THE newly formed Negros Island Region will soon be dissolved, Malacañang said Monday.
The Executive Order dissolving it is ready for President Rodrigo Duterte’s signature at a date still to be announced, Presidential Spokesman Ernesto Abella told a news briefing.
NIR’s creation was endorsed by then Interior Secretary Manuel Roxas II, who ran for president in the May 2016 elections.
But Budget Secretary Benjamin Diokno said the supposed P19-billion cost of creating the new region was “not affordable,” given the Duterte administration’s other priorities.
Speaking to reporters in Malacañang last week, Diokno said the Executive Order might be signed “anytime soon,” adding the decision to dissolve the region was made in the last Cabinet meeting on Oct. 3.
Duterte has listened to local government officials from Negros Oriental and Negros Occidental, the two provinces that comprise the region.
But Diokno said Duterte was more convinced by the argument that the new region would be too costly.
“Well, you don’t want to spend P19 billion for such two-province region. In any event, with the federalism, that region will not be created, so it seems useless,” said Diokno.
If the EO is signed, the “status quo” remains, with services provided to Negros Oriental and Negros Occidental by the regions they previously belonged to, said Diokno.
Funds meant for the creation of the NIR are not in the proposed 2017 national budget.
Diokno also sought to address concerns that dissolving the region would stunt the development of Negros Oriental and Negros Occidental, stressing “new technology” would enable the speedy provision of government services to these provinces.
The EO, if signed, will repeal the EO signed by then President Benigno Aquino III on May 29, 2015. It separated Negros Occidental from Western Visayas or Region VI, and Negros Oriental from Central Visayas or Region VII.
Diokno earlier told Duterte the creation of the region would be heavy on the wallet, saying “When we came in, I was confronted with a P19-billion request by various agencies for that new region. I said, that’s not affordable, we have other priorities,” said Diokno.
“The EO on the NIR is not in the budget anymore. It will be repealed. It’s pending at the Office of the President. Anyway, it will be signed anytime soon,” Diokno said.
Diokno said there was no allocation for the NIR in the 2016 General Appropriations Act or in the 2017 proposed national budget.