Governor Roel Degamo refuted claims of Eduard Du, president of the Negros Oriental Chamber of Commerce and Industry, that the province lags behind others in Region 7, and that Siquijor is better off than Negros Oriental.
If this is so, businessmen in Negros Oriental would have invested more in Siquijor, Degamo said, adding that, in fact, patients from Siquijor are brought to hospitals in Dumaguete City, they send their children to universities in the province, they do their marketing here, and the like.
“It appears that it’s only the interest of the businessmen that is being presented by Mr. Du,” Degamo said, referring to the former’s statements during the consultative forum on the proposed Negros Island Region, held in Dumaguete City, October 25.
Du had said that if the people are poor, businesses will not prosper due to the lack of the purchasing power to buy goods and services. He also said he is worried for the business sector when the Asian Free Trade Agreement will be fully implemented in 2015, when cheaper imported goods will flood the local markets, to the benefit of majority of Negrenses, Degamo said.
Du had said in the forum that Bohol and Cebu do not care about Negros Oriental since they corner about 80 percent of the infrastructure projects, and will not be affected by AFTA because they have a booming tourism industry, manufacturing, BPO and shipyards, among others.
Degamo said Wednesday that, “I say no to the proposed one-island, one-region concept espoused by Negros Occidental and some officials in the Oriental side, in the absence of concrete data and feasibility study, that it will result to the upliftment of the lives of poor Negrenses and improve their living conditions.”
He added that the past two consultations failed to present data and a feasibility study that would warrant the unification of the two Negros provinces. He said that as governor of Negros Oriental, he is accountable for his people, saying his signature would also mean their signature.
Degamo said he was informed of a recent study made by Silliman University that showed that more Negrenses are against the proposed one-island region, with 57 percent still undecided and unaware about the proposed merger. He asked why the proponents for a Negros region are rushing the issue.
He said he does not want to make hasty decisions that would result to wastes later on. “Haste makes wastes,” he said.
Meanwhile, National Economic and Development Authority Region 7 director, Efren Carreon, said that in 2006, poverty incidence among families in Region 7 was at 30.7 percent. It went down to 25.7 percent in 2012.
He added that poverty incidence in Negros Oriental went up in 2012, but stressed that Negros Oriental was hit by typhoon Sendong in December 2011, and the 6.9-magnitude earthquake in February 6, 2012.
These calamities devastated the province. And this explains the rise in poverty incidence in Negros Oriental, Carreron added.
Rep. Pryde Henry Teves (Neg. Or., 3 rd District) presented data to prove the imbalance in the distribution of financial resources in Region 7. He said that in terms of land area percentage, Negros Oriental comprises 36 percent of the land area of Region 7, Cebu accounts for 32 percent, Bohol 28 percent and Siquijor, 2.3 percent.
In the computation of the Internal Revenue Allotment share, 27.7 percent should be for Negros Oriental, 39 percent for Cebu, 29 percent Bohol, and 7.7 percent for Siquijor. However, in the 2009-2012 budget for the Department of Public Works and Highways, Negros Oriental only got P3 billion, Siquijor – P1 billion, and Bohol – P3 billion. Negros Oriental only got 18 percent when we should have gotten 27.7 percent, Teves said.
“Let us carve our own path and make our own destiny. We have so much resource at our disposal, geothermal power, raw materials in agriculture and aquaculture, mineral resources, tourism spots, and the academic institutions to prepare our youth. We can make our own regional hubs and export our products and not wait for leftovers,” he added.*JG