Maguindanao plebiscite

Maguindanao split to improve access to basic services, says provincial gov’t

Dwight de Leon
Maguindanao split to improve access to basic services, says provincial gov’t

YES CAMPAIGN. Workers set up a campaign material urging Maguindanao residents to vote yes for the division of their province.

courtesy of the Barira local government unit

Maguindanao Provincial Administrator Cyrus Torreña says the geography of the province hampers them from reaching far-flung areas

MANILA, Philippines – The provincial government of Maguindanao said it was hopeful that the proposed division of the province into two would allow residents better access to basic services.

In a Rappler Talk interview on Wednesday, September 14, Maguindanao Provincial Administrator Cyrus Torreña shared that the geography of the province hampers them from reaching far-flung areas.

“We are in the municipality of Buluan, which is in the end portion of [what could become] Maguindanao del Sur… If you are going to Bongo island, it will take you more than 24 hours from Buluan. By that alone, the delivery of basic services is at stake,” Torreña explained.

“Even that Bongo island does not have easy access to hospitals,” he added. “Residents know that the delivery of basic services will be better if there are two provincial governments.”

Maguindanao split to improve access to basic services, says provincial gov’t

Hundreds of thousands of registered voters in Maguindanao are casting their ballots in a plebiscite on Saturday, September 17, to determine whether they want to ratify the law which divided Maguindanao into Maguindanao del Norte and Maguindanao del Sur.

Proponents of the measure in Congress had said the split seeks to address challenges on providing public health care, education, and transportation to the most remote villages.

No security threats

Torreña said it’s “all systems go” on Saturday, asserting they have prepared enough to proceed with the plebiscite.

“So far, there are no [security threats],” Torreña said. “The preparations are better for this than the preparations for the national and local elections last May.”

The Maguindanao provincial government allotted P89.1 million to fund the conduct of the plebiscite, which was originally expected to be conducted in September 2021, but was postponed by the Comelec until after the 2022 elections due to preparations for the national polls.

No opposition

On Saturday, polling places will open from 7 am to 3 pm. The announcement of plebiscite results is expected on Sunday, September 18.

Local officials have been predicting an easy win for the “yes” vote, amid lack of visible campaigns to oppose the proposed split of the province.

“If anyone wants to stand and say they will vote ‘no,’ come to me and let’s talk so I can give them their space,” Torreña said. “We welcome opposition if they exist.”

The division of Maguindanao has been a long journey, dating back to as early as 2006, when the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao formed the province of Shariff Kabunsuan from the 10 municipalities in Maguindanao.

A succeeding referendum resulted in a landslide victory for split proponents, but the new province was dissolved only two years later after the Supreme Court found its creation unconstitutional. – Rappler.com

* All quotes in Filipino were translated into English.

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Dwight de Leon

Dwight de Leon is a multimedia reporter who covers local government units and the Commission on Elections for Rappler.