The following publication of the NOCCI was sent to us by BM Ikay Villanueva.
NOCCI NIR Position Paper
NEGROS ORIENTAL CHAMBER OF COMMERCE AND INDUSTRY INC.
NOIPC Bldg., Capitol Area, Dumaguete City, Negros Oriental
Tel. No. (035) 226-1036, 422-0243 Email address: email@example.com
1-NEGROS ISLAND REGION INITIATIVE
POSITION PAPER ON ECONOMIC BENEFITS/IMPACT ON POVERTY INCIDENCE
Ever since Negros Oriental became a part of Region 7, its poverty incidence for the past 10-15 years has relatively remained unchanged. In fact, based on the poverty statistics obtained from the National Statistical Coordination Board (NSCB) for the 10-year period from 2003 to 2012, Negros Oriental was consistently the poorest province in Region 7 and consistently in the Top 20 poorest provinces in the Philippines with poverty incidence ranging from 41% to 52%. In 2003 alone, the 5 poorest municipalities in Region 7 were all located in Negros Oriental with poverty incidence ranging from 61.4% to 65.7%.
Meanwhile, Cebu City and Tagbilaran City, the capital cities of Cebu and Bohol, respectively, have been consistently in the Top 10 Most Competitive Cities in the Philippines, based on the biennial survey conducted by the Asian Institute of Management (AIM) Policy center (2009,2011).
However, what is now alarming to the business sector is the fact that due to the continued inequitable allocation of scarce national government resources at the Regional Development Council-Region VII, poverty incidence for Negros Oriental has worsened from 2009 to 2012 compared to its immediate neighbors-Cebu, Bohol, Siquijor and Negros Occidental as shown below:
Y e a r 2 0 0 9 Y e a r 2 0 1 2
Poverty Incidence Ranking Poverty Incidence Ranking
Cebu 26.7% 45* 22.4% 50*
Bohol 38.6% 21* 32.5% 30*
Siquijor 26.1% 46* 24.6% 48*
Negros Occidental 28.3% 41* 26.2% 44*
Negros Oriental 41.9% 15* 45.3% 9*
*Note: Above figures were derived from the National Statistical Coordination Board (NSCB) thru NSCB website : www.nscb.gov.ph/poverty/defaultnew.asp
What is more alarming is despite the all-out efforts of NOCCI to bring in new investors from 2010 to 2012 (e.g. Dumaguete Business Park, Robinsons Mall, Qualfon 1&2, Linksys IT Park, SPi Global, PNOC privatization, GoHOTEL, Hotel Essencia, Florentina Hotel, Bahura Resort, Atmosphere Resort, URSUMCO Ethanol Plant, Nasulo Geothermal Plant, Camella Homes, etc…), the poverty incidence still worsened from 41.9% in 2009 to 45.3% in 2012. In other words, without the entry of these 14 new investors to Negros Oriental beginning 2010, NOCCI believes the poverty incidence could have been likely much higher than 45.3%.
Based on the latest official poverty incidence data derived from the National Statistical Coordination Board, Negros Oriental is now ranked as the 9th poorest province in the country out of 81 provinces nationwide with almost half of its households (45.3%) unable to meet their basic daily needs. This is very alarming. While all the other four neighboring provinces have been able to successfully reduce their poverty incidence these past 20 years by at least 2 to 9 notches, Negros Oriental’s poverty incidence has worsened by 6 notches from 15th poorest Province in 2009 to 9th poorest Province in 2012. Next year, the business community predicts a far worst scenario for Negros Oriental with the full implementation of the ASEAN economic integration that is expected to severely hit our marginal farmers in the sugar, coconut, aquaculture and livestock industries as imported refined sugar, imported palm oil, imported coconut milk, imported marine and frozen meat/poultry products from Thailand, Vietnam, Taiwan, Indonesia, and Malaysia, freely enter the Philippine market at almost zero tariff thereby threatening the agricultural competitiveness of our marginal farmers and fisherfolks who are not yet ready to compete with their ASEAN counterparts. The coming ASEAN tsunami will surely hit Negros Oriental because Negros Oriental is predominantly an agricultural province unlike Cebu and Bohol which rely on manufacturing and tourism and not agriculture. Thus, since Bohol and Cebu will not be affected by the ASEAN tsunami, they don’t care what happens to Negros Oriental and Siquijor.
Clearly, without a doubt, the current status quo is not benefitting Negros Oriental and given the historical track record of both Bohol and Cebu at the Regional Development Council, we in NOCCI believe that Bohol and Cebu will both continue to dominate and corner the lion’s share of Region VII’s big ticket infrastructure projects in the coming years as they have consistently done so in the past 20 years. In fact, the biggest irony and anomaly of it all is that in the other regions of the Philippines, normally the poorest provinces are almost always given priority in infrastructure projects but sadly in Region 7, the reverse is true. Negros Oriental, even though it has been consistently known to be the poorest province in Region 7 was never given any sympathetic treatment by Bohol and Cebu thereby explaining its worsening poverty situation; while Bohol and Cebu continue to reduce their poverty incidence by 4-6% every 3 years. But now, for the very first time in the history of Negros Oriental, we finally have a platform that will give us a fighting chance to get us out of the list of the Top 20 Poorest Provinces with the help of our future “Big Brother” Negros Occidental under the New Negros Island Region (NNIR). Thus, the time to separate from Region 7 has come and must now be seriously considered by our local political leaders unless the people of Negros Oriental remain CONTENTED WITH THE STATUS QUO of being consistently in the Top 20 Poorest Provinces of the Philippines while our immediate neighbors (Cebu, Bohol, Siquijor & Negros Occidental) continue to reduce their poverty incidence and progress way ahead of us.
Although some of our local political leaders believe there can be no absolute guarantee that separating from Region 7 will automatically address Negros Oriental’s poverty incidence, we in the Negros Oriental Chamber of Commerce also believe that there is also nothing to lose and everything to gain if Negros Oriental joins Negros Occidental under a One-Island, One-Region set-up because under NOCCI’s proposal for a 3-year “experimental” or transition period, if after 3 years, the poverty incidence worsens under the 1-Negros Island Region regime, we can always go back to our respective Regions (Region 7 for Neg.Or. and Region 6 for Neg.Occ.) and permanently abandon the 1-Negros Island Region initiative. Simply put, a 3-year transition/experimental period offers not only a “win-win” window of opportunity for Negros Oriental but is almost a zero risk proposition for both Provinces because there are no expected major political structural changes or adverse socio-economic implications to Negros Oriental under a 1-Negros Island Region set-up. As the saying goes, better to have experimented and failed than never having experimented at all !
Thus, last August 1 2014, the NOCCI board of trustees and officers went to Bacolod City and submitted a detailed Position Paper to Negros Occidental Governor Alfredo Maranon, Vice Governor Bong Lacson and Metro Bacolod Chamber of Commerce & Industry proposing for the immediate conversion of all existing provincial offices of all national government agencies into sub-regional offices to save on billions of pesos in the construction of 35 new regional office buildings and hiring of 350 new regional government officials and staff. Our Position Paper was approved by Governor Maranon and Vice Gov. Bong Lacson and on August 22, 2014, all the 16 Visayan Chambers of Commerce all over the Visayas including Cebu and Iloilo chambers of commerce unanimously approved our Position Paper. Yesterday, our Position Paper was unanimously approved by the PCCI Board of Directors in Manila Hotel during the 40th Philippine Business Conference and formally endorsed by PCCI President Ambassador Alfredo Yao to President PNoy for presidential action. We are hopeful that beginning January 1 2015, in time for the full implementation of the ASEAN economic integration, President PNoy will act on our Position Paper by immediately appointing all existing Provincial Directors of all national government agencies in both Dumaguete and Bacolod Cities as concurrent Regional Directors and/or concurrent Asst. Regional Directors according to seniority status under existing Civil Service Commission rules and regulations.
Finally, we in NOCCI believe that Negros Oriental’s chances of reducing poverty incidence under a 1-Negros Island Region are high given the following potential economic scenarios:
- Under NOCCI’s proposal for a 1-Negros Island Region, all existing Neg.Or. & Neg.Occ. provincial offices of all the 30 various national government agencies (e.g. DA, DENR, DOLE, DTI, DOST, TESDA, DSWD, DILG, DPWH, DEPed, DAR, BIR, BOC, NBI, BI, PNP, LTO, LRA, SSS, PHILHEALTH, PAG-IBIG, PCSO, MARINA, NFA, PCA, FIDA, BFAR, PPA, CAAP, NSO) can now be automatically converted into sub-regional offices by mere Presidential Executive Order thereby saving billions of pesos in constructing new regional buildings/offices and bringing government services much closer to the poor people of both Negros Oriental and Occidental. Aside from the huge savings (amounting to P1.2B per year for 30 regional offices’ annual salaries alone) in hiring new government personnel to operate the regional offices, the more significant savings is on the travelling expenses of our poor people who still have to travel and stay a few days in Cebu or Iloilo for the renewal of their passports, PRC licenses for all professionals, DOLE Clearance, LTFRB vehicle franchises, DENR ECC permits, HLURB license to sell, Bureau of Lands simple subdivision permit, seaman’s license/notebook, POEA clearance for all OFWs, TESDA NC certification, taking government licensure board exams, SEC registration, BOI Registration, PEZA registration, DOT accreditation license, MARINA permits, BIR tax exemption for low cost housing projects, DAR conversion clearance, FDA import clearance, Bureau of Customs accreditation import permit, renewal of gun permits, and a host of other regional permits that have made life so miserable for our poor people who have long suffered and endured for centuries the red tape persecution, “provincial” discrimination and even inhuman insults of “Imperial” Cebu ever since Negros island was split into two provinces. For our elected public officials and Provincial Directors, 8 hours roundtrip land travel to Cebu every month just to follow up their respective projects means 36 days lost every year for every local and provincial government official multiplied by 56 local and provincial government officials or a total of 2,016 days lost every year due to land travel to Cebu alone. In terms of travelling and fuel expenses, the estimated amount lost to unnecessary travel to Cebu alone by our 56 local and provincial officials is approximately P10Million pesos per year including board and lodging. Under NOCCI’s proposal for 1-Negros Island Region, Negros Oriental will automatically save P10Million a year just in travelling and fuel expenses alone of our local and provincial government officials. Isn’t this reason enough to support the 1-Negros Island Region set-up?
- Under NOCCI’s proposal for 1-Negros Island Region, voting in the Regional Development Council will no longer be a game of numbers unlike the present set-up wherein Negros Oriental and Siquijor will always be outvoted by Cebu and Bohol in terms of priority infrastructure projects approval;
- Under NOCCI’s proposal for 1-Negros Island Region, allocation of scarce national government resources will now be equitably shared by only two provinces instead of four. Unlike the present set-up wherein Cebu and Bohol have always gotten more than 75% of the big-ticket infrastructure projects allocated for Central Visayas (example, Panglao International airport, Cebu mactan bridge, etc…), under the 1-Negros Island Region, only 2 Governors will decide on how to equitably share the entire Regional Infrastructure Allocation.
- Under NOCCI’s proposal for 1-Negros Island Region, the 30 national government agencies alone usually hold their annual regional/national conventions and quarterly meetings at their regional capitals. These annual regional & national conventions by all the 30 national government agencies alone can easily bring in annual gross revenues of at least P6M to P12M to both Provinces instead of the current set-up wherein all existing provincial directors of all national government agencies have to travel to Cebu or Iloilo just to attend their annual regional/national conventions and quarterly meetings thereby giving zero business to their respective home provinces;
- Under NOCCI’s proposal for 1-Negros Island Region, since there are five times more businessmen and factories in Negros Occidental than in Negros Oriental, Oriental Negrenses can now be given priority in employment by Negros Occidental businessmen because given the worsening poverty incidence of Negros Oriental these past few years as reported by the National Statistical Coordination Board (NSCB), Negros Occidental now has a moral duty and obligation to act as a “big brother” to Negros Oriental and help our Province reduce its worsening poverty incidence during the 3-year “transition period” by employing our skilled workers and sharing their best practices in reducing their poverty incidence from 28.3% in 2009 to 26.2% in 2012 despite their huge population, lack of geothermal power source, limited tourist attractions, and monocrop economy (sugar-based economy);
- Under NOCCI’s proposal for 1-Negros Island Region, the two Provinces can now prepare a 5 or 10-year master plan or industry roadmaps for the economic development of the entire Negros Island especially with the upcoming 2015 ASEAN economic integration. In the case of Negros Oriental and Negros Occidental, the local economy of both provinces is largely dependent on the sugar industry which is facing a serious threat in 2015 with the full implementation of AFTA as imported sugar from Thailand will start entering the Philippine market at almost zero tariff. Since both Provinces speak the same “sugar” language, then with more reason, the 2 Provinces must now join hands and work together as an Island Region to prepare for the full impact of AFTA come 2015;
- Under NOCCI’s proposal for 1-Negros Island Region, the 2 Provinces can now jointly plan, design, and agree on priority infrastructure projects that will make the Island Region attractive to both local and foreign investors. These infrastructure projects like connecting farm-to-market roads for both Provinces will enhance market access and create more livelihood opportunities for our marginal farmers in the entire Island Region. Other long-term infrastructure projects like ports, airports, special economic zones, etc… can now be master-planned by both Provinces to make the entire Negros Island a viable and attractive investment and tourist destination and not only Cebu, Bohol, Iloilo or Boracay that are currently dominating and cornering the infrastructure projects for the entire Visayas;
- Under NOCCI’s proposal for 1-Negros Island Region, the 2 Provinces can now jointly plan, negotiate, and agree on a common energy roadmap that will ensure the availability, reliability and competitiveness of the entire Island’s power supply requirements for the next 5, 10, or 20 years to ensure sustained economic growth for both Provinces especially that the 220 megawatt Palinpinon Geothermal Power Plant is located in Negros Oriental;
- Under NOCCI’s proposal for 1-Negros Island Region, the 2 Provinces can now jointly draft, plan, and agree on a common Tourism roadmap that will promote the entire Negros Island as an attractive island destination instead of merely getting the tourist “spillovers” from Cebu, Bohol and Boracay;
- Since both Provinces now belong to the Top 10 Next Wave Cities for Business Process Outsourcing (BPOs), under NOCCI’s proposal for 1-Negros Island Region, the 2 Provinces can now strengthen, share and complement each other’s educational reforms and human resource skills training programs to further improve the quality of education in both the public and private schools;
- Divorcing from Region 7 does not necessarily mean that tourism, trade and commerce with Cebu, Bohol and Siquijor will diminish. In fact Negros Oriental, being sandwiched by 3 very progressive provinces will now be able to create a new economic corridor, i.e., the 1-Negros-Bohol-Cebu triangle with Negros Oriental at the “heart” of the said new triangle. This new economic corridor will have a combined market of at least 6 Million consumers thereby creating a critical mass that can attract the big players to invest in this new corridor.
WHEREAS, IN VIEW OF THE FOREGOING, WE THE OFFICERS AND MEMBERS OF THE NEGROS ORIENTAL CHAMBER OF COMMERCE & INDUSTRY HUMBLY APPEAL TO ALL OUR LOCAL POLITICAL LEADERS TO SUPPORT THE 1-NEGROS ISLAND REGION INITIATIVE PURSUANT TO OUR POSITION PAPER DATED JULY 26, 2014. TOGETHER, LET US ALL START DIGGING FOR THE “GOLDMINE” THAT HAS BEEN LYING IDLE UNDER THE 1-NEGROS ISLAND MOUNTAINS FOR THE PAST 100 YEARS AND STOP SOWING LIES & UNFOUNDED FEARS OR CREATING GHOSTS FOR THE SAID NOVEL INITIATIVE. THUS, LET US ALL WORK TOGETHER HARMONIOUSLY AND RALLY BEHIND THE 1-NEGROS ISLAND REGION INITIATIVE TO REDUCE POVERTY BECAUSE WE IN THE BUSINESS SECTOR CANNOT DO IT ALONE AS HAS BEEN PROVEN THESE PAST 3 YEARS. POVERTY REDUCTION CAN ONLY HAPPEN IF ALL SECTORS – NATIONAL GOVERNMENT, LOCAL GOVERNMENT, PRIVATE SECTOR, ACADEME, MEDIA, CIVIL SOCIETY, AND THE RELIGIOUS SECTOR ARE ALL UNITED AND COMMITTED TO MOVE & ACT TOWARDS ONE COMMON PATH AND DIRECTION. THAT COMMON PATH & DIRECTION, WE BELIEVE, IS NONE OTHER THAN THE 1-NEGROS ISLAND REGION DIRECTION.
The publication above is for informational purpose. It is published as received by Dumaguete.com It does not reflect our views, opinion and is for informational purpose.