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SC says Dinagat Islands no longer a province

With a vote of 6-9, the Supreme Court on Thursday declared unconstitutional Republic Act 9355, the law creating the province of Dinagat Islands along the Leyte Gulf in the Visayas.

In an interview, SC spokesman Midas Marquez said Dinagat Islands failed to comply with both the population and land area requirements that are necessary to be elevated to province status.

Under Section 461 of Republic Act 7610, otherwise known as the Local Government Code, a province may be created if it has an average income of not less than P20 million and a population of not less than 250,000 inhabitants, or a contiguous territory of at least 2,000 square kilometers.

The Supreme Court, however, said the Dinagat Islands only has a population of 106,951, according to the 2000 census conducted by the National Statistics Office.

“Although the provincial government of Surigao del Norte conducted a special census of population in Dinagat Islands in 2003, which yielded a population count of 371,000, the result was not certified by the NSO as required by the Local Government Code,” the SC said according to a 30-page decision penned by Associate Justice Diosdado Peralta.

Even R.A. 9355, the Court noted, expressly states that the province of Dinagat Islands “contains an approximate land area of 802.12 sq.km,” thus, failing to meet the land area requirement under the LGC.

Concurring with Justice Peralta are Chief Justice Reynato Puno, Senior Justice Antonio Carpio, and Justices Conchita Carpio Morales, Arturo Brion, Mariano Del Castillo, Martin Villarama, Jr., Jose Perez, and Jose Mendoza.

Justice Antonio Eduardo Nachura wrote a dissenting opinion and was joined by Justices Renato Corona, Presbitero Velasco, Jr., Teresita Leonardo-De Castro, Lucas Bersamin, and Roberto Abad.

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