President Rodrigo Duterte on Thursday approved a measure splitting Maguindanao into two provinces.
The Philippine leader signed Republic Act 11550 creating Maguindanao del Norte and Maguindanao del Sur in place of the current southern province.
Duterte’s law would pave the way for the conduct of a plebiscite to create Maguindanao del Norte and Maguindanao del Sur.
The measure would take effect only if majority of voters in affected areas would favor the division of the province through the plebiscite that is expected to be conducted on the first week of August.
Maguindanao del Norte would be composed of the municipalities of Barira, Buldon, Datu Blah Sinsuat, Kabuntalan, Matanog, Northern Kabuntalan, Parang, North Upi, Sultan Kudarat, Sultan Mastura, Talitay, and Datu Odin Sinsuat — which would serve as its seat of government.
On the other hand, Maguindanao del Sur would be composed of Buluan (seat of government), Ampatuan, Datu Abdulla Sangki, Datu Anggal Midtimbang, Datu Hoffer Ampatuan, Datu Montawal, Datu Paglas, Datu Piang, Datu Salibo, Datu Saudi Ampatuan, Datu Unsay, Gen. Salipada K. Pendatun, and Guindulungan.
The municipalities of Mamasapano, Mangudadatu, Pagalungan, Paglat, Pandag, Rajah Buayan, Sharif Aguak, Sharif Saydona Mustafa, Sultan sa Barongis, Talayan, and South Upi would also form Maguindanao del Sur.
The provincial government of Maguindanao reportedly allocated P120 million in funds for the conduct of the plebiscite.
“Upon the effectivity of this act, the ownership of real properties and infrastructure projects of each local government unit situated in the present province of Maguindanao shall belong to the province where it is situated,” Duterte said.
“Following the plebiscite and the creation of provinces, obligations, debts, and assets of all kinds shall be shared or paid equally by the provinces of Maguindanao del Norte and Maguindanao del Sur,” the President added.
The measure Duterte had signed was passed by the Senate two months ago, while the House of Representatives approved its version of the bill last year.
Lawmakers earlier said that the creation of two new provinces would make government services more accessible in the area.
Home to about 1.73 million residents, Maguindanao has an average annual income of P714.56 million.