MAKATI City - I missed the celebration of Cinco de Noviembre in Silay, Negros Occidental last Saturday. It would have been great to be there to enjoy the food as they launched "Kaon Ta" (Let's Eat!), the 1st Silay Food Festival at the Balay Negrense grounds.
I only landed back in Negros soil a few days after and immediately after deplaning, I headed to the Municipality of Murcia. In Barangay Alegria, I noticed that there had been some progress as there was electrification and a number of old hands in the farm had their own land to till. However, there are still a number of people who had not been able to pull themselves out of the financial quagmire which has beset them for decades.
I was particularly bothered by the idea that one of the people in the field pointed out to me from a distance was once a boy I played with when I was about 8-years old. He was the son of Moroy, the tractor driver. Forty years ago, when I would tag along with my late father to the farm, I would keep myself busy playing childhood games near the bodega with the other children while my dad went around inspecting the canefields. Moroy's son was one of them.
I thought that if this is the situation of someone who is just an hour away from the city center of Bacolod, what more would it be like for those living in the hinterlands of the Negros.
President Rodrigo Duterte has always claimed that he is pro-poor, and so it follows that the simplest argument for all of us who believe that the newly created Negros Island Region (NIR-18) should be preserved is that the budget will be for the development of two provinces that have poverty rates of 32.2 percent for the Occidental and 50.1 percent for Oriental must be convincing enough that it is not a waste of money as claimed by Budget Sec. Benjamin Diokno.
“Government exists not to save money but to deliver public services where it is most needed to alleviate the plight of the poor,” is a strong argument and will hopefully pierce Duterte's heart. The purpose of the NIR is to alleviate lives of about 2 million Negrosanons from both Occidental and Oriental. If that is not enough to convince him what else will? That number is close to the 3 million addicts he wants to save and for which we laud him, but not for the methods being used.
Revoking the creation of the Negros Island Region on the issue of the budget, being allegedly 'costly' and 'a waste of money to spend P19B for such two-province region', is somewhat short-sighted and misses the point of the unification.
Let us not lose sight of the fact that the alleviation of poverty is the best reason for President Duterte to preserve the Negros Island Region.