CALABANGA, Camarines Sur (Aug 15, 2011) – A big weekend gathering in a resort village in this town indicates that an overwhelming majority of local politicians are poised to campaign for the creation of Nueva Camarines, a new province carved out of Camarines Sur, when the issue is put up for people's decision in a plebiscite.
An emerging scenario fits pro-division forces led by 4 out of 5 congressmen and 28 out of 35 municipal mayors and 1 component city mayor of the province against the group of Governor LRay Villafuerte and 5th district Congressman Sal Fortuno who maintain that dividing the province shall halt the present momentum of progress and development.
Campaign mode was in the air as political leaders and their supporters from the 5 districts of the province numbering over a thousand people converged at the LRV Village in San Bernardino, Calabanga town Saturday for a forum organized by division proponents.
Congressmen Luis R. Villafuerte and Arnulfo “Noli” Fuentebella took turns speaking and answering queries from the audience as they presented their pro-division arguments.
Congressmen, Rolando Andaya Jr. and Diosdado “Dato” Arroyo who already enlisted themselves as co-authors of HB 4820 sent their staff and leaders to the event.
Reacting to claims of the opposition that the two provinces resulting from the split will suffer from decreased income, Congressman “Noli” Fuentebella and his son, Mayor Arnie Bryan Fuentebella explained that Camarines Sur and Nueva Camarines will in fact end up as two first class provinces and the constituents of both provinces stand to benefit.
The Fuentebellas explained that both provinces shall easily qualify for first class status based on a population of more than 800,000 each, a land area of more than 2,500.00 sq. Km. per province and an an annual income of P733.7-Million pesos for Camarines Sur and about P591.2-Million pesos for Nueva Camarines.
House Bill 4728, “Creating the province of Nueva Camarines,” filed by Congressman Fuentebella in May already passed the third and final reading in the Lower House of Congress as House Bill 4820 in the first week of August, with 229 Congressmen voting in favor of the bill and only 5th District Camarines Sur Representative Sal Fortuno casting the lone opposing vote.
The Senate Committee on Local Government under the chairmanship of Senator Bongbong Marcos is expected to start deliberation of the bill soon.
The leading proponents also expect easy passage of the bill not only at the committee level but also at the Senate plenary. The gathering in Calabanga was in reality a preparation for an inevitable plebiscite where the people of Camarines Sur shall decide whether or not the birth of Nueva Camarines becomes a reality.
At the the Sangguniang Panlalawigan debates on the issue have started. On Monday (August 15) Board Members, Charie Pante, Emmanuel Llaguno and Rupert Alfelor delivered their privilege speeches in support of the passage of HB 4820 at the Senate. On the other hand, Board Members Manuel Naval and Warren Señar led the anti-division speakers in support of Gov. Luis Raymund Villafuerte's position on the issue.
Public forums on the division of the province have been conducted starting in May this year, even before Fuentebella filed his bill in the lower house.
The changing public pulse on the issue bears watching. An on-going online survey at the Vox Bikol website with over one thousand respondents shows that 64 percent oppose the division of Camarines Sur, up from 58 percent one month ago. (With reports from Sonny Sales and Noriel Oya)