BACOLOD CITY, Philippines – Top officials of Negros Occidental and Negros Oriental are divided over the idea to include another province in the newly-formed Negros Island Region.
This, after Interior Secretary Manuel Roxas II announced last week, during his visit to the two provinces, that Siquijor is thinking about separating from Central Visayas or Region 7 to join the new Negros region.
Roxas said that the travel time for residents of Siquijor to Cebu, where the regional offices of Central Visayas are located, takes about 5 hours, while it takes only an hour to get to Negros Oriental.
Roxas told Negrense leaders to think about that possibility.
Negros Oriental Vice Governor Edward Mark Macias said he understands why Siquijor wants in because it’s the same reason why they pushed for Negros Island Region in the first place.
“Negros Oriental is third in the priority of the region while Siquijor is fourth,” Macias said.
“I’m open to that but it has to go through the process. It’s not up to us but it’s up to the people and the President,” Macias said.
Siquijor used to be a sub-province of Negros Oriental. An island-province composed of 6 municipalities, Siquijor is the third smallest province in the country in terms of population and land area.
“I understand because they spun off from Negros Oriental. But they asked to be separated from us because they want to be independent,” Macias said, adding, “Parang anak namin ang Siquijor (Siquijor is like our child).”
Not a priority?
Negros Occidental Governor Alfredo Marañon Jr, for his part, said that “it wouldn't be called Negros Island Region if we include Siquijor.”
He cited Executive Order 183, which was signed by President Benigno Aquino III on May 29, and which says that the new region is created to:
Negros Occidental Vice Governor Eugenio Jose Lacson said he is not saying no to Siquijor. But he added, “Let us focus on what we have now and make it operational and beneficial to all Negrenses.”
It took 20 years to finally get our wish for a one-island region, he stressed. Lacson said, “I will not say no to Siquijor, but not a priority for the near future.”
For Negros Island Region, the two provinces agreed to an equitable sharing of income – 60% for Negros Occidental and 40% for Negros Oriental. Negros Occidental is bigger in terms of land area and population.
The two provinces will now get a larger share of the budget compared to what they were getting from their respective regions before. Negros Occidental used to be under Western Visayas or Region 6, while Negros Oriental was under Central Visayas or Region 7.
The Technical Working Group will convene Monday in Manila to start working on the transition process. – Rappler.com