The Senate Committee on Local Government chaired by Sen. Francis Tolentino has approved bills seeking to divide Maguindanao into two separate provinces, North and South.
Tolentino said the current undivided Maguindanao, with a total population of 1,173,933 as of 2015, remains to be one of the poorest provinces in the country despite being blessed with abundant natural resources.
“Reforms must be done in order to remedy this predicament and one way to ensure this is by splitting the province into two,” Tolentino said during the hearing.
But Maguindanao Rep. Esmael “Toto” Mangudadatu, in a manifestation, called on the Senate leadership to instead support House Bill 6413, which he authored, through the adoption of a substitute bill.
“While we respect and appreciate Senator Ramon Revilla Jr. for sponsoring and filing respective counterpart Senate bill toward the realization of a separate but better capacitated and empowered Maguindanao, we would like to request Senator Francis Tolentino, our committee chair, that our prayers and provisions illustrated in HB 6413 be adopted in a substitute bill,” he said.
The House bill and Senate Bills No. 1824 and 1714 authored by Tolentino and Sen. Cynthia Villar, respectively, all seek to partition Manguindanao into two separate provinces under the Bangsamoro Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (BARMM).
Under the Senate proposals, 12 towns will comprise Northern Maguindanao, with the capital based in Sultan Kudarat. Southern Maguindanao will carry 24 municipalities, with Buluan as its administrative capital.
The House passed on third and final reading HB 6413, but it provides for Datu Odin Sinsuat as capital of North Maguindanao.
Mangudadatu said with a smaller province, local resource management and the delivery of basic public services would be more efficient, since majority of the local officials and employees could focus on working on programs and projects that would best serve the interests of their constituents.
“As the cliché goes, it is much easier to keep and maintain a smaller house as compared to a huge one. Public service can be made more accessible, closer to the people,” he said.
The Department of Finance’s Bureau of Local Government Finance greenlighted the proposed legislations to divide Maguindanao into two separate provinces, saying the partition is financially compliant under Republic Act No. 7160 or the Local Government Code of 1991.
Bureau of Local Government Finance Director Ma. Pamela Quizon said the two proposed provinces would meet the income requirements under the Local Government Code.
Tolentino explained that unlocking Maguindanao’s potential is not just vital to help the people living in the province but to bring down poverty in the entire country.