EXPLAINER: Creating Mactan province isn't quite the 2007 Sugboak, not in scale or motive. But to defenders of a One Cebu, nothing carved out of the existing island-with-islands is small or insignificant.

·4 min read

KEY POINTS. [1] The proposal credited to the late legislative-executive liaison Adelino Sitoy and pursued by Lapu-Lapu City Mayor Junard "Ahong" Chan after the former Cordova mayor's death differs a lot from the aborted attempt of three Cebu congressmen 15 years ago. In scope and scale. In motive of the proponents.

[2] What will be carved out of the existing Cebu Province won't be sizable chunks of real estate and people: Lapu-Lapu City, which is already administratively out of Capitol's grip, whose voters don't vote for Cebu Province officials. Plus Cordova and Olango Island. Only Cordova is the prize lot, with the third bridge connecting the town to Cebu City.

[3] New-province proponents must prove not only that it can meet the law's requirements but also show that it benefits not just the new province but the province left behind.

[4] It would require vast political clout to push the new-province idea into reality. As of now, the visible proponents -- Mayor Chan and his congresswoman wife Cindi -- look puny beside the One Cebu stable of House members and other power brokers who depended on the Cebu vote in past elections or may need it in future elections.

THE PROPOSAL. Like the late Atty. Sitoy, Mayor Chan believes creating Mactan Province "would spark development in the countryside," which he must mean Cordova and Olango Island, as the growth of Lapu-Lapu City itself -- with the international airport and economic zone -- has been zooming. Chan thinks the split would benefit both the new and old province. That, he must prove with convincing data and studies. They'll have their own governor and separate budget. And obviously overseeing the new Capitol will be a member of the Chan clan, aside from the existing mayor and congresswoman.

Obviously, the idea is not new. In March 2005, then Cebu sixth district congresswoman Nerissa Soon-Ruiz hatched the plan and held consultations with Lapu-Lapu City and Cordova leaders, including then Cordova mayor Arleigh Sitoy and vice mayor Danilo Sinugbohan, other town officials and barangay captains. Soon-Ruiz also took it up with Lapu-Lapu mayor Arturo Radaza and later the vice mayor and councilors. The first step would've been to convert Olango Island into a town or municipality.

IS NEW PROVINCE QUALIFIED? It was in 2005, more so must it be in 2022. Under the law at the time, Soon-Ruiz said it should've:

* An average annual income of P20 million (it had more: P300 million);

* Total land area of at least 2,000 square kilometers (actual: 5,000 square kilometers); and

* Population of not less than 250,000 (actual: 252,203).

The tough job would be to persuade voters of the old and new province to accept the proposal. The act of Congress creating the province must be "approved by majority of the votes cast in a plebiscite the Comelec will conduct in the LGUs directly affected." With Cebu's current leaders -- the governor and the House members and town mayors loyal to One Cebu -- opposing it, how could it fly? It's sure to face turbulence in the House and in the plebiscite.

SUGBOAKS COMPARED. Apparently, the moves of then House members Simeon Kintanar of Cebu's second district; Antonio Yapha, third district; and Clavel Asas-Martinez of the fourth district -- seeking to convert their respective districts into separate province, namely, Cebu del Sur, Occidental Cebu and Cebu del Norte -- obscured Soon-Ruiz's plan. Her Mactan province idea simply was small and insignificant, compared to the butchering acts of Kintanar-Yapha-Martinez.

A revival of the 2005 Soon-Ruiz plan cannot compare to the 2007 pincer attacks of Kintanar-Yapha-Martinez, which would've cut up Cebu province into, not two but, four provinces; taken away tons of real estate and inhabitants, not just an island or two, from the existing province.

Then there's the difference in motive: Kintanar and company wanted to retain power in their respective bailiwicks. Each one couldn't win by tackling their rival in a governor's race, so each would've a province of his own. Not the Chans, who're still in power, although they can't claim sheer political innocence in trying to set up the new province.

SONNY OSMEÑA TOO. When he ran for congressman of Cebu's third district, junking his original plan to run reelection as Toledo City mayor, John "Sonny" Osmeña announced he would divide the province into two: the existing Cebu and Occidental Cebu, with the new province to comprise of his district's towns and one city. Sonny placed his allies Agnes Magpale and Junjun Davide in a bind as they had opposed Sugboak before.

And put his candidacy at risk as he knew the Sugboak issue wasn't popular.

Residue of the anti-Sugboak sentiment remains. Thus Chan must sell the idea among the voters and if he could persuade the power-wielders as well the better.

WAS, AM, WILL BE. Governor Gwen Garcia was quoted as saying she was against Sugboak, is against and will be against it.

That's the kind of tenacity that may not collapse with persuasion of "countryside development" and the province potential loss so little, given its territory, possessions and income, which has kept Cebu Province in the top richest-in-the-country list.

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