By Leslie Ann Aquino | Manila Bulletin
For the Commission on Elections (Comelec), the March 13 Palawan plebiscite is also some sort of a “dry run” for the May 2022 national and local polls.
The Comelec said the conduct of the plebiscite will help them prepare for next year’s polls especially amid the coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) pandemic.
“The Palawan plebiscite is not really held as a dry run for 2022. We are conducting this because Congress passed a law proposing the division of Palawan into three areas. However, because of the COVID-19 situation…we are implementing safety and security measures for the Palawan plebiscite that could help us plan and prepare for the 2022 elections,” Comelec Commissioner Antonio T. Kho Jr., the commissioner-in-charge of the plebiscite, said in a virtual press briefing Thursday, Feb. 11.
“In that aspect, we can say that it can be a dry run or a laboratory for the holding of the 2022 elections in terms of safety and security aspects,” he added.
Comelec Chairman Sheriff M. Abas agreed with Kho. “Because of the pandemic, this will be a dry run on how we can conduct the Palawan plebiscite. We will be able to see how prepared is the Commission, the people, and our partner agencies to conduct the 2022 elections,” he said.
“That’s why this plebiscite is important because it will test the health and safetry protocols that we will implement,” added Abas.
The poll body originally scheduled the conduct of the plebiscite to ratify the division of the province of Palawan into Palawan del Norte, Palawan Oriental, and Palawan del Sur on May 11, 2020 as provided under Republic Act No. 11259.
The law provides that the plebiscite shall be held on the second Monday of May 2020.
In April 2020, the Comelec suspended the May 11 plebiscite due to the pandemic and government’s imposition of the Enhanced Community Quarantine (ECQ) in Luzon.
On October 8, 2020, the Inter-Agency Task Force on Emerging Infectious Diseases (IATF-EID) approved the proposal to already hold the plebiscite in Palawan.
The poll body then set the plebiscite on March 13, 2021.