Officials unite for one-island region

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Wednesday, April 2, 2014


TALISAY CITY – Officials of both Negros provinces decided Tuesday to push for the realization of a one-island region for Negros and lobby for its approval before the Office of the President.

In a meeting at the Nature's Village Hotel on Tuesday, officials of Negros Occidental led by Governor Alfredo Maranon Jr. and of Negros Oriental led by Vice Governor Edward Mark Macias agreed to hold the Negros Island Summit in the latter part of June this year at the Central Philippine State University (CPSU) in Kabankalan City.

The summit will be attended by officials of the two provinces, including the congressmen, along with senators, cabinet secretaries, businessmen and representatives of the National Economic and Development Authority (Neda).

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The summit will be held after the respective Provincial Development Councils (PDCs) of the two provinces have already gathered all the resolutions supporting the creation of the Negros Island Region.

Under the plan, all 604 barangays in Negros Occidental and 557 barangays in Negros Oriental will be urged to pass their respective resolutions in support of the move to create a separate region for the two provinces.

All the towns and City Councils, as well as the League of Cities, League of Municipalities, and the Philippine Councilors League in the two provinces were urged to pass similar resolutions.

At present, Negros Occidental is under Western Visayas (Region 6) where its regional center is in Iloilo, while Negros Oriental is part of Central Visayas (Region 7), where its regional center is in Cebu.

Negros Occidental Second District Board Member Salvador Escalante said this is the best time to push for the creation of the one-island region for the two provinces because the 2016 national election is approaching.

About three million votes could be generated from the two provinces that could go to whoever national official who would support and approve the one-island region proposal, he said.

The move for the creation of one separate region for Occidental and Oriental began in 1994 under then Negros Occidental Governor Daniel Lacson and Oriental Governor Emilio Macias.

Budgetary constraints, however, hindered such move during the administration of then President Fidel Ramos.

Several projects have been implemented as part of the plan for the two provinces to be under a separate region like the Luz-Sikatuna Community Primary Hospital, the Inapoy Primary Hospital, the Negros Island Organic Festival, and the Negros Island Sustainable Agricultural Rural Development Foundation Inc.

Since the City Council of Negros Occidental has already passed the resolution supporting the move to create a one-island region, the City Council of Negros Oriental held a special session at the Nature's Village Hotel after the meeting Tuesday and unanimously passed a similar resolution.

As to the location of the regional center, officials of both provinces initially agreed to have it in the center of the two provinces: either in the area of CPSU in Kabankalan City or in Mabinay, Negros Oriental.

Marañon and Macias agreed that both provinces would share the expenses for the employees needed to man the newly-created regional offices.

The Negros Occidental governor said he doesn't see any problem in funding for the creation of the new regional offices.

"The Office of the President has a lot of funds and the creation of positions will be gradual," he said.

Maranon added: "We will not only write the President. We (officials of both provinces) will go to Malacanang and ask for the President's approval."

Former Negros Occidental governor Rafael Coscolluela, now a consultant of Maranon who presided the meeting Tuesday, said the general sentiment is that even if it doesn't happen right away, we still prefer to work together for one region.

"We would welcome any comment or doubt from some sectors but the rationale is very clear, there is more enough reason for us to work together. Everything from environmental to political to economic to peace and order, all of the reasons are there. We are going to work together. All are aware that we will have a time frame,” he said.

“At the end of June all will be in place and we will have the Negros Island Summit to draw up a road map and plan of action," Coscolluela added.

Negros Oriental Second District Representative George Arnaiz, who also attended the meeting, said Negros legislators will take up the proposal with Visayas bloc in the House of Representatives led by Negros Occidental Third District Representative Alfredo Benitez and Iloilo City Representative Jerry Trenas.

Arnaiz said all congressmen from Negros are willing to be the main authors or co-authors of the bill to create a new region. "We have not yet filed the bill but we have been talking about it."

Published in the Sun.Star Bacolod newspaper on April 02, 2014.

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