Divide Bukidnon plan revived

MALAYBALAY CITY (MindaNews/25 July) – A resolution filed two days before the first regular session of the 15th Sangguniang Panlalawigan proposes to revive the plan to divide Bukidnon into two provinces.

Nemesio Beltran Jr., provincial board majority floor leader, sponsored the resolution convening and authorizing the Committee of the Whole to conduct public hearings as to whether “it is now viable and appropriate to divide the province into ‘Bukidnon province’ and ‘Bukidnon del Sur’.”

Beltran noted that Bukidnon del Sur was first proposed in the 1980s.

“Hence, it would now be appropriate to find out once again, through proper consultations and public hearings, whether it would now be viable to finally push through with the division of the province,” Beltran said in his proposed resolution filed on July 12, two days before the SP opened.

It is not the first time that plan has been revived, however. There was a similar move in 2006 when then Rep. Juan Miguel Zubiri (3rd District) was ending his third three-year term and was contemplating to run for senator.

Rep. Neric Acosta (1st District) was among those who severely criticized the proposal. He was completing his third term at that time and was eyeing to run for Bukidnon governor against Zubiri’s father,  the reelectionist  governor Jose Ma. R. Zubiri Jr.

Both Zubiris won in the 2007 election although the younger Zubiri’s closest rival in the 12th seat for the Senate, Aquilino Pimentel III, has contested Zubiri’s victory.

From 2007 to 2010, the Zubiris and other proponents of the creation of Bukidnon del Sur kept silent about the proposed division.

Beltran told MindaNews last week the proposal was placed in the order of business but presiding officer Vice Gov. Alex Calingasan temporarily called it off.

Zubiri told the board members that they should discuss it first in an executive session.

Beltran, an ally of Zubiri and provincial legal officer prior to his election as board member in 2007,  said the province now has two bustling cities, a population of about 1.2 million, an internal revenue allotment share of P1.1 billion per year, and a fast-growing economy due to the influx of investments.

“Indeed, Bukidnon has now grown so big that it may be more advantageous to divide it into two, so that it would be easier in terms of management, delivery of basic services, more funds will flow to both provinces , and there would be a lot of opportunities for employment, investment, livelihood, infrastructure development,” Beltran said.

“The division will speed up and hasten progress and development, especially so that we are now in the global age of stiff economic competition,” he added.

The Local Government Code of 1991 requires a population of 250,000 and an income of P20 million for the creation of a province, Beltran noted.

He proposed that the mother province, with a combined population of 535,267 as of 2007 population census, will be composed of the present capital Malaybalay City and the towns of San Fernando, Cabanglasan, Lantapan, Impasug-ong, Sumilao, Manolo Fortich, Libona, Baungon, Malitbog, and Talakag.

The proposed Bukidnon del Sur, with a combined population of 633,624, will be composed of Valencia City as its capital and the towns of Kalilangan, Pangantucan, Maramag, Don Carlos, Kitaotao, Dangcagan, Kadingilan, Quezon, Kibawe, and Damulog.

Beltran’s proposal also includes the creation of a fourth congressional district to make it possible to have two congressional districts each.

The proposed resolution said all members of society must be consulted in the process, including all local government units, non-government organizations, people’s organizations, academe, senior citizens, women sector, youth sector, and others “before a decision shall be reached whether the proposed division be forwarded to Congress for enactment into law.” The law also requires a plebiscite in order to push through with the division.

Beltran said they will require the different stakeholders to submit a position paper.

The resolution was not tackled during the SP’s July 21 regular session. (Walter I. Balane/MindaNews)