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DILG chief hopes for more public consultations on 1 Negros Island Region proposal
By Roi Anthoni Lomotan
DUMAGUETE CITY (PIA) – Department of the Interior and Local Government (DILG) Secretary Mar Roxas hopes for more public consultations on the proposed 1 Negros Island Region in Negros Oriental to inform residents on the issue.
Roxas said this in a consultation forum on the topic with some local chief executives, provincial board members, businessmen, religious sector representatives, Pantawid Pamilyang Pilipino Program (4Ps) beneficiaries and Civil Society Organization (CSO) leaders in Silliman University yesterday.
He pointed out that a recent survey conducted by Silliman University showed half of the people in the province are not aware of the proposal.
Silliman University (SU) made a survey last year to know the public’s pulse on the issue. The survey reveals 58% of Oriental Negrenses don’t know the 1 Negros Island Region proposal. This was also reported in local dailies here.
Roxas calls for an intensified information drive on the 1 Negros Island Region proposal to raise the public’s awareness on its advantages and disadvantages for people to make concrete stand on the topic.
“You need to inform the people since the SU says about one half of the people have not heard of this. Don’t keep them blind, tell them, involve them, discuss with them, debate with them, so the whole province is part of the decision (making),” Roxas said.
“They cannot say ‘Yes, we want’ or ‘No, we don’t want’ because they are unaware (of this),” He added.
He suggested that Silliman University can host debates between those who are for and against the proposal and hold more stakeholder consultations. On the other hand, media outlets like radio stations can also facilitate on-air consultations to reach more people.
“Consultation is not unanimity, consultation is you ask majority of the people. We are for democracy but there must be an honest to goodness consultation,” Sec. Roxas noted.
According to Roxas, what is important is for people to know what are the plans, the minuses and the direction of the 1 Negros Island Region proposal.
Roxas also clarified that the consultations are not meant to impose the 1 Negros Island Region proposal to the public.
Roxas emphasized that the objective of these dialogues is for people to understand the challenges as well as the opportunities if there is one island region.
Negros Island is only island in the country which belongs to two different regions. Negros Oriental, which is in the eastern side is under Region 7 while Negros Occidental on the western side is part of Region 6. If the proposal pushes through, these Negros provinces will create a new region and will be separated from their former regions.
Sec. Roxas sees the proposal a good move to fast track development interventions in the two Negros provinces since a new regional development council will be formed which will determine a roadmap for progress for Negros Oriental and Negros Occidental.
He explained that currently, Negros Oriental is one of the provinces in the country with high poverty incidence. This is due to the lack of infrastructure like roads, bridges access roads, etc.
On the other hand, Negros Occidental does not suffer from high poverty incidence but since it has a bigger population than the other province, the occidental side of the island has registered high number of poor families.
However, it is still the people who will decide if they want to have a 1 Negros Island Region.
“In the end we respect the people. You have the decision,” he concluded.
Meanwhile, Negros Oriental Gov. Roel Degamo who also attended the forum said he is open to the idea of having a 1 Negros Island Region but there should be a thorough study on the benefits of the proposal to Oriental Negrenses.
Gov. Degamo requests more time to inform people on this proposal especially its advantages and disadvantages for Negros Oriental and more time to think over the things to consider with regard to the 1 Negros Island Region. (mbcn/ral/PIA7-Negros Oriental/This article was first published at PIA website on April 22, 2015)