TALISAY CITY -- A top official of the National Economic Development Authority (Neda) urged the Negrenses to establish a special body to retain the Negros Island concept.
Undersecretary for Regional Operations Adoracion Navarro, who met with various stakeholders and Provincial Government officials Wednesday, August 30, at the Nature’s Village Resort here, said that even with the abolition of Negros Island Region (NIR), the two provinces – Negros Occidental and Negros Oriental – should maintain its connection.
“I recommended to them to pursue a common development agenda and set up an alliance. Common pursuits can be articulated in the Alliance for Negros Island Development Agenda to retain the Negros Island concept,” she said.
Navarro said the special body should be run by the private sector so “it can be budget neutral and less politicized.”
The programs identified in the common development agenda should be consulted with the two governors, the local governments, and regional line agencies, she said.
The proposed special body should also manage the programs and projects with inter-jurisdictional concerns, she said.
Navarro said the business sector is very much supportive of the plan creating the special body and sustaining the alliance.
With the dissolution of NIR, the two provinces, along with the regional offices, will be reverted to its previous regions – Negros Occidental to Western Visayas and Negros Oriental to Central Visayas.
The special bodies – Regional Development Council, Regional Peace and Order Council, Regional Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Council – created under NIR will also merge with those in their previous regions.
Navarro said the RDC-NIR had already crafted its programs and projects for next year prior to the abolition of the two-year old region.
Some of the identified programs, projects and strategies that are solely for Negros Oriental will be downloaded to Regional Development Plan of Central Visayas, and the same for Negros Occidental to Western Visayas, she said.
Navarro said the programs and projects that are jointly implemented by the two provinces will be tackled in the two RDCs while budget allocation would depend on the component.
Programs and strategies with inter-jurisdictional concerns can still be jointly pursued by the two provinces, she pointed out.
Navarro said she directed Regional Directors Ro-Ann Bacal of Region 6 and Efren Carreon of Western Visayas and NIR, who are also secretariat of the RDC of the two regions, “to implement a coordinated and synchronized (development plan) and review the resolution on the crafting and endorsements of RDCs on programs with inter-jurisdictional concerns.”
“If (the development plan is) synchronized, it is easy to elevate it to the national level for decision-making,” she added.
Navarro assured the Negrenses that the identified programs and projects for the two provinces will continue, though it will be under the Regional Development Plan of the two regions.
On the road networks connecting the two provinces, Navarro said: “We should focus on connectivity. If there are projects which are part of network that aims to connect the two provinces – needing joint action or separate action – it should be synchronized by the RDC.”
“Rest assured it is on the radar of the two RDCs,” she added.
Navarro further said that she suggested to the stakeholders to identify tourism sites which form part the string of tourism destinations.
“They have to craft a circuit tourism strategy to compel frontline agencies to deliver services efficiently, to compel agencies and LGUs when it comes to improving road transport connections by improving the access to tourist sites,” she said.
Navarro said she told the private sector to create a timetable and identify their secretariat, adding that Neda can be an adviser in the development planning.
Also, she said the Regional Development Plan crafted for the two regions is “portable,” meaning it can be pursued whether the country continues with the unitary form of government or shift to federalism.
The next RDC-Western Visayas meeting will be held on September 8 in Kalibo, Aklan.
Meanwhile, Bacal said the feasibility study on the Negros-Panay Bridge is expected to be completed by December.
She said the study will indicate where the construction will start.
Bacal also said the feasibility study will go through the Investment Coordinating Committee process before it will be presented to the Neda Board.
“Projects (costing) more than P2.5 billion will need the approval of the Neda Board,” she added.