The conduct of the plebiscite to ratify the division of the province of Palawan may now finally push through in the first quarter of 2021 after the Inter-agency Task Force (IATF) for the Management of Emerging Infectious Diseases approved the health and safety protocols for the said event, Malacañang announced on Friday.
In a statement, presidential spokesman Harry Roque said the IATF approved on October 8 the set of protocols for the conduct of the plebiscite pursuant to Republic Act (RA) No. 11259 which provides that the plebiscite should be held on the second Monday of May, 2020, and pursuant to other relevant provisions.
According to Roque, the period of voting will be two days and only five voters will be allowed in the room to cast their votes at any particular time.
Registered voters between the ages of 18 and 21 years old and those who are 60 years old and above, those with immunodeficiency, comorbidity, or other health risks, and pregnant women shall be exempt from mobility restrictions for the purpose of voting.
Meanwhile, the IATF encouraged the Commission on Elections (Comelec) to devise safety mechanisms and procedures so confirmed COVID-19 and/or symptomatic patients can exercise their right to vote.
RA 11259, signed by President Duterte in April last year, divided the province of Palawan into Palawan del Norte, Palawan Oriental, and Palawan del Sur.
Comelec had originally set the conduct of the plebiscite to ratify the division on May 11 but it was suspended in April this year due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
The Comelec en banc agreed with the recommendation of its Law Department that the holding of a free and honest plebiscite on May 11 was impossible at the height of the spread of the COVID-19.
Comelec Commissioner Rowena Guanzon said in May that the plebiscite in Palawan will push through months from now if the province is not on lockdown or when it is safe to conduct it.
"We have to wait until it is safe to ensure that people can cast their votes without fear of contamination," she said.