Davao Occidental province to be created

Posted on November 11, 2013

DAVAO CITY -- The Commission on Elections (Comelec) has proclaimed last Oct. 30 victory on the proposed creation of Davao Occidental after it was approved by residents of Davao del Sur during the Oct. 28 plebiscite.

"While Republic Act No. 10360 created the charter of the province of Davao Occidental in January 2013, its ratification during the last plebiscite made it officially the newest province," Comelec provincial director Maria Febes M. Barlaan said.

Davao Occidental includes the municipalities of Sta. Maria, Malita, Don Marcelino, Jose Abad Santos and Sarangani.

Davao del Sur will be left with Digos City, Kiblawan, Magsaysay, Matanao, Bansalan, Sta. Cruz, Hagonoy, Padada, Sulop and Malalag.

"Out of the 235,301 people who voted, 180,162 voted yes for the creation of the new province while 55,139 voted no, or were against the creation of the new province," she said.

An estimated 43% of the 553,092 total registered voters of the province of Davao del Sur cast their votes during the plebiscite, which was conducted at the same time during the barangay polls that were held last month.

The creation of a new province to be called Davao Occidental is seen as a good move by most residents as it will not only spread economic growth but will also bring the government closer to the people. "I am for the creation of the new province of Davao Occidental. With the creation, the municipalities of Sta. Maria, Malita, Don Marcelino and Sarangani will be given more attention, particularly on the budget allocation and implementation of programs and projects, said Jason John Joyce, Davao del Sur board member.

Mr. Joyce, who hails from Jose Abad Santos town, which is included in the new province, said the new capitol will be in the town of Malita.

He said the new Davao Occidental provincial capitol will be more accessible to the people, government officials and employees compared with the existing capitol of Davao del Sur located in Digos City.

Digos City is several hours away from the other municipalities, which makes the delivery of basic services and access to the various government offices difficult.

"Only a majority vote of those who actually voted during the plebiscite is needed to get a winning yes or no vote," Ms. Barlaan said.

Lawyer Genevieve Marie Brandares-Paulino said: "I am for whatever is beneficial to the people. I support and will support all initiatives that are for the general welfare."

"The creation of Davao Occidental is synonymous to ensuring the people of the far-flung municipalities an opportunity for advancement and progress," Ms. Paulino said.

"It is tantamount to giving the people of far-flung municipalities assurance that their concerns will be easily addressed by making the government closer to the people literally," she added.

While the residents approved the creation of the province of Davao Occidental during last month’s barangay elections, the officials of the new province will be determined only after the 2016 local and national elections.

Ms. Barlaan said there will be no officer-in-charge so the province will be placed under the concurrent Davao del Sur governor. In the meantime, the appropriate agencies will delineate the boundaries, assets, liabilities and properties of Davao del Sur and Davao Occidental.

Ms. Barlaan said the creation of Davao Occidental will remedy the slow pace of economic development in the second district municipalities of Davao del Sur.

The law requires that a new province should have a population of at least 250,000, a minimum land area of 2,000 square kilometers and a minimum income of P20 million.

Official figures show that as of 2010, the proposed Davao Occidental has a population of 293,780, a land area of 2,183.97 square meters, and an average annual income of P113 million. -- C. A. Carillo