Local Government Secretary Mar Roxas said yesterday that there is no need to pass a law to create a Negros Island region, it can be created through an executive order issued by the President.
However, he called on officials of Negros Occidental and Oriental to provide the data and justifications to support the move, during his meeting with them yesterday.
As long as all the data needed to justify the President’s issuance of an executive order to create an island region is ready, there is no reason why it cannot be done before 2016, Roxas said.
Roxas joined a Negros Island region consultation at the provincial Capitol in Bacolod City yesterday morning, attended by 178 public officials and representatives from the business, academe, religious, media and private sector in Negros Occidental and Oriental.
Another consultation will also be held in Dumaguete City in Negros Oriental.
Negros Occidental is currently part of Region 6 (Western Visayas) and Negros Oriental of Region 7 (Central Visayas).
Roxas said research by the DILG legal department has determined that there is no need for a law to create a Negros Island region, as executive action can perform the desired action if, in fact, that is what the people of Negros want.
No plebiscite is required for the creation of the island region, he added.
But he said it is not enough that the President is told that the people of Negros want an island region, he must be provided with the “why” to back the position that the move is necessary to enable the island to move at a faster rate.
The president will need all that relevant information to issue an executive order, he said.
Roxas said the Department of Budget and Management is in the final stages of gathering data on the cost of creating a new regional set up in case the island region plan pushes through.
There are some who want the regional offices of the island region to be in Bacolod and Dumaguete cities, while others are proposing that they be at the border in Mabinay town and Kabankalan City, he noted.
Regional offices for about 30 national agencies will have to be created, he said, noting that the cost for running a DILG regional office is about P45 million, not including its provincial operations.
The Department of Public Works and Highways has also been asked to come up with a prototype of a regional office building to house the national offices in the new island region.
Roxas said he has also asked the National Economic and Development Authority to conduct an impact study on the viability of a Negros Island region.
Ed Du, Negros Oriental Chamber of Commerce and Industry president, said there is no need for so much money to create regional offices, the creation of an island region can be done immediately under his proposal.
To create regional offices immediately would cost about P5 billion for the infrastructure and P1.2 billion for the annual operations of 30 national offices, he said.
Instead, during a transition period, the waters can be tested by converting all provincial offices of national agencies into sub-regional offices in Bacolod for Negros Occidental and in Dumaguete for Negros Oriental, he said.
The most senior officer of a national agency on the island can be named the regional director, he said.
In this age of the Internet, he said there is no need to create physical structures at the Kabankalan-Mabinay border that are too far for people to travel to from Dumaguete, he said.
Additional tables at existing provincial offices can be added for the purpose that will be more cost-efficient and can be done tomorrow, he said.
Negros Occidental Governor Alfredo Marañon Jr. called on both provinces to unify for the good of Negros, noting that both of its provinces have so many commonalities.
The governor said he was very happy with yesterday’s consultation that, he said, exceeded his expectations.
While the majority of the officials from both provinces present favor the creation of the island region, Negros Oriental Gov. Roel Degamo said data to prove that the move will benefit the people of Negros Oriental is needed. “Let us not railroad the process (story on Oriental page),” he said.
REASONS FOR NEW REGION
Former Negros Occidental Gov. Rafael Coscolluela, who moderated the consultation, said that among the reasons why an island region is needed is that it will allow joint coordination in tourism, peace and order, environment, development planning, disaster management and road infrastructure.
It will also ensure more equitable shares of resources and better accessibility to regional offices for Negros Occidental and Oriental, he added.
Among the 65 Negros Oriental participants at the consultation aside from Degamo were Vice Governor Mark Macias, Rep. Manuel Iway (1st District), Rep. George Arnaiz (2nd District) and Rep. Pryde Henry Teves (3rd District), former Rep. Jocelyn Limkaichong, 14 mayors, 5 vice mayors, board members, councilors and private sector representatives.
Of the 113 from the Occidental side, Marañon was joined by Vice Governor Eugenio Jose Lacson, Rep. Evelio Leonardia, Rep. Leo Rafael Cueva (2nd District),Rep. Jeffrey Ferrer (4th District), Rep. Alejando Mirasol (5th District), Rep. Gary Alejano (Magdalo) and Rep. Stephen Paduano (Abang Lingkod), 26 mayors, 15 vice mayors, others from the private sector.
Leonardia and Ferrer reiterated their stands in support of the island region.
“The consultation yesterday was a gathering of eagles, it was very high in quantity and quality”, Leonardia said. The presence of Secretary Roxas made him even more optimistic that the dream of a Negros Island Region that he had supported as early as 20 years ago, will finally become a reality, he added.
Ferrer described the caucus as very fruitful, especially with the presence of Roxas. I believe this proposal will be fast-tracked and will have positive results.
Bacolod Mayor Monico Puentevella asked Roxas what the fastest way was to lobby for the passage of the island region proposal.
Roxas said whether the island region is created through a law or executive order, supporting data and reasoning will be needed.
“For me to do my job I need the data to convince the president an island region is needed,” he said.
Several other government officials and private sector representatives also aired their reasons why an island region is necessary.*CPG
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