Negros Occidental Gov. Alfredo Marañon Jr. yesterday challenged members of the Sangguniang Panlalawigan, including Vice Gov. Genaro Alvarez Jr., to a debate “anywhere, anytime and anyplace” on the loans made by the provincial government under his watch.
Marañon was reacting to a statement of Alvarez that if he is elected governor, he will not get any more loans for the provincial government, and to the SP inaction on his request for an ordinance authorizing him to negotiate with the LandBank of the Philippines for the release of P240 million from the Capitol's standby loan.
Alvarez, on the other hand, said he does not think a debate is necessary, and the matter can be discussed at the SP as the proper venue.
Board Member Salvador Escalante, SP Committee on Finance chair, said the Sanggunian had already passed a resolution earlier that approved the P240 million loan, but the Monetary Board now requires that it be in the form of an ordinance, which is why the governor re-submitted the matter to the provincial board for action.
Of the P240 million the governor is seeking P170 million for the Negros First Cyber Center at the Paglaum Sports Complex in Bacolod City, with phase one having been allocated P450 million last year, the vice governor said.
The governor is also seeking a P50 million release for the construction of a three-storey Provincial Administration Center Annex Building, and P10,160,454 for additional classrooms at the building the provincial government is constructing for the Negros Occidental High School in Bacolod City.
Alvarez said the SP is amenable to approving a portion of the P170 million sought by the governor for the electrical needs of the cyber center to complete phase one, but is holding off on the approval of the funds for the parking area and enclosure of the facility until later.
“So far only about 20 to 25 percent of the cyber center has been competed, we will tackle the additional facilities needed when about 80 percent of phase one is done,” Alvarez said.
He also pointed out that the provincial government only committed to construct a 24-classsroom school building at the NOHS, and asked why six more classrooms worth P10.1 million needed to be added.
The classrooms could be constructed outside Bacolod City, he said, noting that only about 1 percent of the NOHS students are from towns and cities of Negros Occidental while the rest are Bacoleños.
Bacolod City is a highly urbanized city that is not under the jurisdiction of the provincial government.
The vice governor said he is also opposed to the construction of a P50 million three-storey Provincial Administration Center Annex Building in Bacolod City, adding that the additional offices to be housed there can use the vacant spaces at the Philippine National Bank main building at Lacson Street in Bacolod City.
THEY HAVE LOANS, TOO
Marañon said the United States and other rich nations, the Philippine government and local government units have existing loans that are made to hasten growth and development.
Even economic managers of the most successful firms take out loans to hasten growth, especially now that the cost of money is cheap with interest of loans only a 4.75 percent, he added.
Hospitals, schools, and other infrastructure projects built by the provincial government with loans to be paid over a long period of time, will have a lasting effect in serving generations of Negrenses, he said.
The Negros First Cyber Center, through the monthly rentals it will earn from the businesses that will occupy it, will not only pay for itself, but will continue to generate income for Negros Occidental in the future, he added.
And it will also create numerous jobs for Negrenses, he said.
He said NOHS also needs additional classrooms because it is already overcrowded, government officials should not just think of boundaries and on how many students come from outside Bacolod City.
The students there are Negrenses and Filipinos, NOHS is one of the best institutions in the province that has produced graduates like Rafael Salas, and Congresmen Inocencio Ferrer and Ramon Bagatsing, he said.
He said the problem with those opposing these projects is they are thinking of politics.
“This is beyond politics – education, food security and poverty alleviation are beyond politics. The first day I sat down (as governor) I forgot politics,” Marañon said.
BASED ON POLITICS?
They approved the loans before and now they are holding back on them, “Their decision is not good for the province, it is based on political convenience,” Marañon charged.
But Alvarez said their actions are not about politics, they are just making sure where the money from the loans will go.
Meanwhile, Marañon reiterated that he is running for governor under the United Negros Alliance ticket, and will complete their slate from congressmen down to councilors by the last week of September.
He said more young blood are expected to join UNA, too.
I am running, because the majority of the mayors are with me and want to continue out 11-point Negros first agenda, the governor said.
Alvarez, who also said he is running for governor under the Nationalist People's Coalition, reiterated that his group is also fielding a full slate.
There is nothing wrong in hoping a consensus can be reached in a second meeting this week, but if Marañon has closed his door to negotiations then he might as well close his, too, Alvarez said.
Alvarez said more Negros Occidental officials from councilors up are expected to join the NPC.*CPG