The Negros Island Region (NIR) will continue to exist even without a budget for 2017, Senior Board Member Salvador Escalante said yesterday. Escalante’s statements come on the heels of the report that Budget Secretary Benjamin Diokno turned down the appeal of Negros Occidental Governor Alfredo Marañon Jr., and Negros Oriental Governor Roel Degamo to include the proposed budget of NIR in the 2017 national budget. Degamo and Marañon Jr. met with Diokno in Manila Wednesday to lobby for the NIR budget 2017.
Escalante doubts need for NIR
Escalante said that for local government officials in Negros “the mere fact that the executive order creating the NIR has not been revoked signify that there is a need to continue the NIR.” “We are currently operating without a clear budget for the NIR,” he said.
He added that based on the statements of the Governor from their meeting with President Rodrigo Duterte in Malacañang, “definitely right now the government cannot afford the proposed budget as the government has other priorities like the drug rehabilitation where all funds will be focused.”
“Hopefully, by 2018 the government can afford already,” he said. Escalante said that he is suggesting that the proposed P42 billion budget for NIR next year be “revisited.” He added that while proposed budget is “good if it is approved” but thinks that “maybe it can be reduced to a level that is attractive to the national government.”
“It should be at a level nga indi mo man bala pagagaan just enough to operate and probably a little to programs and projects to be implemented in the NIR,” he pointed out.
He said that he doesn’t believe “that it is a setback but a benchmark to start without a budget and hope a budget can be allocated in 2018. Even if we do not have a budget right now, it is better than to go back to our mother regions and continue to dream of Negros Island,” he added.
Escalante said that the proposed amount maybe too much for a new administration, “maybe we could cut the proposal to half.” Pressed if the holding of the budget of NIR is politically-motivated, he said that “as a politician it is but natural that I will prioritize those areas where I have commitments.” But, he said that based on the President’s earlier pronouncements that “it is now time to break barriers and unite the country especially in his fight against illegal drugs.”
NIR has NO priority
Escalante said he does not believe that it is politically-motivated “as the congressmen and senators allied with the ruling party are also pushing for the approval of the NIR budget.” “We maybe not a priority right now,” he said. Degamo said that he remains optimistic that the national government will change its mind and at least include the NIR in the national budget for 2018. He suggested that the national officials revisit the NIR so they can be convinced to fund it. But while the budget for the operating cost of the NIR will not be included in the 2017 budget, Degamo does not believe the big ticket projects for the island, approved by the Regional Development Council, will be affected.
The NIR composed of Negros Occidental and Oriental was created by virtue of Executive Order No. 183 issued by President Benigno Aquino III on May 29, 2015