BACOLOD CITY, Philippines – The Department of the Interior and Local Government (DILG) has endorsed to President Benigno Aquino III the creation of Negros Island Region.
Interior Secretary Manuel Roxas II revealed this when he graced the opening of the 22nd Panaad sa Negros Festival at the Panaad Park and Stadium here early this week. He told a crowd of about 5,000 that the recommendation to merge the two Negros provinces – currently under two different regions administratively – into one region is already with Aquino’s office.
Negros Occidental Governor Alfredo Marañon Jr and Negros Oriental Vice Governor Edward Mark Macias, proponents of the proposal, are hoping that the President will issue an executive order for the merger before his term ends in 2016.
The local officials cite the disparity in funding that their provinces get compared to their other provinces in their respective regions.
Negros Occidental belongs to Region VI or Western Visayas, with regional offices in Iloilo City. Negros Oriental is part of Region VII or Central Visayas, with regional offices in Cebu City.
Roxas, whom Aquino tasked to conduct a study and make a recommendation on the bid, said that the creation of the new region will be beneficial to both provinces. He believes the delivery of basic services will be more efficient and more opportunities for investments and infrastructures will open should the proposal materialize.
However, Roxas admitted that creating a new region will require a huge budget because there’s a need to put up new regional offices of the national agencies.
In the meantime, provincial offices of national agencies in Bacolod City in Negros Occidental and in Dumaguete City in Negros Oriental will be converted into regional offices. “Divide the responsibility until a permanent site is put up,” Roxas said.
Roxas noted that officials in Negros Occidental unanimously support the idea of a Negros Island Region, while Negros Oriental Governor Roel Degamo has expressed his opposition.
“In Negros Oriental, there’s an overwhelming majority. About 10 of its 13 towns, all of its 6 cities, vice governor, board members, and 3 congressmen are in all in favor,” Roxas noted. He stressed that “their governor is against it.”
Idea 20 years in the making
Ro-ann Bacal, regional director of the National Economic and Development Authority, lamented that, if Negros Occidental is separated from Western Visayas, “our region will be considered among the smaller ones, like regions IV-A and IV-B, because we allow ourselves to be disintegrated.”
She said Negros Occident can survive, like the provinces in Region IV-B, “but where is IV-B now?”
“The study shows it can survive,” she said, citing the study prepared by Secretary Roxas. However, she disclosed that the NEDA central office also came up with a paper, in relation to the proposal, and was also submitted to the DILG secretary.
The Negros Island Region was conceptualized 20 years ago, but it did not materialize since NEDA was very reluctant to endorse the creation of new regional offices because of budget constraints. – Rappler.com