CEBU Island may be divided into two provinces should Lapu-Lapu Mayor Junard “Ahong” Chan’s plan to establish the Province of Mactan push through.

Chan said during a news forum Tuesday, July 5, 2022, that this was the dream of the late secretary Adelino “Addy” Sitoy, who had also served as mayor of Cordova.

Lapu-Lapu City and the Municipality of Cordova are located on Mactan Island, which is part of Cebu province. Lapu-Lapu hosts the Mactan-Cebu International Airport, economic zones and famous beach resorts.

The proposal, however, immediately drew opposition from local officials, including the governor.

According to Chan, this move will be beneficial for the development of the two local government units (LGUs).

“It would help a lot. I can already picture Lapu-Lapu, if they will become a Province of Mactan, maybe that will be the next little Singapore,” said Chan in a mix of Cebuano and English.

Chan said this will be advantageous to the city since having a separate provincial government would mean an additional budget that could be spent to further develop Lapu-Lapu and Cordova.

Chan said he would ask his wife, Lapu-Lapu City Lone District Rep. Ma. Cynthia “Cindi” King-Chan, to lobby for this measure in Congress.

However, Chan issued a statement after the news forum, saying that while he was supportive of the dream of Sitoy, the creation of a new province would not be his priority.

“At this point in time when we are still recovering from the effects of the (Covid-19) pandemic and Typhoon Odette, a creation of a separate province is not our utmost priority,” said Chan.

Chan further said he would channel his focus on rehabilitation of the city and promotion of the tourism industry.

Olango a town

Based on the mayor’s earlier pronouncement, the formation of the proposed province would also make Olango Island a separate municipality and elevate Cordova into a component city of the new province.

The islands under the Olango Island group are divided under the jurisdiction of Lapu-Lapu and Cordova.

The mayor said Olango Island had been left behind compared to the developments that are happening on the mainland.

He added that qualifications for becoming a separate province have already been met by the two LGUs, and it would be a waste if this would not materialize.

No to Sugbuak

On Tuesday, however, Gov. Gwendolyn Garcia opposed Chan’s plan to create a new province from Cebu, saying she had always been opposed to splitting the province.

“I was and I am and will always be against Sugbuak, and I know that the people of Cebu agree with me. That was shown in the 2007 election when three congressmen wanted to break or dismember our province into four provinces, and in the 2007 elections, pwera buyag nangapildi silang tanan (thank God, they all lost),” Garcia said Tuesday, July 5.

In February 2005, then last-term Cebu representatives Clavel Asas-Martinez, Antonio Yapha and Simeon Kintanar filed bills in the House of Representatives to make new provinces out of their respective districts—Cebu del Norte, Cebu Occidental and Cebu del Sur—in a move that came to be known as “Sugbuak,” a portmanteau of the Cebuano words Sugbo (Cebu) and buak (break).

However, the proposals were defeated as they drew strong opposition from the public and Garcia, who was also the governor then.

On Tuesday, Garcia said all mayors of the Province of Cebu should be asked whether they are for the plan.

“When you file a bill to create your province, and it will include not only Lapu-Lapu but also Cordova, first of all, we should ask the mayors of the province of Cebu whether they will consent to it, especially the mayor of Cordova, will he consent to its inclusion in the new province,” Garcia said in Cebuano.

“Will the mayors of the whole province consent to the removal of a town and population? That will have an effect on our IRA (Internal Revenue Allotment), now called the National Tax Allocation (NTA), and the affected province is Cebu,” Garcia said.

She said the IRA is based on land and population.

“But I understand that Mayor Ahong had a subsequent statement that it is not a priority,” the governor said. “I hope it will never become one because there are more important things to focus on. What’s important is to preserve our unity not just philosophically, not just politically but physically as well, geographically as well as a people.”

The governor suggested that instead of splitting Cebu, it would be better to instead add a congressional

district to provide additional funds for the localities that need them.

Both Cebu Sixth District Rep. Daphne Lagon and Cordova Mayor Cesar “Didoy” Suan expressed opposition to Chan’s idea of transforming Mactan Island into a province.

The proposal may destabilize not only the political structure but also the economic landscape of Cebu, which will, in turn, affect the lives and livelihood of every Sugbuanon, said both leaders.

While they acknowledged Chan’s initiatives to strengthen Lapu-Lapu as an LGU, both Lagon and Suan said the creation of a province needs a review following the statutory requirements.

They said making Mactan Island a province will disrupt the adjacent municipality of Cordova and the congressional and legislative composition of the entire Cebu Province.

“There have been several attempts in the past to break Cebu as a province. However, Cebu has drawn strength and has successfully excelled as the number one province in the country through unified governance under the leadership of Gov. Gwendolyn Garcia,” a part of their joint statement read.

“We will continue to work towards unity for Cebu and establish strong collaboration among all cities and municipalities, keeping in mind the welfare of every LGU and not just for the benefit of one but for the good of all,” they added.

Daanbantayan Mayor Sun Shimura also opposed Chan’s proposal, saying: “With all due respect to my good friend and fellow Mayor Junard “Ahong” Chan, as a loyal and longtime party member of One Cebu, it is my fervent hope that we still remain as One and indivisible CEBU. After all, we are all Sugboanons.”