By Ali G. Macabalang
(PHOTO: CONVERGENCE SUPPORT. Majority of the elected leaders of Maguindanao converge at the House in support of the division of their turf into two. — Photo supplied)
The Senate Committee on Local Government has approved the proposal to divide Maguindanao into two provinces, according Rep. Esmael “Toto” Mangudadatu, a key movant from the lower chamber of Congress.
Rep. Mangudadatu said the committee chaired by Senator Francis Tolentino on Monday, Oct. 26 concurred with the creation of Northern and Southern Maguindanao provinces in a Senate counterpart measure to a bill passed earlier by the House of Representatives.
Senator Tolentino’s committee adopted majority provisions of House Bill 6413 that seeks to split Maguindanao, which stands as the largest of five provinces in the Bangsamoro autonomous region in terms of population and land area.
House Bill 6413, authored by Mangudadatu alongside Tarlac Rep. Noel Villanueva and Maguindanao 1st District Rep. Ronnie Sinsuat, designates Buluan town as southern provincial seat and Datu Odin Sinsuat as northern capital.
Senators Tolentino and Cynthia Villar sponsored Senate Bills1714 and 1824, respectively, in adoption of the House proposal. Senator Bong Revilla authored Senate Bill 1274 for the creation of Western Maguindanao from the mother province instead, it was learned.
The pendency of the three Senate bills has reportedly promoted the creation of a technical working group to officially determine the provincial government centers in the two proposed provinces, a government media report showed.
Rep. Mangudadatu said he has sent an official manifestation to the Senate calling for the adoption of the House bill’s provisions, notably the designation of Buluan and Datu Odin Sinsuat towns as the official provincial seats.
On the basis of a report from the TWG, a Senate committee report will be submitted to the plenary deliberation, and will guide a bicameral meeting for the creation of two Maguindanao provinces envisioned within this year or the next, according to Mangudadatu.
“While we respect and appreciate Sen. Revilla for sponsoring and filing a counterpart SB towards the realization of an empowered Maguindanao, we would like to request Sen. Tolentino that our prayers and provisions illustrated in HB 6413 be adopted in a substitute bill,” Mangudadatu said in a statement Monday.
Rep. Mangudadatu echoed his contention that the smaller the area to manage, the more focused and faster growth to happen.
Magundanao, tagged in national statistics as one of the 10 poorest provinces in the country, has a total land area of 9,729.04 square kilometers with a population of 1,173,933 as of 2015 census. It comprises 36 towns with Buluan as its present capital town.
The proposed Northern Maguindanao will comprise 12 towns, namely Datu Odin Sinsuat, Datu Blah Sinsuat, Sultan Kudarat, Sultan Mastura, Talitay, North Upi, Mother Kabuntalan, Northern Kabuntalan, Matanog, Parang, Buldon and Barira. Datu Odin Sinsuat is proposed as its capital town.
Southern Maguindanao will cover 24 smaller towns of Ampatuan, Buluan, Datu Abdullah Sangki, Anggal Midtimbang, Hoffer Ampatuan, Montawal, Datu Paglas, Datu Piang, Datu Unsay, Salibo, Saudi Ampatuan, Salipada Pendatun, Guindulungan, Mamasapano, Mangudadatu, Pagalungan, Paglat, Pandag, Rajah Buayan, Shariff Aguak, Saydona Mustapha, South Upi, Sultan-sa-Barongis, and Talayan. Buluan is proposed for retention as provincial seat. (AGM)