NEDA officials led by Undersecretary Adoracion M. Navarro of the Regional Development Office, Regional Directors Ro-Ann A. Bacal of NEDA-VI and Efren B. Carreon of NEDA-VII met with local representatives of Negros Occidental and the private sector last August 30, 2017 at the Nature’s Village Resort in Talisay City to discuss the smooth reintegration process of the province to Region VI, as well as, common endeavors that will continually be pursued by both Negros Occidental and Oriental. Provincial officials who attended include former governor and consultant to Negros Occidental, Lito Coscolluela, and Provincial Planning and Development Coordinator, Ma. Lina Sanogal. Nine private sector representatives attended, led by Mr. Frank Carbon, President of the Metro Bacolod Chamber of Commerce and Industry.

USec Navarro said that despite the latest changes, there will be many opportunities to continue working together as one Negros. The RDCs of Regions VI and VII are encouraged, for instance, to plan on further improving road connectivity that will allow the efficient transport of goods and people and enable the development of tourism circuits that will showcase the attractions throughout the island. She explained that the development of a string of tourism destinations and packaging of such as one Negros Island tourism circuit will provide greater opportunities for communities, further develop products and services, and attract more investors, which in turn can create more jobs.

Mr. Frank Carbon pointed out that the abolition of the NIR should not be a hindrance to the full development of the Negros Island. He suggested that in order to have a continuous dialogue on economic matters and concerns, for instance, about power and water supply in the two provinces, a special body has to be created. Noting that the two chambers of commerce–the Metro Bacolod Chamber of Commerce and Industry and the Negros Oriental Chamber of Commerce and Industry–transmitted an official position proposing to create a Negros Island Development Council with membership from LGUs, regional government bodies, private sector and academe, Usec Navarro suggested an alternative. She explained that it is important that any proposed special body must be “government budget-neutral and less politicized”. The alternative therefore is a special body spearheaded by the private sector. She said that the common concerns and efforts of the two provinces can be consolidated to make up the Negros Island Development Agenda. These may include shared concerns on economic development, environment, infrastructure, disaster preparedness, and human resource development. She suggested the setting up of an Alliance for Negros Island Development Agenda (ANIDA) spearheaded by the private sector (i.e., the business chambers of the two provinces). She further proposed that the secretariat of the ANIDA be established and funded by the business chambers.

On the other hand, the NEDA regional offices will assist the alliance and act as advisors to push for inter-jurisdictional programs, projects, and policies that will benefit not only the two provinces but also the two regions, even as they concurrently focus their technical secretariat work for the RDC. PPDC Ma. Lina Sanogal assured the group of the provincial government’s support for the ANIDA. In response, Mr. Carbon and the other private sector leaders committed to initiate the creation of the alliance, along with their counterparts in Negros Oriental.

RD Bacal assured the Negros stakeholders that the transition process shall not affect nor hinder the delivery of essential public services in Negros Occidental and Negros Oriental and that everyone shall work towards disseminating clear messages to avoid confusion among LGUs and the general public. RD Carreon concurred with this.

RD Bacal also discussed a number of activities to be conducted by NEDA-VI in the coming days, including: the Private Sector Forum on September 5 to elect the private sector representatives (PSRs) for the reconfigured RDC-VI; the 3rd quarter meeting of the RDC on September 8 in Kalibo, Aklan where the Negros Occidental ex-officio members are invited to attend and where elected PSRs will be confirmed; a special meeting on September 15 in Negros Occidental, to be presided by RDC-VI Chairperson Governor Rhodora Cadiao and to be attended by regional directors of regional frontline agencies. In the September 15 special meeting, Governor Maranon will present the province’s development agenda and the regional offices will provide immediate response and feedback on projects that can be pursued and programmed in the next five years.