The Inter-Agency Task Force (IATF) on the Management of Emerging Infectious Diseases has set health protocols for the conduct of a plebiscite to ratify the division of Palawan into three provinces, according to Presidential Spokesman Harry Roque.
“The conduct of the plebiscite to ratify the division of the province of Palawan may now finally push through in the first quarter of 2021 after the IATF approved the health and safety protocols for the said event,” Roque said Friday.
According to Roque, the period of voting will be two days and only five voters will be allowed in the room to cast their votes at any particular time.
Registered voters between the ages of 18 and 21 years old and those who are 60 years old and above, those with immunodeficiency, comorbidity, or other health risks, and pregnant women shall be exempt from mobility restrictions for the purpose of voting.
Republic Act 11259, signed by President Rodrigo Duterte in April last year, divided the province of Palawan into Palawan del Norte, Palawan Oriental, and Palawan del Sur.
The Commission on Elections (Comelec) had originally set the conduct of the plebiscite to ratify the division on May 11, but it was suspended in April this year due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
The Comelec en banc agreed with the recommendation of its Law Department that the holding of a free and honest plebiscite on May 11 was impossible at the height of the spread of the COVID-19.
Palawan Governor Jose Alvarez had pushed for Palawan’s division to better manage the huge province and its islands. Some groups opposed the split, saying it was being used by politicians to perpetuate themselves in power through more local elective posts.
In a media briefing on Friday, Alvarez described Palawan as mildly hit by the coronavirus disease, with only 59 active cases or currently ill patients.
Some popular destinations, including El Nido, started accepting a limited number of tourists from low-risk areas since October 1, provided that their RT-PCR test is negative for COVID-19.