DUMAGUETE CITY, Oct. 18 (PNA) -â€“ Calls are mounting from different sectors asking President Rodrigo Duterte not to revoke an executive order mandating the creation of the Negros Island Region (NIR) or Region 18.
The latest appeal was made by the NIR Regional Peace and Order Council (RPOC) during its meeting Monday in Dumaguete City, Negros Oriental, attended by the different government agencies and chaired by Negros Oriental Governor Roel Degamo.
In that meeting, the body passed a motion en masse to come up with a resolution stipulating reasons why the Negros Island Region should not be dissolved.
Early media reports had said that President Rodrigo Duterte was set to issue an executive order for the dissolution of the NIR due to budgetary constraints.
The NIR needs at least P19 billion for its operations and is currently operating on budgets taken from two Visayas regions as it does not have its own budget yet for 2016 and 2017.
Executive Order No. 183, s. 2015 creating Negros Island Region was signed by then President Benigno Simeon Aquino III on May 29, 2015.
This then separated Negros Oriental from Region VII or Central Visayas and Negros Occidetanl from Region VI or Western Visayas to comprise the Negros Island Region.
But Department of Budget and Management Secretary Benjamin Diokno announced last week that President Duterte was set to sign an executive order for the NIR dissolution following a decision made during a Cabinet meeting October 3.
Sec. Diokno had said it was he who told the President that the NIRâ€™s P19-billion budget for various agencies is not affordable and there are other priorities.
The 10 House Representatives from Negros have written the President not to repeal the executive order for the creation of the NIR.
The letter, dated Oct. 10, 2016, was signed by Representatives Jocelyn Limkaichong, Manuel Sagarbarria and Arnulo Teves of Negros Oriental, and Greg Gasataya, Melecio Yap, Jr., Leo Rafael Cueva, Alfredo Benitez, Juliet Marie Ferrer, Alejandro Mirasol and Mercedes Alvarea of Negros Occidental.
They noted that despite budget limitations, the interim government regional offices have substantial accomplishments over the past year.
Others who have joined the call against the dissolution of the NIR are the chambers of commerce of both Negros Oriental and Negros Occidental, regional heads of offices and provincial officials.
Gov. Degamo, in an interview Monday, admitted that if President Duterte will sign the executive order for the revocation of NIR, â€œthen there is nothing we can doâ€.
â€œBut I hope that it will not happen. Having regional offices here has made transactions with government easier,â€ Degamo pointed out.
The governor also stressed that government agencies will have to trim down their respective budgets down to the basics so that a hearing in Congress next week will perhaps reconsider NIR budgetary requirements.
Degamo disclosed Rep. Albee (Alfred) Benitez has asked that the NIR status be deliberated in Congress next week.
He reiterated, though, his initial stand at the start of the proposed NIR creation that a feasibility study should be made first and to allocate a budget before the region is created.
For his part, Department of Environment and Natural Resources-Negros Island Region (DENR-NIR) Regional Director Al Orolfo announced that if President Duterte signs the executive order for the dissolution of NIR, then the agency will have to obey the said order.
Orolfo, however, noted that despite budgetary limitations, the DENR-NIR has already implemented certain projects on Negros Island.
These include the regulatory committees and activities at the regional level, but these will be reverted to Region 6 and 7 if NIR is dissolved, Orolfo added.
On a personal note, when asked which works better between NIR or the Negros provinces returned to their previous mother regions, Orolfo explains that in terms of island development, â€œthe consideration of the whole ecosystem is one factorâ€.
â€œSo, therefore, when we created the one-island region, there is already a more holistic approach in terms of the whole Negros Island Regionâ€ compared to when two different regions administered the island separately, Orolfo said.
â€œBecause now that we are one Negros Island Region, we are able to unify policies and I think that the island has become more dynamic now that it is managed by the different regional government agenciesâ€, he added.
There is already an increased interaction between the two Negros provinces now, Orolfo noted. (PNA)