MALAYBALAY CITY (MindaNews/15 January) – Creating a new legislative district in Bukidnon will perfectly fit into the plan to divide the province into two, Vice Gov. Jose Ma. R. Zubiri Jr. said in his report Wednesday to the Sangguniang Panlalawigan (SP).
Zubiri, who was governor from 2001 to 2010, said the proposed Bukidnon del Sur as well as the mother province will have two congressional districts, 10 towns and a city each.
Zubiri, who initiated the proposal to divide the province even before he became governor, backed the move upon its revival in the run-up to the 2007 elections. But the plan did not prosper due to opposition from different sectors.
Saying it was a priority, the vice governor explained having another district would mean an additional P70 million from the Priority Development Assistance Fund to the province.
The SPheld a consultation on the proposal to create a new district on January 6 at Bukidnon’s Folk Arts Theater. It was attended by close to 500 city, municipal and barangay officials.
The consultation came after the SP approved, on Nov. 17 last year, a resolution filed by Provincial Board Member Nemesio Beltran Jr. urging Congress to pass a bill that would create a fourth district in Bukidnon.
Beltran said the proposal reconfigures the existing three districts and meets the required 250,000 population for each district.
Based on the 2007 census, Bukidnon has a population of 1.19 million. The second district where the cities of Malaybalay and Valencia belong has a population of 474,943.
If the proposal is approved, Malaybalay will remain in the second district along with the towns of Lantapan, Cabanglasan and San Fernando. But it will lose Impasugong town to the first district.
Valencia will go to the fourth district along with Kadingilan from the third district and Kalilangan and Pangantucan from the first district.
The first district will retain Baungon, Sumilao, Manolo Fortich, Malitbog, Talakag, and Libona.
The third district will be the biggest in terms of population and will be left with the towns of Damulog, Dangcagan, Don Carlos, Maramag, Kibawe, Kitaotao, and Quezon.
Mayor Mario Okinlay of Impasug-ong objected to the inclusion of the town in the proposed new district. He said they are more comfortable in being with the second district because Malaybalay has less need for PDAF since it has a more stable financial status.
Zubiri noted it was not an objection to the proposed new district.
Okinlay, a Zubiri ally, also expressed apprehensions over the possibility of the Acostas regaining control of the first district.
The first district was once controlled by the Acostas. Socorro Acosta was its representative from 1987 to 1998. Her son, Nereus Acosta, also became a three-term representative, from 1998 to 2007 after which he ran for governor but lost to Zubiri.
Rep. Jesus Paras (1st district) was at the consultation. He said he harbored no qualms about the town’s resistance to be in his district.
Zubiri tasked Okinlay to present data from the National Statistics Office that Impasugong’s population is enough to meet the required number if San Fernando town will be included in the fourth district and not in the second district.
Mayor Manolito Garces of Pangantucan initially objected to their inclusion in the proposed new district but he eventually agreed to it.
Zubiri said there are no personal interests behind the proposal, a stab at Gov. Alex Calingasan’s opening remarks cautioning against possible personal interests behind the move.
Zubiri told MindaNews the mayors and barangay captains will hold consultations in their areas so they could pass resolutions urging Bukidnon’s three congressmen to file a bill creating the fourth district. (Walter I. Balane/MindaNews)