Give change a chance – Noli and acting Gov. Zayco
THE SOUTHERN BEAT  - Rolly Espina () - January 22, 2008 - 12:00am

The Saturday inauguration of the Bacolod-Silay Airport was in any language a celebratory event with thousands having flocked to the new airport. Almost coincidentally, the speakers – Vice President Noli de Castro and acting Vice Governor Isidro Zayco had the same message – give change a chance.

Although that was not intended to serve as a cautionary advice to Bacolod City Mayor Evelio Leonardia, it registered among the crowd directed to him. The Bacolod mayor, who had earlier complained of having been snubbed to the inaugural ceremonies, boycotted the affair despite the fact that Transportation Secretary Leandro Mendoza had gone out to announce that he was his personal guest.

But he was not really missed. Except for the empty chair at the platform. There were a lot of VIPs around. Among the congressmen were Reps. Mikey Arroyo, Monico Puentevella (Bacolod City) Jose Carlos Lacson, Jeffrey Ferrer (4th), and even Jules Ledesma IV (1st) and Alfredo Marañon (2nd).

City Mayor Jose “Oti” Montelibano basked in the potential benefits the new airport could draw into Silay City. Also presented were Talisay City Mayor Eric Saratan, DOTC Secretary Mendoza and Sugar Administrator Rafael Coscolluela.

There were also the jubilant Japanese group from the Embassy and the Japan International Cooperation Agency (JICA). The airport was constructed with an aid of about P5.6-billion.

National Capital Region LTO chief Ricardo “Cano” Tan won the reputation as the first to disembark at the new airport from a Cebu Pacific Airlines flight from Manila Saturday morning. He was followed by international Lions director Em Ang and businessman Edgardo Alunan. The latter flew out of Bacolod on the last flight out Friday and returned the next day “just to be part of the history of the new airport.”

The Silay rondalla, which has won public acclaim, added luster to the affair.

It was a last-minute dash to make the airport operational. Friday afternoon and night, personnel from the various airline firms plus Air Transportation Office dashed to the new airport on time for the Saturday morning ceremonies.

And, anent the transportation snafus, it was announced Saturday that a shuttle service charging only P100 per head was going to be stationed at the SM Mall at the Bacolod reclamation area. There were other hotel shuttle buses. But Ed Sutherland, CIDA executive director, told me Saturday morning that the one at the Business Inn was charging P400 per passenger. He said arrangements were being made to ask a cab to lower its fare to only P150 per head.

Hardly had the airport been inaugurated when I received word that the Iloilo Airport at Cabatuan, Iloilo, may have its power shut down. This reportedly due to its failure to pay the P4-million it owes to a local power firm.

That only reinforces the point by Puentevella on the need for the new Civil Aviation Authority to become autonomous from the DOTC. In short, since ATO has been earning P3-billion for the last two years, it receives only P1-billion in return for what it is contributing to the government coffers.

Diamond anniversary

As I had previously written, Saturday was also the start of the Diamond Jubilee celebration of the Bacolod Diocese.

There was an overflow crowd of devotees and clergy at the San Sebastian Cathedral when Bacolod Bishop Vicente Navarra knocked to signal the opening of the cathedral doors.

Diocesan Chancellor Fr. Brethen Rye Camala then read the Papal decree that grants the faithful partial indulgences as many time a day if they engage in merciful works of mercy and acts of penance. Participate in evangelization and offered prayers and visited the Cathedral for holy meditation.

Bishop Navarra concelebrated the mass. But it was Msgr. Vic Rivas, the vicar general, who delivered what most consider as an appeal for reconciliation and cooperation. He said the province move forward and attain growth and progress if the people and the government leaders set a common goal and realize this through a collective and united effort.

The biofuel project

Close on the heels of Sen. Migz Zubiri, Senate President Manuel Villar yesterday touched in Bacolod and called for a win-win-solution to give the biofuels program a chance.

Villar admitted that the Biofuels Act was a good concept. But he also cautioned on its implementation but accented the need for proper guidelines and to avert similar problems as in other countries were food security was threatened by biofuels.

In the case of Negros Occidental and the country, Sen. Zubiri pointed out that ethanol production could not affect food security since the sugar industry has excess production and even has been shipping out excess sugar to the world market. In short, it does not undercut sugar for good.

And, besides, Zubiri pointed out, the areas to be planted to Jatropha are the sloping areas which are not suited for food crops. Thus, Villar, himself admitted, Jatropha is not being eaten by people. And thus, does not add to the country’s food supply.

The Sugar Alliance of the Philippines had come out for immediate implementation of the biofuels program, pointing out that by 2010 the country’s sugar industry faces imminent collapse should our negotiators be unable to have it and rice put into the “highly sensitive” classification under the AFTA.

But there were a lot more developments in the Western Visayas region. For example, Kalibo thronged with thousands of Ati-atihan fans as the capital of Aklan celebrated its festival with Mayor Reymar Rebaldo spearheading the celebration. Dinagyang follows next with Iloilo City Mayor Jerry Treñas predicting an overflow crowd with the guests including US Ambassador Kristie Kenney and some top officials of government and other foreign envoys.

But Ilonggos had their eyes trained on the word war between Iloilo Gov. Niel Tupas and Vice Gov. Rex Suplico. This started when the provincial board eliminated from the budget the salaries for several key positions, including that of First Lady Myrna Tupas and Administrator Boy Merjoda. Suplico, incidentally is the nephew of Gov. Tupas. The government threatened to veto the provincial ordinance.

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