Comelec ready for hearing on plan to split Davao del Sur in two
DIGOS CITY, Philippines—The office of the Commission on Elections in Davao del Sur said Saturday it has made preparations for a public hearing by the Senate on a proposal to divide the province in two and was simply waiting for word as to when it will take place.
Ma. Febes Barlaan, Comelec provincial director, said the public hearing, to be conducted by the Senate’s technical committee headed by Sen. Ferdinand Marcos Jr., was to have been held last December but was put off.
“We are still waiting for further development,” she said.
The House of Representatives had earlier approved the creation of Davao Occidental out of some municipalities in the second district of Davao del Sur.
Davao del Sur Rep. Franklin Bautista, who authored the House version, said income-wise, the proposed province was qualified because the combined income of the towns of Sta. Maria, Malita, Don Marcelino, Jose Abad Santos and Sarangani was more than P400 million. These towns also have a total population of 302,570 or half the province’s 2000 population figure of 768,801, he said.
In the Senate, the bill proposing the division of the province was authored by Senators Ralph Recto and Francis Escudero. Recto said the division would spur growth in both the old and the new province.
“With the vast spread of area and the number of municipalities in the province, the provincial government is hindered in closely managing its economic growth,” Recto said of the proposal to create Davao Occidental.
Davao del Sur, which lies between Davao City and General Santos City and the provinces of North Cotabato and Sultan Kudarat, is mainly an agricultural and fishing province.
Based on the 2000 poverty incidence report released by the National Statistics and Coordination Board, 18.2 percent of Davao del Sur population is considered poor.
Barlaan said if the public hearing could be conducted this month and the Senate passes the bill immediately, the plebiscite for the creation of Davao Occidental could take place before the 2013 midterm elections.
“But if not, the plebiscite could be held simultaneously with the 2013 elections,” she added.
Davao del Sur Vice Gov. Arsenio Latasa said there had been previous attempts to divide the province into two but these were unsuccessful because of opposition from some officials.
Board member Allan Colina, who represents the second district, said he was hoping the bill would be approved.
Digos City Vice Mayor Reynaldo Hermosisima said the division of the province into two could also pave the way for harmonious relationship between some politicians.
The Bautistas of the second district and the Cagases of the first district are at political loggerheads.
Hermosisima is a member of the Nationalist People’s Coalition (NPC), which Bautista heads. Digos City falls under the first district and is not included in the proposed new province.