CEBU CITY, Philippines – Malacañang is eyeing the dissolution of the Negros Island Region (NIR) due to “budget constraints,” a Palace official said on Saturday, October 8.
“There is a very big chance it (NIR) will be abolished because of the budget constraints,” Presidential Assistant for the Visayas Michael Lloyd Dino told reporters after a public hearing of the House committee on transportation in this city.
He was asked about unconfirmed reports that the NIR would be dissolved and its provinces – Negros Oriental and Negros Occidental – reverted back to their old regions.
Upon the recommendation of then Interior Secretary Manuel Roxas II, President Benigno Aquino III created the NIR through Executive Order No. 183 on May 29, 2015, to place the two provinces in Negros Island under the same region. (READ: FAST FACTS: The Negros Island Region)
EO 183 said that creating a region for the two adjacent provinces is needed “to further accelerate the social and economic development of the cities and municipalities comprising the provinces of Negros Occidental and Negros Oriental and improve the delivery of public services in the aforementioned provinces.”
‘Not too late’
Dino said “it’s not too late” for President Rodrigo Duterte to revoke the EO. “The conversion to Negros Island Region hasn’t been fully implemented yet, so it’s not too late for the President to revoke the EO,” he said.
He noted that “for 2016 and even in 2017, there is no allocation for NIR.” Dino estimated that the budget for a new region like the NIR would “cost the government around P19 billion.”
“So for now, balik muna sa [original] regions (So for now, they will be reverted to their [original] regions,” Dino said.
He declined to say who proposed reverting Negros Occidental and Negros Oriental to Regions 6 and 7, respectively.
SpecuIations about the fate of the NIR were fanned by its exclusion in the proposed 2017 budget prepared by the Duterte administration despite appeals by local officials.
NIR officials had pushed to include the new region in the proposed 2016 budget through amendments, but there was not enough time to go over the budget with all the line agencies. For that year, and also in 2017, the allocation of the two provinces remained with their previous regions.
Negros Occidental Governor Alfred Marañon Jr and Negros Oriental Governor Roel Degamo supported the presidential bid of Roxas in the 2016 elections. Roxas won in both provinces, while Duterte placed second.
On September 30, Marañon led 200 local officials in Negros Occidental in taking their oath as members of the ruling Partido Demokratiko Pilipino-Lakas Ng Bayan (PDP-Laban), the President’s party. – Rappler.com