By Macon Araneta

The Senate on November 19,  approved on third and final reading a bill dividing Palawan — the country’s largest province – into: Palawan Del Norte, Palawan Oriental, and Palawan Del Sur.

House Bill No. 8055 was sponsored by Sen. Sonny Angara, chairman of the Senate Committee on Local Government, and was passed with 14 affirmative votes, 1 negative vote from Sen. Risa Hontiveros and zero abstention.

Under the bill, the province of Palawan del Norte will be composed of the municipalities of Coron, Culion, Busuanga, Linacapan, Taytay and El Nido. The province of Palawan Oriental, in turn, will be comprised of the municipalities of Roxas, Araceli, Dumaran, Cuyo, Agutaya, Magsaysay, Cayancillo, and San Vicente.

The province of Palawan del Sur, which will be considered as the “mother province,” will be composed of the municipalities of Aborlan, Narra, Quezon, Rizal, Espanola, Brooke’s Point, Bataraza, Balacbac and Kalayaan.

The three proposed provinces will be created upon approval of the majority of the votes cast by voters in the affected areas in a plebiscite to be conducted in 2020, Angara said.

Angara noted that due to the “vastness” of Palawan, an archipelago of 1,800 islands with a population of at least 1.1 million, the division of the existing province under the bill will comply with requirements for a province set forth by the Local Government Code.

He said that the three proposed provinces will meet the land area requirement, and that Palawan del Norte and Palawan Oriental are expected to satisfy the population requirement imposed by law by 2020.

“If we speak of economic potential, Palawan is a powerhouse. Its local growth rate has been clocked at bristling seven percent per annum for many years now. And this was achieved with a total ban on the exploitation of natural resources over a wide swath of its land,” Angara added.

Meanwhile, the Senate also approved on third reading a bill that will create a separate prosecution service in the city of Navotas in Metro Manila.

House Bill No. 5161 was also sponsored by Sen. Sonny Angara who said that the bill will “enable the local government unit (LGU) to comply with the constitutional mandate of the right to speedy disposition of cases.”

The measure was passed with 16 affirmative votes, no negative vote and zero abstention.

Under the bill, the proposed Office of the City Prosecution Service of Navotas will be headed by a City Prosecutor with sufficient staff under the supervision and control of the Department of Justice.

Angara noted that under the present set-up, prosecutors from Malabon City attend to all courts under the jurisdiction of Navotas, leading to a situation where only 11 prosecutors serve 17 courts in 2 cities with a combined population of more than 600,000.

“Giving the city of Navotas its own prosecution service will surely better serve the needs of the city and would improve the resolution of cases to the benefit of Navotas’ residents,” he said.