Sibale seeks town cut-off

SIBALE ISLAND, Romblon—Residents of this isolated island in the central Philippines have accused the provincial government and their congressman of neglecting their needs and demanded to be annexed to another province, officials said.

Sibale Mayor Lemuel Cipriano said 90 percent of 4,500 population sought to be re-annexed to Oriental Mindoro where it once belonged “so we can have a better future “ and hope to get out of the list of “poorest of the poor provinces.”

“Sibale has nine coastal barangays, but it has no public market, no hotel and restaurant, no commercial district, no refueling station, no calling station, no hospitals, no national government offices, It has only a police station with 12 policemen,” Cipriano said.

“You name it and we have none,” said former town councilor Deo Atilano. “Sibale is a place that time and politicians have forgotten.”

Sibale is almost five hours by hired motorboat from the provincial capital of Romblon. But it is only two hours away from Oriental Mindoro where residents sell their products and buy supplies.

The island was originally part of Oriental Mindoro, but it was annexed to Romblon on the basis of an agreement between Assemblyman Juan Luna and Romblon Assemblyman Leonardo Festin in 1907. The conditions in the island did not improve in more than 100 years.

Efronio Fallarme, a native of the island who now works as a lawyer in Washington D.C., said municipal officials should hold a referendum to allow the residents to decide where they should belong.

“The annexation of Sibale to Romblon did not give much advantage to its inhabitants,” Fallarme said. “The social and economic growth of the town has been slow.”

Gov. Alfonso Umali and Congressman Reynaldo Umali of Oriental Mindoro favored the re-annexation of Sibale as the 16th municipality of the province but Romblon Congressman Eleandro Madrona should file a resolution in Congress calling for a referendum.

“Yes, we are willing to support the clamor of the Sibale people. But it must be initiated by Romblon Congressman Eleandro Madrona, who will file a resolution in the House of Representatives for a referendum,” Rep. Umali said.

Atillano said it was likely that Madrona would agree to hold a referendum in Sibale because he was sure to lose votes if he lose the island to Oriental Mindoro.

“If it does not happen because Congressman Madrona refused to act on the clamor of the people of Sibale, then we will look for another option. We will consult the Department of Interior and Local Government,” Atillano said.

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