‪PRESIDENT Benigno Aquino III praised Friday Local Government Secretary Manuel Roxas II for doing his job well, such as his initiative to create the Negros Island Region.

Aquino made a special mention to Roxas, the presumptive presidential candidate of the ruling Liberal Party, during the celebration of 117th Independence Day in Santa Barbara, Iloilo.

But while he hailed Roxas, the President was still mum if the Department of Interior and Local Government (DILG) chief would be his presidential bet in the 2016 elections.

Aquino had said Roxas was at the top of his choices for next president.

"You have most likely heard of the initiative we advanced for our countrymen in the nearby provinces of Negros Oriental and Negros Occidental: Recently, I signed an Executive Order creating the Negros Island Region, which brings the two provinces under one regional grouping," Aquino said in a speech.

He said this initiative is expected to benefit the people in the two provinces.

"This is why, when Secretary Mar Roxas put forward this suggestion, and after all the necessary consultations were undertaken, we took action by signing the Executive order," Aquino said.

"You know, Mar Roxas, a true son of Panay, advanced this initiative. Like in the past, we know that whenever we task Mar Roxas to lead a project or program, you can expect that initiative will succeed."

Roxas, along with other officials, was sharing the stage with the President when he made the statement.

Aquino said that he was confident that for as long as the Filipinos continue to tread the straight and righteous path, the country will be able to continue the positive changes that they have been experiencing.

He recalled that during his recent trip to Japan, he was asked how he would ensure that the reforms his administration has set in place would continue.

"My response to them: It is up to the Filipino people; they will continue the change, which they themselves started. They know what is right, from what is wrong. I am optimistic that they will choose the right leader, especially because they have seen what our agenda of good governance brings," the President said.

This was the first time that Aquino led the commemoration of Independence Day outside Luzon.

In 2011, the President led the celebration in Kawit, Cavite; then on the following year, in Barasoain Church in Malolos, Bulacan; then in Liwasang Bonifacio in Manila; and last year, in Naga City, Camarines Sur.

This time, it was held in Santa Barbara, Iloilo to recognize the Visayan contribution to Philippine Independence.

On November 17, 1898, at the plaza of Santa Barbara, the Provisional Revolutionary Government of the Visayas was inaugurated. (SDR/Sunnex)