New congressional district for Bukidnon proposed

MALAYBALAY CITY (MindaNews/18 December) – A proposal for the creation of a fourth congressional district in Bukidnon will be tackled in a public consultation  on January 6 next year.

Nemesio Beltran, Jr., majority floor leader of the Sangguniang Panlalawigan (provincial legislature),  said Vice Gov. Jose Ma. R. Zubiri Jr., presiding officer of the SP, wrote them on December 9 that the consultation will also involve all the mayors, vice mayors, city and municipal councilors and barangay captains.

The three congressmen of the province were also invited, Beltran added.

Bukidnon has two component  cities, 20 municipalities and 464 barangays.

He said the proposed new district will be carved out of Valencia City in the second district, Kadingilan town in the third district, and Kalilangan and Pangantucan towns in the first district.

Beltran filed a resolution on the creation of a fourth district earlier this year along with the revival of the proposal to divide Bukidnon into two provinces.

The resolution authorized the Committee of the Whole to conduct public hearings on 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 by Zubiri who was then a member of the Batasang Pambansa.

He proposed that the mother province, with a combined population of 535,267 as of the 2007 census, 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, an ally of Zubiri’s and his provincial legal officer before becoming a board member in 2007, cited that the province now has two cities, a population of about 1.2 million, an internal revenue allotment 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, a lot of opportunities for employment, investment, livelihood, infrastructure development,” Beltran said.

“In short, 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.

Under the Local Government Code of 1991, a new province may be created if it has an average annual income of  not less than P20 million, and a population of  at least 250,000 or a contiguous territory of at least 2,000 square kilometers.
Then 3rd District congressman and now Sen. Juan Miguel Zubiri also filed a bill during his first term in the House of Representatives (1998 to 2001) for the division of the province.  But the SP did not endorse [the bill] and then Bukidnon 1st District congressman Neric Acosta also blocked the move.

The younger Zubiri again filed a similar bill in 2006. And again, Acosta stood in his way, accusing his former colleague of gerrymandering.

The Zubiris and other proponents of the creation of Bukidnon del Sur have been silent about the proposal since.

Public interest in the proposal also waned even if there were talks that Don Carlos and Maramag towns were vying to be the capital of the proposed Bukidnon del Sur.

Beltran told MindaNews last week the proposal was placed in the order of business of the SP but Vice Governor Zubiri temporarily called it off.

Zubiri told the board members that they might as well discuss it first in an executive or closed-door session.  (Walter I. Balane / MindaNews)