Opposition Senator Leila de Lima on Wednesday, March 17 lauded the residents of Palawan for casting a ‘no’ vote in the recent plebiscite on the ratification of Republic Act No. 11259 which would have divided the province into three separate provinces.
De Lima said the Palaweños move is a strong reminder of the importance of valuing and participating in the democratic processes.
“The people of Palawan have spoken. I laud and congratulate Palaweños for this historic victory and embodiment of democracy,” De Lima said in a statement.
Last March 16, the Commission on Elections (Comelec) Provincial Plebiscite Board of Canvassers proclaimed that the “no” vote won in the plebiscite that asked the residents if they agree to ratify the law.
Republic Act No. 11259, which President Duterte signed on April 5, 2019, would have split Palawan into the provinces of Palawan del Norte, Palawan Oriental and Palawan del Sur.
The poll body’s official results showed 172,304 of the residents voted “no” while 122, 223 voted for “yes.” According to election officials, the plebiscite posted a 60.06 percent voter turnout.
De Lima, a vocal critic of the Duterte administration, said the move could help prevent further attempts by China for a territorial expansion.
“As early as 2018, top international political analyst Anders Corr already warned that splitting Palawan would end up benefitting China amid its continued encroachment in the West Philippine Sea,” she pointed out.
“As such, such move by the Palaweños is beneficial for Filipinos,” she said.
Corr, she recalled, had once warned “China would likely welcome the break up of Palawan, because the country sees the Philippine province as having important strategic military and resource uses.
Netizens had earlier lauded Palawan resident’s move to reject the division of the province into three by trending the hashtag #NoTo3in1 Palawan.
One netizen wrote that “Palawan should be one solid and unified province.”
It can be recalled that the Save Palawan Movement (SPM), during deliberations in the Senate and House, accused proponents of the measure of having a gerrymandering agenda that would run counter to laws and policies meant to protect the biodiversity and natural resources of Palawan.