By EUGENE ADIONG
MOISES PADILLA, Negros Occidental — The National Economic and Development Authority’s (NEDA) opposition to the planned creation of a one-island Negros region does not sit well with Gov. Alfredo Marañon Jr.
Apparently, it had gotten into his nerves.
“Wala pulos ang NEDA,” Marañon stressed. “If I were the president, I will abolish it.”
Officials from Negros Occidental and Negros Oriental had been pushing for the fusion of the two provinces into one region.
They believe that it will augur well for both provinces, which can push through various development initiatives together.
Once under one region, they said, the Negros provinces can better address their needs and coordinate efforts for peace and security and economic growth.
NEDA, however, had been opposed to the plan, with Regional Director Ro-ann Bacal saying it would be costly and impractical.
Creating a “Negros Region” would be unnecessary if the needs of the Negros provinces are addressed by their respective regions, she said.
In August last year, Bacal said making Negros a one-island region will not come cheap. Setting up a new region needs the creation of new regional offices for all national government agencies, “the whole gamut of it,” she had said.
“What is the bottom line for creating a new region for the two Negros provinces? Why would they want to be an island-region? Are there matters not being attended to at the moment?” Bacal had asked.
She had said creating a separate region would be practical if the island is “as big as Mindanao … but not if it is the size of Negros.”
“Wala labot ang NEDA diri ’ya. Iya ni ’ya concern sang Negros,” said Marañon, who was here yesterday to receive a deed of donation for a property where an agricultural and vocational training center will be built.
“NEDA’s concern over the cost of the new region will be covered by the local governments and the congressmen of the two provinces,” the governor said.
Currently, Negros Occidental belongs to Region 6, with regional offices in Iloilo in the nearby Panay Island, while Negros Oriental is part of Region 7, with regional offices in Cebu.
Bacal said Negros Island officials should study first the experiences of newly created regions and whether or not services there are better now.
NEDA had been against the creation of a one-island Negros region even when it was first proposed during the time of President Fidel Ramos.
Then governors Daniel Lacson of Occidental and Emilio Macias of Oriental raised the proposal.
But there was a lot of resentment from the Oriental side on the way the island was divided, former Occidental governor Rafael Coscolluela said last year.
“The bigger problem came when President Ramos told us that [NEDA] was very reluctant to endorse the creation of new regional offices for the Negros Island Region, for it would add costs to the national government”; thus, the proposal “died a natural death,” he had said.
The plan was revived when Oriental’s 3rd District Rep. Henry Pryde Teves and 2nd District Rep. George Arnaiz visited Marañon in June last year to discuss projects that the two provinces can work on.
Teves said the people of Negros provinces felt they were “second-class citizens” in their respective regions.
He believes Negros can sustain itself as a region, with commerce, trade, education and geothermal power present in the island.
Coscolluela said the reasons that gave birth to the proposal are still valid: that the two islands need to work together to coordinate infrastructure development and peace and order initiatives.
On April 1, Negros officials agreed to rally their constituents to support the plan and considered using the power of the voting populace as leverage in lobbying for government support.
They are currently soliciting resolutions supporting the plan from all sectors in the island, particularly local government units and associations of government officials.
All resolutions shall be gathered by the end of this month in time for the holding of a “Negros Summit” in Kabankalan City by middle of June.
Negros officials consider making either Kabankalan City in Occidental or Mabinay town in Oriental as the supposed region’s capital.
But Bacal had said the Regional Development Councils (RDCs), either from Western Visayas or Central Visayas, should be pushing for the plan.
Governors leading the said RDCs shall decide whether or not to push for the proposal — whether or not to allow Negros provinces under their respective jurisdictions to be taken from them — she had said./PN