COMMENT: A riddle and a challenge

Shariff Kabunsuan, composed of eight old and three new municipalities, was born through a plebiscite last October 28.  The old towns: Barira, Buldon, Datu Odin Sinsuat, Kabuntalan, Matanog, Parang, Sultan Kudarat and Upi.  The new: Datu Blah Sinsuat, Sultan Mastura and North Kabuntalan – the last ratified only last December 30.

The new province was the first congressional district of Maguindanao.  Having an airport at Awang, Datu Odin Sinsuat and a port at Polloc, Parang, it is the more prosperous part of undivided Maguindanao. Sultan Kudarat, the seat of the old provincial government, is among the two or three prosperous municipalities.

Mother Maguindanao is left with the old municipalities of Ampatuan, Buluan, Datu Paglas, Datu Piang, Pagalungan, SK Pendatun, Shariff Aguak, South Upi, Sultan sa Barongis and Talayan.  It was the old second congressional district of Maguindanao.

From the 10 old towns have sprung twelve new:  Mamasapano, Montawal, Talitay, Paglat, Datu Unsay, Rajah Buayan, Saudi Ampatuan, Datu Abdullah Sangki, Guindulungan, and the three newly ratified (last December 30) Datu Anggal Midtimbang, Pandag and Mangudadatu.

With the exception of Sutan Mastura, the 14 other new towns have sprung from 12 malnourished mothers.  How these children can become more robust than their mothers is the riddle of the fastest town-growing province.                  

Economic

Along with SK Pendatun, the15 new municipalities were created by the Regional Legislative Assembly of the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao – SK Pendatun being the first created in 1990.  The common reason for creating so many municipalities is to spur economic development and facilitate essential services.

How developed was Maguindanao in 1995?  According to a special report of the National Economic and Development Authority, of the 18 municipalities in the province, six were 5th class, two 6th class, and 10 4th class and higher.   Most, if not all, of the 10 must be in 4th and 3rd classes.

What percent of the income of the 18 municipalities came from IRA (Internal Revenue Allotment)?  Primarily based on population and area, not on revenue collection, IRA falsely reflects economic development of underdeveloped provinces and municipalities.   

In the absence of updated statistics beginning 2000, it could only be asked:  Have the original 18 municipalities climbed two rungs in the classification ladder before they were subdivided in the last six years?

And the next relevant question:  Is it economically viable to subdivide 3rd and 4th class municipalities?  Is there sense in subdividing 5th and 6th class municipalities?

Take note of the following:

From Pagalungan was carved out S.K. Pendatun in 1990.  Later, Montawal (Pagagawan) was sliced off Mother Pagalungan and Paglat was created out of S.K. Pendatun. 

From Talayan were carved out Guindulungan and Talitay.  Not many years after, Datu Anggal Midtimbang was created out of Mother Talayan and Talitay, which was ratified last December 30 together with Pandag and Mangudadatu, both sliced from Buluan.

From the four adjacent old municipalities of Ampatuan, Datu Piang, Shariff Aguak (Maganoy) and Sultan sa  Barongis were carved out the new towns of Mamasapano, Datu Unsay, Rajah Buayan, Saudi Ampatun and Datu Abdullah Sangki.

All the above are in the poorer second congressional district of Maguindanao which retained its name as the mother province after the separation of the first district as Shariff Kabunsuan.

In Shariff  Kabunsuan, Sultan Kudarat, obviously the most prosperous of the 18 old Maguindanao municipalities, was split to create Sultan Mastura and from Upi was carved out Datu Blah Sinsuat.  From among the poorest of the 18, Kabuntalan, was lopped off North Kabuntalan. 

It’s as much a riddle as a paradox:  To develop a poor province or municipality, subdivide it.  That is an “economic theory” Maguindanao and her daughter province and the18 municipalities and their 15 daughters have to prove to be right in order to show the cynics wrong.

Politics

Another reason buzzing around for the town-creation frenzy is to have better control of peace and order.  Sounds sensible!  Fifteen additional police forces under the supervision of fifteen additional mayors will evidently make a big difference.

One cause of troubles, it was pointed out, was the political rivalry among local leaders.  The creation of more towns would minimize the rivalry. Hence, the quip: Were the municipalities created for the mayors?

The creation of Shariff Kabunsuan province would assure the Ampatuans of political dominance in the 2007 election and, perhaps, longer.  While assured of support in the new municipalities, Gov. Datu Andal Ampatuan has virtually crippled the Matalams.

In Shariff Kabunsuan, the Sinsuat clan, led by appointive Gov. Bimbo Sinsuat, has had a political resurrection.  If in the 2007 election, the governor teams up with his vice governor from the  Tomawis clan, the Sinsuat-Tomawis ticket may be unbeatable.

But the Sinsuats will be less assured of longer political dominance than the Ampatuans.  The old rivalry between the ruling clans west of Tamontaka Bridge and east of Quirino Bridge, with Cotabato City between, may re-emerge.  The forces are balanced and the rivalry could be bitter.

In fact, a sign of political uneasiness in the new province has already emerged.  The seat of government is in Dalican, Datu Odin Sinsuat – the governor’s hometown. Why not make Sultan Kudarat the capital where capitol and other facilities are already in place?  

Should the Sinsuats lose power, say to the Masturas or any other factions east of Quirino Bridge, will the provincial seat be returned to Sultan Kudarat?

Billions of pesos have been spent to build the government facilities in Sultan Kudarat.  Where will the new province get the billions to build similar facilities in Dalican? Will the governor’s office be in Dalican and the others in Sultan Kudarat?

Challenge

The Maguindanons and Iranuns have just created for themselves a challenge: Translate into economic prosperity and stable peace and order the division of Maguindanao and the multiplication of the municipalities.  Let the world know they have the last laugh as they have ample resources.

Maguindanao, the mother province, has two big irrigation systems: the Kabulnan and the Malitubog-Maridagao.  Kabulnan irrigation has effected some change in the last three years.  But the patches of irrigated fields along the highway through Ampatuan and Shariff Aguak show that Kabulnan is not yet being fully used.

Life must have improved in the last three years more than before as seen along the road.  There are more houses of strong materials; at past six o’clock in the evening, unlike before, the villages are alive. Is the same true farther in interior areas?

These are among the signs of creeping economic development and peace and order.  They are encouraging but still far from the fulfillment of the challenge:  To catch up, keep up, and – better — surpass the presently progressive provinces in Mindanao and elsewhere in the country.  (“Comment" is Mr. Patricio P. Diaz' column for MindaViews, the opinion section of MindaNews. Mr. Diaz is the recipient of a “Lifetime Achievement Award” from the Titus Brandsma for his "commitment to education and public information to Mindanawons as Journalist, Educator and Peace Advocate." You may e-mail your comments to [email protected]This email address is being protected from spam bots, you need Javascript enabled to view it )

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