KAPITOLYO SA LUCENAWhen the provincial candidates hit the campaign trail last elections, nobody among them ever mentioned that there is a bill now up for plebiscite where we shall be asked whether we approve of the division of Quezon.

What we remember was the vehement exhortation of the local bets on motherhood statements and rhetorics like unity of purpose, self reliance, transparency as time-tested secrets to progress and other harmless vocal farts.

One local candidate nonetheless was heard saying in one unguarded moment on the unique resources of Quezon compared with our neighbors who look with singular envy on the integrity of our territory. He even made a contrast that the total area of CALABARZON is 1,850,000 hectares while Quezon alone is 880,000 hectares or practically more than half of the economic zone. That speaks volume on the potential of Quezon. Whether it is the promise land like Mindanao remains to be seen.

ECONOMIC POWER

Quezon in itself can be a potent economic power South and East of Manila. Traffic from the South passes thru the province. On it is the daily lifeline from the Eastern Visayas and the Bicol region en route to Manila. Tapping the harbor and waterlines from the East, Laguna and Rizal become accessible to the Pacific. Down South, we have the Tayabas Bay and Ragay Gulf.

There is no need to belabor the other resources of the province that remain virgin by any account.

FORESTS IN THE EAST

Gen. Nakar is the biggest LGU in the entire country. Its land area is as big as the provinces of Cavite and Rizal. All we have to do is seek a perpetual government protection of its forests for the enjoyment of future generations.

With the onset of global warming, an expansive lung in the East of Manila, only 80 kilometers away from it, assures the city of pristine air cover. We should provide our future generation of a viable airshed courtesy of our province. And we have the majestic Polillo Island, rich in natural resources and untapped virgin beaches.

FRESH WATER FROM NAKAR

Another selling point of General Nakar is its virtual unlimited supply of fresh water from the Sierra Madre freely flowing to the majestic Umiray River . Our great rivers empty themselves into the Pacific. We have the Dumacaa, Lagyong Bayan in Central Quezon, the Pandanan, and the serene Sumulong in the South. By harnessing Umiray, a natural faucet and redirecting this river to the cities, our urban areas are guaranteed of fresh water supply, with least chemical intervention. Foreign countries may even look at us for water supply. Nothing beats nature’s spring water more than those processed by desalination machines that taste like dense solvent.

Because of virgin Sierra Madre snaking in Gen. Nakar alone, we have natural oxygen tank and mountain sweet water enough to refresh and replenish the bustling Manila metropolis. The trees in Gen. Nakar should be marked and identified and preserved for posterity. No logging activities shall be allowed in those parts. We should appeal to the development banks to make available soft loans to tourism and related investments in Gen. Nakar.

P1B RPT ANNUALLY

With its income from real property taxes, the province can initiate developmental projects in this direction. The provincial government with enough capital from the P1B RPT, on its own initiative, directly invests in ecotourism project exploiting the natural wonders of Gen. Nakar, Infanta, Real and the Island of Polillo .

It is high time for our Quezon local leaders to initiate the development of the Pacific side. A new highway should be laid to connect Atimonan to Real in anticipation of the Infanta-Marikina Road and the soon-to-be-constructed international port of Infanta-Real. Local funds can be used in building this Pacific Highway as an alternative to the traffic-laden Majarlika Highway. By opening this arterial road en route to Manila via Real-Infanta, travel time is slashed and the potential of the virgin coastlines to eco-tourism ventures is tapped.

US$2B INVESTMENT

Remember that Mauban is host to Quezon Power Plant, a P50B venture at the mouth of Lamon Bay . Lamon Bay is the fish sanctuary of Perez, Alabat, Quezon, Atimonan, Plaridel, Gumaca, down to Calauag, all towns of the 4th District.

In other words, the mammoth chimney is breathing down the neck of the 4th District, soon to be part of a new province, Quezon del Sur. Water temperature elevation will not affect Mauban and the entire soon to be established Quezon del Norte, but it will plague for the most part Southern Quezon where the proposed Quezon del Sur would be carved.

On the other hand, the power generator now owned by Team Energy in Pagbilao is spewing its exhaust towards the Bondoc Peninsula.

What we see is a gross anomaly where Quezon Del Norte reaps the fruits of the power plants while their detritus are poured in Quezon Del Sur. This is the intention of the proponent of the crazy bill.

LUMANG TULAY NG MALAGONLONG PATUNGONG MAUBANLUCBAN: OLD TOURIST DESTINATION AND CENTER FOR THE ARTS

Lucban and its immediate neighbors are the traditional tourist Quezon destination. With its noted Pajiyas and iconic products like Longganisang Lucban, rice kipings, and handmade artistic buntal hats, we can broaden the festivities that would include Sampaloc and Tayabas. These towns are steep in established religious celebrations that make up for the most part the character of our people. We can hold simultaneous Pajiyas from Lucena towards Tayabas, Lucban, and Sampaloc down to Gumaca, Lopez and Calauag which celebrate their own San Isidro (San Roque) feast.

What we are saying is that not only is the 1st District rich in natural resources but also well-endowed unique traditions comparable to Mascara in Negros, Ati-Atihan in Panay, and Moriones in Marinduque.

REINA AND MARILAQUE: CROWN JEWELS OF THE 1ST DISTRICT

During the bullish years of the Ramos administration, several developmental plans were on the drawing board.

One of them was the REAL-INFANTA-NAKAR economic and international trade area. The proximity of these towns to Marikina City and Laguna province even brought about parallel developmental plans zeroing in on these coastal towns of Quezon known as MARILAQUE. We don’t have to belabor the importance of these three additional crown jewels of Quezon. These three towns practically straddle the coastlines from Aurora to Atimonan. The ideal harbor of Real and Infanta must be integrated with the expansion of Marikina City and Laguna to the Pacific. Without the involvement of Quezon in these gargantuan undertaking, practically expanding the land area of Metro Manila to the West, any proposed study in that direction is worthless. With this new initiative, Real, Infanta, and General Nakar assume tremendous roles in integrative economic policies of the national government. With the prospect of division, South Quezon loses these territorial treasures.

CROWN JEWELS OF THE 2ND DISTRICT

In terms of real estate and ideal locations for commercial, industrial, or international economic zones, the City of Lucena is an ideal site with its flat terrain. Foreign investors may also set their sights to alternative locations accessible by current infrastructure, power and communications facilities. We have the wide universe of urban centers of Candelaria, Tiaong, Sariaya, Tayabas and Pagbilao with a combined area of 350,000 hectares. Foreign capital can never go wrong in these locations. With multi-millions in real property taxes, the South is assured of a sizeable portion of it.

With the spike in real estate valuation, these local government units are secured of sizeable annual income from land and improvement taxes. With its corresponding ripple effect, employment would balloon in those areas. Outside investors are guided by existing laws and regulations to avail themselves of local services, labor and indigenous materials found in Quezon. Once Quezon del Sur is separated, it loses preferential treatment from investors in Quezon del Norte.

IMPLICATION OF DIVISION

Now that the bill cutting Quezon has finally become a law (GMA failed to sign it within the reglamentary period), we are now faced with the last hurdle of its implementation: the plebiscite. Once the people blindly vote for the division, we perpetually lose the physical, cultural, and psychological connect with the rest of Quezon. We lose the crown jewels including the head that adorns them.

Truth to tell, the proponents of this law failed to exert the minimum effort of notifying the sizable sectors of the province. This was placed on record in the Committee on Local Governments when the main proponent was shepherding the law at that level. What was heard for the most part was the upside for the division. All rhetoric and courageous statements. Nothing was heard for the downside. The proponent, while the bill was being railroaded in the Committee, was busy imagining the short haul political benefit for him and his family. What was heard was the litany of motherhood exhortations that the South must stand by its own feet, rely and develop its own resources, and enjoy the magnanimity of the Central government by way of the Internal Revenue Allotment. How about the local sources of revenue?

What can we boast in the South as its crown jewels?

Gumaca, with its century old water problem, is a transient town. It is the site of commercial banks and government agencies in the area. Despite the reign of an old political family there, nothing was done in the development of Gumaca, touted to be the Capital of Quezon del Sur. Its water system is the worst in the province. There was even an ordinance that proscribes domesticating pigeons. The reason is obvious. Doves with their droppings dirty the roofs that collect rain water! While Hondagua in Lopez is host to the Puyat Philippine Flour Mills, it has for the last twenty years operating in reduced capacity. PFM pays miniscule property tax to Lopez and provides employment to about 200 natives of the town. Catanauan in the Bondoc remains sleepy thanks to its sleepy and corrupt leadership.

Moreover, the proponent failed to see that half of the IRA is for salaries and wages of a new bureaucracy for the new province. Assuming that one half of the P900M IRA goes to the South, or P450M, P225M of it goes to employees’ pay. Its 20% development fund is pegged at P90M or P45M for each district. How far can P45M go in a district with 10 towns, for instance? The rest or 30%, regrettably, is for Maintenance and Other Operating Expenses. We lose our availments from the RPT from the crown jewels, estimated at P1.25B annually, not to mention priority in landing a job where employment opportunities loom in the North. Why should we rely on the palliative Countrywide Development Fund of the Congressmen when we know that 50% of it goes where it shouldn’t go? Let us reflect for a moment and ask the gentleman from Bondoc the destiny of his 16-year pork barrel. Remember that the Bondoc Circumferential was a foreign grant from the Asian Development Bank and the Lopez-Buenavista Road was thru the courtesy of FVR. Someone is looking at the multimillion peso budget for the construction of the new South Capitol Complex housing the new center for the newly minted province.

They say that the P1B budget for the government center in Gumaca will create employment and spur multiplier effect. After the money is spent for the cold structures, what happens next?

They say that precisely they want independence because of sheer neglect. But they have been in power for the last 16 years! Are they impeaching themselves?

They say technology is non-existent because most of their barangays are not energized, and asked, what’s the use of the telephone and internet when they are not serviced by Quezelco? This is misinformation at its best. Quezelco has entered several agreements with LGUs from the South to electrify them since 1995. These LGUs even had the magnanimity of lending Quezelco just to have this understanding going. The proponents conveniently forget that there is a law, RA 6849 (“Municipal Telephone Act of 2000”) connecting every barangay with telephone. If that is not connectivity, then tell us what is? Bondoc is pockmarked with cell sites from Padre Burgos to San Narciso where their residents enjoy the easy access thru webcams and cellphones with their love ones working abroad. The 4th District on the other hand enjoys the latest technology. Since 1982, Alabat Island enjoys uninterrupted energy, thanks to the innovative submarine cable from Guitis to Cagbalogo in Quezon, Quezon. President Marcos made sure the islanders relish the comfort electricity gives.  The island of  Alabat,  especially  Quezon, Quezon gave Alejo Santos a resounding victory over Marcos in the 1982 presidential elections.

Most of us found ourselves holding a fait accompli for a law.

The act of division shall do injustice to South Quezon . There was no clinical or scientific neither an academic study made prior to floating the proposal. South Quezon needs North Quezon for unity of purpose. The North nourishes the South. South Quezon loses its physical and psychological connection with the North. By legislating territorial division it spells the economic petrifaction of its half.