EDITORIAL: Laugh out loud
A COUPLE of good news and one hilarious, nay, ridiculous turn of events had taken place in our backyard during the past few days. Only days ago, a forum on Bicol Express modernization brought back to the table the much-vaunted revitalization effort to save the ailing (if it is not dead yet) Bicol southline of the Philippine National Railways. No less than fellow Bicolano Undersecretary for Rails Cesar Chavez, in his well-modulated voice as a former DZRH radio reporter, assured that a loan of no less than P175B from the Chinese government is set to be signed for the reconstruction (not rehabilitation) of the railways from Manila to Matnog, Sorsogon. He exclaimed everything will be new: “New railways. New train wagons. New stations. New modalities.” Then on Tuesday, also last week, on his visit to Camarines Sur, President Duterte expressed surprise why the Naga airport, despite Naga’s status -- according to him -- as being “more popular than Legazpi City,” did not have the capability for night take-off and landing. It was later on announced during the same day that the present administration has already released P400M for the right of way to begin the construction of new [modern and bigger Naga] airport. But while the “more popular city” presidential flattery raised some eyebrows (especially from the people of the other big city in Bicol), a blurt from nowhere made many people laugh out loud when Calabanga Vice Mayor Ramoncito R. Robles informed everyone (when everybody was busy preparing for the President’s visit, a good timing for media mileage, many would say) that he is pushing to pass a resolution transferring his town from the 3rd to the 1st congressional district of the province in the hope that it would become more progressive under the leadership of PDP-Laban member Rep. Rolando Andaya Jr. of the first district. Well, those with basic knowledge on lawmaking will dismiss Robles’ wishful thinking as “dead in the water.” But maybe to appease Vice Mayor Robles, why not help create a new congressional district instead? Why not combine Naga and Pili, for instance, into a single district? Sans Naga as a dominant part of the present 3rd district, maybe populous Calabanga town will have a better chance to produce its own congressman for its own vested interest. It is about time that Camarines Sur, with a population of 1.9 Million as of 2015 census, should have at least 7 congressional districts now, given that the minimum population requirement for a legislative district is 250,000 residents, except for the small provinces that have lesser population but is nonetheless entitled to a lone congressman to satisfy representation in Congress. As of now, the province has only five districts, and creating one more, such as a separate Naga-Pili District, wouldn’t hurt as in fact doing so would still render our province wanting one more district. Together, Naga (pop.: 196,003) and Pili (pop.: 89,545) will command a total population base of 285,549 which is obviously more than the minimum 250,000 population requirement. Interestingly, with Bicol’s population growth rate at 1.29% annually since 2010, Naga City, in four years or so, could singly qualify as a separate district with a minimum population of 250,000. Of course, taking away Naga and Pili will leave the 3rd district with a population of only 215,997 that will make the Naga-Pili district proposal at this time “dead in the water”, too. A bright idea would be reapportioning Tinambac town (pop.: 62,435) to the decimated 3rd district that will make it more than enough to meet the district population requirement. Although the province’s 4th district (to which Tinambac presently belongs) has a population of over 400,000 as of last count, the idea of pulling out Tinambac to another district will require 4th District Rep. Noli Fuentella’s magnanimity and statesmanship (not to mention his avowed love for the province in general) before any move of re-districting could start. Surely, taking off from VM Robles’ silly idea into a more serious one will require more points for debate. The democratic principles of equality in voting power and proportional representation, as well as political expediency and patronage where “congressmen are ‘kings’ in their own districts, will be among them.