NAGA CITY – During the public hearing conducted by the Senate Committee on Local Government on the bill proposing the division of Camarines Sur, Governor Luis Raymund Villafuerte made an appeal to move the proposed plebiscite on the matter after the 2013 mid-term elections.
Some 8000 protagonists on both sides of the issue packed the Naga City Coliseum Thursday for a Senate committee hearing that lasted for 6 hours. Senator Bongbong Marcos presided over the meeting with committe members, Senators Gregorio Honasan and Manuel Villar also in attendance.
Leading opponent of the bill Gov. Villafuerte told newsmen after the public hearing, “hinahamon nila kami”, takot daw kami sa plebisito, pero ang totoo gusto nilang madaliin ang plebisito, para maka-paglagay sila ng kandidato sa bagong probinsya.”
"Ang panukalang hatiin ang probinsya ay kailangan pa ng masusing pag-aaral, huwag nating madaliin ang isang bagay na maapektuhan ang nasa 1.6-milyong mamayan ng Cam. Sur,” the Governor added.
Villafuerte stressed that it is not a matter of meeting the legal requirements to enable the division of the province, “but to consider the economic viability of the two resulting provinces.”
Camarines Sur is presently the leading province in Bicol in terms of land area, income, population and with enormous advancements attained in tourism and agriculture, the Governor noted.
On the other hand, leading proponents of the bill, 4th District Cam. Sur Congressman Arnulfo Fuentebella and allies Congressmen Luis Villafuerte and Rolando Andaya Jr., urged the Senate committee to conclude the arguments on the division bill and “let the people decide on the division agenda in a proposed plebiscite on Sept. 22 this year.”
Senate has adopted a time table designed to fast-track the passage the bill and pave the way for holdig of a plebiscite this September. But Marcos admitted, “Maikli talaga ang panahon, “the passage of the bill is closely affected by the scheduled filing of candidacy on the first week of October this year.”
Senator Joker Arroyo, a native of Baao, Camarines Sur stated in a letter read during the hearing, “that he was opposing the Cam. Sur division, which will consequently create two “weak provinces,” or second class provinces, after the division.
Arroyo called the present Camarines Sur as the “Oragon province” among the six provinces of Bicolandia.
There are 2 Bicolano Senators in the local government committee, Senator Honasan and Antonio Trillanes. The latter was quoted earlier as saying, “there is no compelling reason to pursue the division of Cam. Sur."
An early pro-division supporter, Iriga City Mayor Madelaine Alfelor Gazmen, also said in apparent change of heart that “her conscience dictated her not to support the bill and cautioned the public to read and understand the provisions of HB 4820 with many infirmities of the bill that is disadvantageous to the constituents of the proposed province before voting in the plebiscite.”
Gazmen added that six mayors of the Rinconada district, which is among the territories being included in the proposed province, have declared opposition to the bill.
Spokesman for Naga City Mayor John Bongat, Allen Riondanga, said the Mayor was happy to have hosted the hearing and had ordered to provide funds and security for the historic event.
Naga City being a charter City do not vote for provincial officials and shall not also be involved in the division plebiscite on Sept. (SONNY SALES)