AS NEGROS Occidental is set to rejoin Western Visayas in barely two months, an official of the National Economic Development Authority (Neda)-Western Visayas assured Negrenses there will be equitable income sharing among the provinces in the region.
Raul Anlocotan, Neda-Western Visayas assistant director, said Monday, August 14, that Negros Occidental got a “good share of the pie” when it was still with Western Visayas.
He said he believes it is only a perception that Iloilo had more allocation compared to other provinces in Western Visayas.
“Nonetheless, the RDC is trying its best to ensure that development projects for Negros Occidental will also be equitable with those in other parts of Western Visayas,” he said.
Maybe there are just “portions” in Negros Occidental that didn’t get projects, he said.
Anlocotan added that officials in Negros Occidentals should “actively participate and be proactive” in the committees under the Regional Development Council (RDC) in Western Visayas.
Negrense officials have pushed for the creation of Negros Island Region (NIR) due to the disparity in the budget that their provinces get from their previous regions.
Last week, President Rodrigo Duterte signed Executive Order (EO) 38 abolishing NIR.
With the dissolution of NIR, the two provinces, along with the NIR regional offices, will be reverted to their previous regions – Negros Occidental to Western Visayas and Negros Oriental to Central Visayas.
The special bodies, including the RDC, Regional Peace and Order Council, Regional Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Council, created under NIR will also merge with Western Visayas and Central Visayas.
Anlocotan said that Provincial Planning and Development Officer Ma. Lina Sanogal will meet today with Neda-Western Visayas officials led by Regional Director Ro-ann Bacolod to discuss the transition measures of Negros Occidental.
He said that the governor, 13 city mayors, and president of League of Municipalities of the Philippines will now become members of the RDC-Western Visayas, and they will also elect a representative from the private sector.
Anlocotan said the next RDC-Western Visayas meeting will be held on September 8 in Kalibo, Aklan, and they already sent invites to the officials of Negros Occidental.
He added that the development plan of Negros Occidental will be turnover to Western Visayas as the RDC-Western Visayas has yet to finalize the Regional Development Plan.
“We’re still in the process of preparing the investment program,” Anlocotan said, adding that one of the talking points in today’s meeting is the integration of these projects and programs.
He also said that the proposed Negros-Panay Bridge will make the two islands closer with each other.
“We welcome Negros Occidental with open arms and loving heart,” he said.
“We share a common language and culture. We look forward to further strengthen our relationship with people of Negros.”
Anthony Nuyda, officer-in-charge of Department of the Interior Local Government (DILG) in NIR, said he will also join today’s meeting.
Nuyda, who also heads the DILG in Western Visayas, said he is waiting for the memorandum from the central office on the abolition of NIR.
DILG was directed by Duterte to supervise the transition process, wherein regional offices were given 60 days to wind up their operations.
Nuyda said he will meet with all the NIR regional directors within the month to check on the progress of the transition.
‘Life goes on’
Negros Occidental Second District Representative Leo Rafael Cueva on Monday during the regular session at the House of Representatives said NIR is dismissed as a small, insignificant region because it has only two provinces.
However, what most people do not know is that NIR is the region with the most number of cities.
“It has 19 cities, including the highly-urbanized city of Bacolod, the capital of Negros Occidental, and Dumaguete City, the capital of Oriental Negros. It has 38 municipalities and 1,219 barangays, spread out in its 10 congressional districts,” he added.
Cueva said the region has a population of close to five million people, equivalent to about one-fourth of the total population of the Visayas.
“Its annual income is over P4 billion and Internal Revenue Allotment of about P15 billion,” he said. “In effect, the creation of the Negros Island Region has resulted in an equitable distribution of population, land area, income and IRA among the affected regions, including Regions 6 and 7.”
Cueva clarified though that the people of Negros Island respect the President’s decision and will abide by the EO.
“Contrary to what some people make it appear, the creation of the NIR was not a political move, as the dream for a ‘One Island, One Region,’ was being nurtured by the Negrenses for about 25 years already, starting in the 1980s,” he said.
He said that NIR was a realization of the dream of millions of Negrenses of uniting the twin Negros provinces: to pursue an integrated, island-wide development planning and accelerate socio-economic progress; of visioning together what we believe is best for the island and for our future generations.
In NIR’s two-year run, the two provinces came up with the development plans and programs that will benefit the communities, he said.
He also said he is hoping that Negros Island be appointed as one federal state, or at least assign the whole island to one federal state, and not divide it again into two separate parts should the country shift to federal form of government.
Cueva added: “Life goes on for all of us in Negros Island. We hold on to our faith that when God closes a door, He opens a window. Given the resilience of the Negrenses, I have no doubt that we will again surmount the challenges and difficulties that lie ahead, as we actively participate in charting our own destiny.”