Another CamSur solon pushes creation of new province
Four out of five Camarines Sur congressmen are now behind House Bill No. 4728 which seeks to create the new province of Nueva Camarines from municipalities in the 4th and 5th districts of Camarines Sur.
The latest solon to officially affix his signature as coauthor of the bill was Rep. Rolando Andaya of CamSur’s 1st District.
Andaya joins principal author, Rep. Arnulfo Fuentebella and two coauthors, Reps. Luis R. Villafuerte and Diosdaso “Dato” Arroyo, in pushing the passage of the bill.
Only one CamSur congressman, 5th District Rep. Salvio Fortuno, remains opposed to the creation of Nueva Camarines.
The passage of HB 4728 is also being staunchly opposed by CamSur Governor Luis Raymund “LRay” Villafuerte, the congressman’s son.
The House approved HB 4820, the amended version of HB 4728, on second reading before Congress went on recess last month.
But Villafuerte and Fortuno claimed that HB 4728 was not subjected to hearings to get the sentiments of residents to be affected.
Reopening of debates
Fortuno has called anew for the reopening of plenary deliberations on the controversial bill, citing a new study which has warned that the measure would impede the delivery of quality social services, possibly spawn new taxes and mass lay-offs, and economically weaken both CamSur and the new province.
Fortuno said initial findings of an ongoing study by a University of the Philippines (UP)-based think tank showed that residents of the new province must “be willing to sacrifice” in receiving only limited social services such as health care, during the three to five years following the birth of the new province.
The study conducted by the Center for Local and Regional Governance at the UP National College of Public Administration and Governance (NCPAG) said the new province would need at least P280 million to put up its own provincial capitol and P465 million more for its administrative expenses in 2012 alone.
Fortuno said the UP study supported the findings of a 2005 study by the Local Government Development Foundation (Logodef) and the German foundation Konrad Adenauer which said that consolidation, rather than fragmentation, should be done for LGUs because it would cost almost P800 million, based on 2005 prices yet, to create a new province.
“Bills in Congress proposing to break provinces ultimately will lead to the creation of much weaker provincial governments or local government administrations,” the study concluded.
Taking up the cudgels for the bill’s proponents, Negros Oriental Rep. George P. Arnaiz, chair of the House Local Government Committee, has denied that the bill was not subjected to hearings and debates by his committee.
Arnaiz said that Villafuerte and Fortuno had participated in the May 31 and June 7 hearings on HB 4728 conducted by his committee and even brought with them three busloads of supporters.
During the June 7 hearing, LRay’s father, Rep. Luis Villafuerte, Jr. argued for the creation of Nueva Camarines while debunking the arguments of LRay who opposed the bill.
Arnaiz insisted the legislative process was followed thoroughly when his committee voted 22 to 6 in favor of HB 4728.
“They (LRay and Fortuno) participated in the debates and were given all the time they wanted to air their side,” he added.
At least 24 of the 35 mayors of Camarines Sur also attended the second hearing and expressed their full support for the creation of Nueva Camarines.
Let people decide
Arnaiz said the people of Camarines Sur and not Congress would decide on proposals to split Camarines Sur into two provinces.
He said that LRay and Fortuno should allow Congress to do its job to iron out legislative proposals to create the new province rather than hurl “irresponsible and misleading charges” of railroading against lawmakers.
Deputy Speaker Crispin Remulla, however, want to remand HB 4728 back for plenary debates.
A week ago, Remulla told reporters he favored the reopening of debates on the measure in the interest of “transparency and fairness,” considering that taxpayers’ money would have to be spent to set up the new province.
Earlier, CamSur local leaders representing the League of Municipalities, Philippine Councilors League, Liga ng Mga Barangay called on the Senate to junk HB 4728, given that a majority of residents and political and business leaders are opposing the move on the ground that it would be costly for the national government and derail the province’s development.
The Camarines Sur Chamber of Commerce has also warned that the province could lose its competitive edge as the Philippines’ ecotourism capital—on the back of its world-class CamSur Watersports Complex (CWC) and now-internationally famous Caramoan Islands—should Congress pass the bill. With a report from Gil Cabacungan