Comelec suspends preparations for Palawan plebiscite

PALAWAN, Philippines – The coronavirus outbreak has forced the Commission on Elections (Comelec) to suspend all preparatory activities leading to the May 11 plebiscite that would ratify the division of Palawan into 3 separate provinces.

In a memorandum dated March 25, the Comelec en banc cited the Luzon-wide enhanced community quarantine as the primary reason for the suspension of the activities. Acting Comelec Secretary Consuelo Diola signed the memorandum, which was released to the media only on April 2.

The suspension takes effect immediately, the Comelec said.

Republic Act No. 11259, which divides Palawan into Palawan Del Norte, Palawan Oriental and Palawan Del Sur, was signed by President Rodrigo Duterte in April last year.

Last week, pro-division Governor Jose Alvarez formally requested the Comelec to postpone the plebiscite until the outbreak is contained, based on the earlier recommendation of the provincial board.

Cynthia Sumagaysay- del Rosario of One Palawan Movement also said that the group has requested for the postponement or cancellation of the plebiscite because of the pandemic.

“The quarantine period can be useful for the people to contemplate on what is happening around them. What we have been saying about governance is so evident now, the roles of the municipalities and barangays in the delivery of basic services are being highlighted. Some local leaders excel while some disappoint. The quality of leadership or governance has become the main issue. Dividing the province has become irrelevant,” del Rosario said. (READ: Is it too late to debate breaking up Palawan into 3 provinces?

Palawan recorded its first coronavirus case on March 21, a 26-year-old male Australian tourist who flew out of Puerto Princesa City on March 17 through a “mercy flight” to Clark via Airswift.

Public and private hospitals in the province have also been readied to receive patients under investigation (PUIs) and COVID-19 cases. 

As of late Thursday afternoon, April 2, the Department of Health (DOH) said there are 2,633 coronavirus cases nationwide, 107 of whom have died while 51 have recovered. – Rappler.com