By Juan Escandor Jr. | Inquirer Southern Luzon
NAGA CITY—A Bicolano senator expressed misgivings over a bill seeking to carve a new province out of Camarines Sur, saying some features of the proposed law were “misleading.”
Sen. Joker Arroyo, in a letter read by Sen. Ferdinand Marcos Jr. at the start of a public hearing here on House Bill No. 4820, said not all the people of Camarines Sur would benefit from the move to divide the province into two to create a new province to be called Nueva Camarines.
Arroyo, who grew up in Naga City, said dividing Camarines Sur would benefit only the people of the province’s fourth district, home turf of Rep. Arnulfo Fuentebella, who is on his last term as congressman.
The bill proposed that the new province be composed of the entire fourth district and several other towns in the fifth district.
In his letter, Arroyo said if divided, Camarines Sur would lose its title as the most oragon in Bicol. Oragon is a Bicolano term that could mean daring, creative, gutsy or intelligent.
Out of a first class province, Arroyo said the bill seeks to create two second class provinces.
The senator criticized the choice of Tigaon, a third class municipality in Fuentebella’s district, as proposed capital of the new province because it was “misleading.”
Rep. Luis R. Villafuerte Sr., who supports the division, said the bill has unified the group of Fuentebella and legislators identified with former President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo—Rep. Rolando Andaya of the first district, a long time budget chief of Mrs. Arroyo, and Rep. Dato Arroyo, the former president’s son.
The elder Villafuerte, who is fighting with his son Gov. Luis “LRay” Villafuerte Jr. over the division, said Camarines Sur will not lose its first class status since it has an income of at least P450 million that would keep the province first class.
But Marcos, chair of the Senate local government committee, said what Arroyo meant was that the country “is top heavy with first class provinces.”
According to Marcos, there is a need to reclassify provinces that could result in the two Camarines provinces, if a new one is created, getting second class status.
Iriga City Mayor Madelaine Alfelor-Gazmen, who had supported the division, said she decided to change her position because “I found out that the fifth district will become miserable.”
“Based on the evidence presented by both sides so far, the division of Camarines Sur will not benefit its people,” said Arroyo in his letter.
The elder Villafuerte said the bill seeking to create Nueva Camarines has complied with the requirements for a new province. “The creation of the new province is valid, legal and constitutional,” said the congressman.
He said if created, Nueva Camarines will have a minimum income of P689 million a year that would qualify it for first class status.