Lobregat: Zambo open to Western Peninsula region but…

ZAMBOANGA CITY (MindaNews/31 January) – For as long as this city is the regional center, Mayor Celso Lobregat said he is open to the idea of reconfiguring two regions in Mindanao for the proposed Western Peninsula region.

Lobregat rejected the scheme of distributing the different regional offices of national agencies across the proposed region as a precondition.

“I will not attempt to negotiate nor forego the quest for Zamboanga to be the regional center for any political exigency,” he stressed.

Local officials of the three Zamboanga provinces–Zamboanga del Norte, Zamboanga Sibugay and Zamboanga del Sur — and Misamis Occidental have pushed for the Western Peninsula region.

The Zamboanga provinces and Zamboanga City comprise Region 9 while Misamis Occidental belongs to Region 10.

Former Zamboanga del Norte first district congressman Romeo Jalosjos announced earlier that there will be “equal opportunities amongst us” if and when the creation of the Western Peninsula region will push through.

Jalosjos said the entire region would be viewed as the regional center if the regional government offices would be distributed in various places of the proposed reconfigured region.

He said the hotel and restaurant industries of all the provinces and cities will also thrive given the number of people that will do transactions in a particular regional office.

But Lobregat said “I will never put at stake the interest of Zamboanga and Zamboangueños over my personal interest”.

The city government of Zamboanga is contesting the transfer of the regional center to Pagadian City, the capital of Zamboanga del Sur.

The transfer is contained in Executive Order 429 issued by President Corazon Aquino which provided for the reorganization of the administrative regions in Mindanao.

EO 429 declared Pagadian City as the regional center of Region 9 and included Lanao del Norte and Misamis Occidental as part of the region.

However, President Fidel Ramos issued EO 325, which reorganized the Regional Development Councils and its Implementing Rules and Regulations declared Zamboanga City as the regional center of Region 9.

In 2001, President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo signed EO 36, which returned Lanao del Norte and Misamis Occidental provinces back to their original regions but was silent on the issue of regional center.

In 2004, Memorandum Circular No. 75 signed by former Executive Secretary Eduardo Ermita directed the transfer of the regional center from Zamboanga City to Pagadian City citing Section 1 of EO 429 as its legal basis.

The Pagadian Regional Center Management and Coordinating Office reported that out of the 121 regional government offices, only 32 have fully transferred to Pagadian, 12 agencies have partially transferred while six have only established satellite offices.

Last month, Executive Secretary Paquito Ochoa issued Memorandum Circular No. 11 directing the suspension of the regional transfer.

Ochoa’s memorandum circular took effect on December 22, 2010.

The Presidential Management Staff, Department of Interior and Local Government, Civil Service Commission, National Economic Development Authority, and the Department of Budget and Management were tasked to conduct a study and directed to submit a comprehensive report and recommendations to President Aquino within 30 working days after the issuance of the memorandum circular.

Lobregat said that Zamboanga City should remain as the regional center arguing that it is more accessible and more practical with all the adequate facilities in place.

Lobregat, Deputy House Speaker for Mindanao and First District Rep. Ma. Isabelle Climaco-Salazar and Second District Rep. Erico Basilio Fabian are working closely for the retention of the city as the regional center. (MindaNews)