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Another province looms in Bicol

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It is almost imminent that Bicol would have one more province in addition to the six now comprising the region.

When finally approved by the Philippine Congress, Camarines Sur would be split into two separate domains with the new province called Nueva Camarines as proposed under House Bill 4820 principally authored by Rep. Noli Fuentebella of the province’s fourth district.

The province, composed of 35 towns and two cities within its 526,682 hectares land area that is 29.87 percent of the total regional area is the largest among the six provinces of Bicol. Camarines Sur has a population of 1,693,821 as of the 2007 census of the National Statistics Office (NSO) which is more than 25 percent of the 5,106,160 population of the region.

In a statement received here over the week, Fuentebella said the proposed law entitled “An Act Creating the New Province of Nueva Camarines”, has been overwhelmingly approved by the House of Representatives last week with a total of 229 of the 285-member legislative chamber favoring its enactment.

The lone congressman, who disapproved the measure was Salvio Fortuno of the province’s fifth district whose area covering the City of Iriga and six municipalities would be included with the new province together with the nine towns of the fourth district called the Partido Area being represented by Fuentebella.

Camarines Sur would retain 18 towns within its first three congressional districts, including the provincial capital of Pili. All the three congressmen of the districts -- Rolando Andaya Jr., Diosdado “Dato” Arroyo and Luis Villafuerte favored the split and even enlisted themselves as co-authors of the Fuentebella bill. Naga City which sits within the area covered by the third district is an independent component.

Governor Luis Raymund Villafuerte, along with other elective local officials and the 300-strong Camarines Sur Chamber of Commerce, has also registered vehement oppositions to the measure and appealed to the Senate to junk it.

The oppositions were based on findings of a study by a University of the Philippines (UP)-based think -ank showing that local residents 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 study supported the latest findings by the Local Government Development Foundation (Logodef) and the German foundation Konrad Adenauer saying that consolidation, rather than fragmentation, should be done for local government units (LGUs) because the latter as in creating a new province would cost over P800 million, as of the 2005 prices.

Fuentebella, however, believes otherwise as he insisted that the creation of a new province will give its would-be constituents a positive stance in terms of progress and development given that the new Internal Revenue Allotments (IRA) it would receive will give an advantageous favor to concerned local government units.

He said that majority of the 35 Camarines Sur town mayors are supportive of the measure.

As debates over the split rages in the local level, Fuentebella said it should not reach a point that would heat up local officials and the public as “after all, the ultimate decision will still lie in the hands of around one million voters of the province who will give their final verdict on the fate of House Bill 4820 in a referendum. (Danny O. Calleja-PNA)




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