PUERTO PRINCESA CITY, July 31 – Palawan will strongly oppose its renewed inclusion in the new independent state that is being proposed under the Bangsamoro Basic Law (BBL).
Palawan First District Rep. Franz Alvarez, 2nd District Rep. Frederick Abueg, and 3rd District Rep. Gil Acosta vowed to make their opposition loud and clear in the House of Representatives.
“The three of us will be together in the lower house to fight against Palawan’s re-inclusion in the Bangsamoro territory because the people already said no in the past. The votes for non-inclusion in the past plebiscites were very, very resounding. It has not reached the House, but when it gets there, of course, the three of us will oppose strongly,” Abueg said in a phone interview with the Philippine News Agency (PNA).
“Palawan has made a decision already, if I’m not mistaken, this is the third or fourth time. Our position about it is clear, we will not join,” Acosta said in an earlier interview, adding the province is not adjoined to Mindanao.
Acosta added “not even all Muslims in the province want to be part of the Bangsamoro independent state.”
For his part, Alvarez confirmed that all three of them have talked about the concern and agreed to oppose the renewed inclusion.
“All three of us have discussed this and we agreed we will oppose Palawan’s inclusion and (express)the sentiments of our district,” Alvarez said.
Abueg clarified they do not oppose the BBL as a means to achieve lasting peace in Mindanao, but only the fact that the province had been included again in the draft.
“Let us clarify that we do not oppose the BBL. What we oppose is that Palawan is there again being mentioned in the draft,” he stated.
Opposition to the renewed inclusion of Palawan in the proposed independent state that would eventually replace the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (ARMM) started to mount last week.
On July 25, members of the Sangguniang Panlalawigan unanimously approved a resolution authored by Board Member David Francis Ponce de Leon which expressed strong objection to the proposed inclusion.
Ponce de Leon said there had been five attempts to include Palawan in the Bangsamoro territory, but all failed because of the “overwhelming rejection” by residents who voted 95 percent against.
“Even the Muslim residents peacefully residing in the municipalities of Balabac, Bataraza, Brooke’s Point, and Sofronio Española in southern Palawan joined in voting against the same (inclusion),” said the board member.
At the Sangguniang Panlungsod, city councilors unanimously passed Monday morning a resolution also vehemently opposing the inclusion in the said Bangsamoro state.
Councilor Nesario Awat took advantage of the Privilege Hour in the Sangguniang Panlungsod to articulate his opposition to the inclusion of the province in the anticipated Bangsamoro state.
“We have to recall that in the previous administrations a long time ago that Puerto Princesa is against the inclusion of Palawan in that proposed BBL. It is incumbent upon all of us to act on this,” Awat said.
Councilor Victor Oliveros also spoke during the Privilege Hour and reiterated the city’s position against the inclusion.
“In Palawan, who are here are the Cuyunon, the Agutaynen, the Batak, the Tagbanua, there is no Moro… We are not also contiguous to Mindanao, and it cannot also be said that we’re adjoined there because of the sea,” he said.
Oliveros said his opposition is not at all saying he is not one with “our Muslim brothers” in wanting peace in Mindanao.
“We respect our Muslim brothers, and we respect them. However, I will not agree to Palawan’s inclusion to the Bangsamoro state,” he said.
On the other hand, senior Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF) leader Estino Jairi Ayyobie, who belongs to the Yusop Jikiri faction, clarified that the mention of Palawan in Section 1, Article II of the BBL draft only pertains to the Bangsamoro Identity.
In the draft BBL, he said the first that was mentioned is the core area of the ARMM. Then the expanded area, which includes Cotabato City, some municipalities in Lanao del Norte, and some barangays in North Cotabato.
Palawan, Ayyobie stated, is not included in the expanded area.
“Palawan was only mentioned in the Bangsamoro identity… what’s said there, as far as I know, is including Bangsamoro in Palawan. It did not say Palawan is included only the Bangsamoro people living in Palawan,” Ayyobie stated.
Section 1 of the BBL draft said the Bangsamoro Identity is: “Those who, at the advent of the Spaniards, were considered natives or original inhabitants of Mindanao and the Sulu Archipelago and its adjacent islands, including Palawan, and their descendants, whether of mixed blood or full blood, shall have the right to identify themselves as Bangsamoro by ascription or self-ascription. Spouses and their descendants are classified Bangsamoro.”
If in Balabac there are 15,000 registered qualified voters, and 10% signed for petition, they can be part of the plebiscite – 90 days before plebiscite they can file to join,” Ayyobie said.
The BBL was a bill deliberated upon by the 16th Congress of the Philippines that would have established a proposed new autonomous political entity known as the Bangsamoro Autonomous Region (BAR) replacing ARMM.
The Basic Law would have provided for the essential structure of government for the BAR, and enacted the agreements set forth in the Comprehensive Agreement on the Bangsamoro, which is the peace agreement signed between the Government of the Philippines and the Moro Islamic Liberation Front in 2014.