THE Office of the Presidential Assistant for the Visayas is pushing for the realization of “One Visayas” concept mainly through harmonizing the infrastructure and socio-economic programs of the four component-regions.
Secretary Michael Lloyd Dino, who was the guest of honor and speaker during the 81st Induction Ceremony of the Negros Press Club at SMX Convention Center in Bacolod City Saturday, April 8, said he is advocating for connectivity of Regional Development Councils (RDCs) in Regions 6, 7, 8 and 18 or Negros Island Region (NIR).
Dino urged Negrenses to strengthen the private sector representation in the RDC-NIR as he pointed out that it is easy to lobby for the “One Visayas” projects if there is unity among the public and private sectors.
“One of the promises of President Rodrigo Duterte is to interconnect islands in the Visayas,” he said, stressing that the “enthusiasm and dynamism of the leaders will mean a no non-sense ocean of projects for the people.”
In terms of infrastructure projects for Negros Occidental, Dino said that the Negros-Panay Bridge project will push through under the Duterte administration.
He also said there is already an allocation of P76.81 million for the construction and maintenance of bridges along national roads, and widening of permanent bridges, including right-of-way for more than two lanes in Barangay Suay, Himamaylan City.
Aside from widening of bridge as originally planned, the budget also includes the widening of road approaches and construction of river bank protection.
The bidding for the drainage master plan for Bacolod City, meanwhile, was already conducted by the Flood Control Center of the Department of Public Works and Highways (DPWH) in Manila.
The plan, similar to that of Balanga City in Bataan, which costs P32 million was subjected to another bidding after the project consultants were found ineligible, Dino said.
For the flood problem in San Enrique town, which was also discussed during the consultative meeting last year, the memorandum of agreement between DPWH-NIR and the municipal government was already signed last February, he added.
In Central Visayas, Dino’s office has already lobbied for the inclusion of Metro Cebu in the Transportation Crisis Act and in the 2018 General Appropriations Act (GAA).
This will give way to the creation of mass transportation system that will include establishment of light rail transit (LRT) subway in key areas of Cebu province.
“These projects targeted to be completed before the Duterte administration ends are positioned to make Visayas at par not only with Luzon but also with the rest of the world,” Dino said.
The budget for Visayas is only nine percent despite having a population of more than 20 percent of the entire country thus, “there is a discrepancy as the focus ever since of the past administrations is always Luzon, never Visayas and Mindanao,” he added.
For socio-economic programs, Dino said his office currently works for the big project that will benefit those in the marginalize sector.
The Office of the Presidential Assistant for the Visayas is now working with various stakeholders and local government offices for the construction of one million units of socialized housing covering four regions in the Visayas.
“I was able to connect with Chinese investors who are willing to put up this socialized housing,” Dino said, as he urged Bacolod City Mayor Evelio Leonardia and other officials in the province to coordinate with his office if there is a need for socialized housing in their localities.
He also mentioned that they are working on the implementation of program that will provide an enhanced area for housing among soldiers in the Visayas, from the previous 26 square meters to 70 square meters.
NIR still confusing
Dino, meanwhile, said the existence of the NIR has always been confusing – whether or not the young region will be abolished.
Contrary to an earlier statement of Budget Secretary Benjamin Diokno that NIR creation requires at least P19-billion budget, Negrense leaders said it would not cost that much as there are already offices and personnel.
“I already requested Governor Alfredo Marañon Jr. and Mayor Evelio Leonardia to submit their position papers particularly on the budget needed for NIR so that I can bring it up with the Cabinet,” Dino added.