One Palawan is an advocacy campaign initiated by Save Palawan Movement (SPM), a cause-oriented group with multi-sectoral composition, to turn back RA 11259, an Act Dividing Palawan into three smaller provinces, namely, Palawan del Norte, Palawan Oriental and Palawan del Sur.
RA 11259 was signed into law by President Rodrigo Duterte on April 5, 2019. It provides for the holding of a plebiscite in Palawan in May 2020 on the plan to divide the existing province into three smaller provinces.
The law specifically provides for the participation in the plebiscite of all 23 Palawan municipalities, with the exclusion of Puerto Princesa City. The latter was a specific provision contained in the drafts of the bill lobbied by the provincial government in Congress, invoking the status of Puerto Princesa being a “highly urbanized city” independent of the province.
SPM firmly believes that the planned division of Palawan is totally an unnecessary measure and a major step-back on the real development needs of the province and its communities. It was a policy direction that was conceived and forced to the residents of Palawan province by its political leadership without the benefit of methodical studies, planning and genuine consultations particularly involving the communities at large who have so much stake on it.
The manner by which RA 11259 was passed showed that it was a product of a strong political lobby staged by the provincial government and its allies in Congress and the executive branch. It was initially hatched in a meeting dominated by selected provincial political leaders and a scattering of selected private sector individuals in early 2017. Succeeding that meeting was the filing of formal resolutions at the provincial board, almost simultaneous to thefiling of a bill in Congress.
It was first approved in the House of Representatives on August 30, 2018 without the benefit of a wide public consultation in Palawan, passing the Senate on November 19 of the same year and promptly signed into law by the president on April 5, 2019.
SPM is in the midst of a campaign to oppose the planned division of Palawan. It believes that the measure contradicts many important provisions of the Constitution pertaining to public participation and consultations, the empowerment of local government units for good governance and the principle of sharing of proceeds from the national wealth. It believes that the planned division is not a development agenda that its proponents wanted the public to believe and is instead a direct attempt at gerrymandering.
SPM also believes that the proposed measure will only aggravate the threats and challenges already facing the environment and further expose the vulnerability of poor communities to the harsh impacts of environmental destruction and climate change.
SPM has filed a petition before the Supreme Court to declare RA 11259 unconstitutional and for the High Court to issue a writ of prohibition to the Commission on Elections (COMELEC) and the Palawan provincial government from holding the plebiscite. This case is still pending in the high court.
SPM is aware it is facing an immense challenge to turn back RA 11259 and the dismemberment of Palawan, knowing that it has to reach out to the widest public as hard as that it can in order to inform them ofn the key issues related to the division of the province. it. The provincial government is adamant at getting RA 11259 validated in a plebiscite, openly deploying government resources to campaign for a Yes vote instead of striving to educate the voters on issues and capacitating them to make an informed decision.
SPM, through the effort of Ms. Cynthia Sumagaysay Del Rosario of PACE, has therefore decided to launch its “One Palawan” campaign which primarily focuses on awareness and information-education.
Palawan, An Island Ecosystem
“The Palawan Biosphere Reserve is a cluster of islands composed of one long main island and smaller groups of islands around it. The 1,150,800 hectares of the biosphere reserve include the entire Province of Palawan Island, which is the westernmost province of the Philippines.”
Declaration Date: 1990
Surface Area: 1,489,600 ha
Administrative Division: Palawan Province
Palawan is the largest province in the Philippines with an area of 1,489,655 hectares equivalent to 31% of the total land area of Region IV or representing 5% of the country’s local territory. It is dubbed as the Philippines’ “Last Ecological Frontier”. It comprises 1,780 islands and islets with 1,959 kilometers of irregular coastline, with 9,900 sq. km. coral reefs (excluding Kalayaan Island), resulting in numerous coves and bays follow-on to 176 fishing grounds and most notable are Malampaya Sound in the municipality of Taytay, Honda Bay in Puerto Princesa City, Coron Bay, Bacuit Bay in El Nido, Sulu Sea, Kalayaan and Tubbataha as the largest fishing ground with 33,200 hectares.
About 1.5 Million hectares in land area thus geographically situated in a world known as the “coral triangle” and lies along the Sunda shelf where the rich biodiversity in the world can be found; see Figure 1 Palawan Biodiversity Characteristics. However, the nature of Palawan can be considered fragile from its attribute such as its narrow mainland, composed of small islands and steep topography, high erodible soils with small watersheds and short rivers and the soil geology is impermeable.
Figure 1: Palawan Biodiversity Characteristics
- 15 lakes, 42 ponds, 44 waterfalls, 72 natural springs, 9 mineral springs, 28 principal rivers, 43 streams and 165 creeks identified as potential sources of water for domestic consumption and irrigation.
- Composed of approximately 690,000 hectares of terrestrial forest
- With 42,500 hectares of mangrove forests, having 31 species and 90% of the known mangrove species in the country
- Palawan has 13 out of the 16 sea grasses that can be found in the country
- 8 of the 11 amphibians endemic to the Philippines are found only in Palawan
- 279 species of birds are found in Palawan and 27 are endemic to the country
- 15 of the 25 marine mammals in the Philippines are found in Palawan
- 58 species of terrestrial mammals are recorded and 19 or 33% are endemic to the country and 16 are restricted to the Mantalingahan Range
- Composed of 24 endemic reptiles and 69 species are found in the corridor
- 4 of the 5 marine turtles are found in Palawan
- 379 species of corals found in Palawan and 82% of the total coral species recorded in the country
- 2 World Heritage Sites: Tubbataha Reef in the municipality of Cagayancilllo and the Puerto Princesa National Subterranean River in the City of Puerto Princesa
Source: Critical Ecosystem Partnership Fund Identification of Bio-diversity Hotspot
Due to Palawan’s uniqueness, the United Nations Educational Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO), declared it as a “Man and Biosphere Reserve” owing to its vast land area and topography divided by tall mountains ranges such as Mt. Mantalingahan, Mt. Gantung in the southern part and Cleopatra’s Needle in the northern part of the province with an average elevation approximately 1,100 meters.
Palawan is also the home to three (3) major indigenous communities namely: Batak which can be located in the central and northern part, Tagbanua in the central, northern and southern part and Pala’wan in the southern part of the province. These tribal groups have roamed around the province without much to deal with government bureaucracy. Now the NagkakaisangTribo ng Palawan (NaTriPal) a federation of tribal organizations has to deal with three government administrations.
As of 2010 Palawan (excluding Puerto Princesa City) has a total population of 771,667. With a 2.66% growth rate, in 2019 Palawan population is approximately 935,878. On the other hand, Puerto Princesa City has a total of 222,673 as of 2010 census. With a 3.24 growth rate, the current population would be approximately 287,604.
 UNESCO: Ecological Sciences and Sustainable Development, http://www.unesco.org/new/en/natural-sciences/environment/ecological-sciences/biosphere-reserves/asia-and-the-pacific/philippines/palawan
Philippine Statistics Authority: https://psa.gov.ph/content/palawan%27s-population-increased-180-thousand-results-2010-census-population-and-housing
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