Redistricting

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By Neil Honeyman

An Independent View

Monday, April 7, 2014


THE population of the Philippines is around 100 million. There are approximately 250 congressmen who represent districts. In addition, there are some “party-list” congressmen.

The average population per Congressional district is, therefore, around 400,000. Bacolod City has a population of approximately 550,000. Until and unless the population of Bacolod is approaching 800,000, the concept of Bacolod having two Congressional districts makes no sense.

Former Congressmen Tony Golez wasted a lot of his and other people’s time on this issue. He was elected in 2010 and probably realized early in his term that he would not be re-elected if, as was likely, his main opponent would be then Mayor Bing Leonardia. Golez’s only hope for the 2013 election, therefore, would be if Bacolod had two Congressional districts.

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We need to forget about what has become known, euphemistically, as re-districting and proceed with making Bacolod City a prosperous and habitable place in which to live.

In February, there was much publicity about Bacolod’s candidature to host the Asia-Pacific Economic Conference (APEC) meetings. There was less publicity about Bacolod’s failure to host meetings and that Bacolod’s failure (and Davao etc.) was Iloilo’s victory.

We are losing ground to Iloilo due, partly, to Iloilo’s success with the development of its old Mandurriao airport by Megaworld. There do not seem to be cogent reasons for not developing Bacolod’s old airport. Current Congressman Bing Leonardia was at the forefront of the “Retain Bacolod Airport Movement” (RBAM) several years ago.

It is now time to reconsider whether RBAM has much current relevance and, if not, to try to persuade those [Lucio Tan and the government] who currently own the land on which the old airport is located, that it would be a good idea to sell so that Bacolod’s steadily increasing population has more and better facilities.

Bacolod’s political landscape needs examination in anticipation of the 2016 elections. Mayor Monico Puentevella faces an uncertain future arising from charges relating to his alleged involvement (with others) on overpriced computers in schools. In January 2008 the case appeared in the Bacolod Regional Trial Court when there was finger-pointing between Monico and his co-accused [Department of Education officials] before the case vanished down a black hole only to reappear six years later.

Presumably the same finger-pointing will be repeated in 2014 if the case is heard this year.

Be that as it may, there is uncertainty about Bacolod’s mayoralty contest in 2016. Current Vice Mayor Greg Gasataya is active though hopefully will not waste too much time on the two congressmen for Bacolod issue.

*****

Tourism in Region 6 has significant economic and job generation dimensions.

Last year Congressman Leonardia and John Orola jointly made tenacious efforts intended to persuade the Department of Immigration to install Customs, Immigration and Quarantine (CIQ) facilities at Bacolod-Silay airport. Unfortunately, their efforts have not borne fruit and a considerable loss of tourism revenue has resulted. Several hundred Korean golfers would have made the trip if non-stop flights from Incheon to Bacolod-Silay were feasible. Time is of the essence for short stay tourists and non-stop flights to Negros are a must. A stopover in Manila or Cebu destroys the holiday.

We wish the Department of Tourism would expand its role to make more effort to see that the product being sold will generate repeat business.

Tourism is no longer about silly advertising slogans. People come, or do not come, to the Philippines based on their own experiences, those of their friends, and, of increasing importance, the social media.

The recent debacle involving 179 tourists from Shanghai is regrettable. We hope they had a pleasant stay in Boracay but their return trip was a nightmare. They flew from Kalibo International Airport on Friday afternoon (28 March) and were due to reach Shanghai on the evening of the same day.

After the plane left Kalibo, news broke that there was bad weather in Shanghai which meant that the plane was diverted to Manila (Ninoy Aquino International Airport (Naia) where it landed at 7:48 p.m. The plane waited at Naia for three hours waiting for news as to whether Shanghai airport would re-open.

The plane was directed to return to Kalibo where it landed at 11:59 p.m. Passengers were transferred to the departure area at Kalibo where some became restive.

Eventually, most passengers took a chartered Cebu Pacific flight on6:55 p.m. Monday 31 March where they arrived at Shanghai more than 72 hours late.

This is the kind of event that kills the short stay tourism on which we substantially depend.

Hopefully, nobody is significantly to blame but we must, if possible, do more to protect our tourist guests from adverse circumstances, whatever these circumstances may be.

We would, however, like to know when Shanghai airport did re-open and whether more could have been done to mitigate the adverse consequences experienced by the tourists.

Published in the Sun.Star Bacolod newspaper on April 07, 2014.

Opinion

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