a matter of parliamentary courtesy,” Senate insiders noted that outsiders are not allowed in these meetings.
Shortly after the caucus, Trillanes’ office released a press statement citing various experts and organizations opposed to the division of Camarines Sur.
Arroyo earlier questioned the inclusion of the Nueva Camarines bill in the Senate session agenda last Tuesday.
Arroyo and Sen. Franklin Drilon warned then that Marcos’ committee, as primary panel in charge of studying the division of Camarines Sur, had yet to submit his report.
Marcos, in an ambush interview, complained of “pressure” from proponents either supportive or opposed to the measure.
Marcos would not categorically state whether he would endorse the bill but noted that studies commissioned by his committee revealed that the two new provinces would face varied economic and infrastructure challenges if Camarines Sur is sliced in two.
“We cannot force Senator Marcos to fastbreak the report,” Sotto stressed.
“The CamSur issue actually gives me a bigger headache than the reproductive health bill. Because of the opposing sides, the Senate President and I are caught between the devil and the deep blue sea,” Sotto admitted to reporters.
Sotto as majority leader has the authority to schedule debates on Senate bills.
He was supposed to deliver the last of a series of speeches against the RH bill Tuesday but gave way to the discussion of the Nueva Camarines bill, which was eventually thwarted by Arroyo and Drilon.
Sotto warned that time constraints are bearing down on the Senate and Nueva Camarines lobbyists.
Congress has nine session days left until mid-September before it goes on a two-week break.
Villafuerte and other lobbyists want the Senate to pass the bill before the break so that politicians wishing to run for public office in the two provinces could register as candidates from October 1 to 5 as set by the Commission on Elections.
But before they can register, the Nueva Camarines bill still has to be signed into law by the President. A plebiscite must also be set before October to allow the people of Camarines Sur to decide whether they want the province divided.