(Editor’s Note: An earlier version of this story did not say that the division of Maguindanao into two provinces has to be ratified through a plebiscite. This has been corrected.)
The Philippines may soon have two new provinces after President Rodrigo Duterte signed a law dividing Maguindanao into two – Maguindanao del Norte and Maguindanao del Sur.
Duterte signed Republic Act No. 11550 on Thursday, May 27, according to a copy of the law provided to Malacañang reporters. A majority of residents must approve the creation of the two provinces in a plebiscite to be conducted by the Commission on Elections within 90 days from the law’s effectivity.
According to Presidential Spokesperson Harry Roque, Mindanao lawmakers and local executives also held a meeting with Duterte on Wednesday, May 26, partly to mark the signing of the measure.
Maguindanao del Norte will be composed of the municipalities of Barira, Buldon, Datu Blah Sinsuat, Datu Odin Sinsuat, Kabuntalan, Matanog, Northern Kabuntalan, Parang, North Upi, Sultan Kudarat, Sultan Mastura, and Talitay. Its seat of government will be Datu Odin Sinsuat.
Maguindanao del Sur will be composed of Ampatuan, Buluan, Datu Abdulla Sangki, Datu Anggal Midtimbang, Datu Hoffer Ampatuan, Datu Montawal, Datu Paglas, Datu Piang, Datu Salibo, Datu Saudi Ampatuan, Datu Unsay, Gen. Salipada K. Pendatun, Guindulungan, Mamasapano, Mangudadatu, Pagalungan, Paglat, Pandag, Rajah Buayan, Sharif Aguak, Sharif Saydona Mustafa, Sultan sa Barongis, Talayan, and South Upi. Its seat of government will be Buluan.
The champions of the law in the House of Representatives were Maguindanao 1st District Representative Datu Roonie Sinsuat Sr. and Maguindanao 2nd District Representative Esmael Mangudadatu. The Mangudadatus are allies of President Duterte who supported his presidential campaign in 2016. Duterte also supported the senatorial bid of Dong Mangudadatu, brother of Esmael.
The Senate adopted the consolidated House bill and it was sponsored by Senator Francis Tolentino and co-sponsored by senators Sherwin Gatchalian, Ramon Revilla Jr., Joel Villanueva, Majority Leader Juan Miguel Zubiri, and Senate President Vicente Sotto III.
In a press release, Tolentino said that due to Maguindanao’s size, it had become a challenge for the provincial government “to provide basic services like public health care, education, and transportation to the most remote villages.”
Maguindanao has a population of 1,173,933, according to the 2015 census. It has an average annual income of P714.56 million. – Rappler.com