"If there is anything that is setting our country back, it is our politics."
Palawan, our country’s so-called last frontier, is going to be divided into three provinces and will, therefore, lose the distinction of being the largest province in the country.
With an area of about 14,649.73 square kilometers and a population of about 850,000, both will be divided into three which should leave each new province with 283,000 people which is comparable in size of one component city. This number of people is too small to create its own viable economy and will have to be supported by the national government for many years to come.
If the division happens, we will have 83 provinces instead of the current 81. This is a lot of provinces for a country with only about 300,000 square kilometers of land which is the 68th in the world. Compare this to Canada for example, with a land area of more than 3.6 million square miles with only 10 provinces. It originally had only four provinces.
At the rate that the country is creating provinces, it is not in the realm of impossibility that in the not too distant future, we will soon be having 100 provinces. The other big provinces like Cagayan, Isabela, Bukidnon, Batangas, and others are therefore prime candidates for division.
Why, one might ask, is there a need to create so many provinces? A lot of reasons have been given. The foremost perhaps is to group people with the same dialects and cultural values for easier governance. Others would give the preposterous reason of the national government being able to provide easier services to the people.
The primary reason, however, which is never mentioned in public is to give some political families their own territories to govern. This will save warring political families a lot of money because they would no longer have to fight each other to decide whose family will reign supreme in a province. This reason is, of course, disgusting but this is the kind of politics in this country today.
In other countries such as the United States, for instance, redistricting is done to benefit a party not families as we do in this country. It is not only political power that is coveted but control of business is another motivation. Ours is probably one of the few countries where politicians can will their positions to wives, husbands, and children.
This kind of politics is actually a big reason why it is hard for our country to become economically progressive like other countries in the region. Why for instance would anyone want to become vice governor after being as governor for nine years? It is because in many cases the provincial treasury is also the governors’ treasury and his family. One has only to go to Congress to see all those very expensive late model vehicles parked there. To top it all, there is no more any attempt to hide or deodorize these things because the public seems to have gotten accustomed to seeing many politicians driving the most expensive vehicles. Maybe the public has grown numb and no longer care. The more provinces created, the more political leaders will emerge even if it means that making provinces smaller is not good for economic progress.
In today’s reality, economies of scale are important. Once a province is divided, the resources available for health, education, and infrastructure will also become smaller. This is what happened to very small provinces like Siquijor, Camiguin, Guimaras, and Biliran. All these provinces are fourth or fifth class provinces. This means that these provinces with a population smaller than some barangays in the National Capital Region can hardly support themselves. It is difficult for them to make progress economically because of their sizes.
But it seems that economic progress is not a priority. Creating provinces to create new elective positions to benefit political families who convert public positions into private business enterprises is. No wonder our neighbors are surpassing us. First, it was Thailand, then Malaysia, Indonesia and now Vietnam.
If there is anything that is setting our country back, it is our politics. Many of our politicians cannot seem to see beyond their own self-interest and think of the country first instead of themselves and families. But what do we expect when people spend tens of millions of pesos for a position that would not even pay five percent of what they have spent to get elected into office? They will somehow have to recoup these investments from somewhere and one does not have to have a brain like Einstein to figure this out.
What is shocking is that we seem to take these things as a matter of course and therefore no longer scandalized by this political phenomenon in this beloved land of ours?
Our midterm elections is just around the corner. Once again, we see the same families trying to figure out who among them should run for office. Perhaps our voting public should be able to see through these politicians and vote for those who they see are good for their communities and those people who are only into this for money and the perpetuation of their political dynasties. I still have faith in the collective intelligence of the voting public to make the right choices but this will depend whether Smartmatic, the perennial tech company that has been running the elections will no longer interfere in our upcoming elections. It is also a wonder that with so many credible accusations of voting irregularity, Smartmatic is still with us.