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Roxas, Negros officials disappointed over Duterte decision to dissolve NIR

MANILA, Philippines (UPDATED) – "Sayang." (It's a pity.)

Former interior secretary Manuel Roxas II on Wednesday, August 9, expressed disappointment over President Rodrigo Duterte's decision to dissolve the Negros Island Region (NIR), which was created during the Aquino administration.

Roxas, who also has Negrense roots, had spearheaded efforts to create the region. His mother, Judy Araneta Roxas, is from Bago City, Negros Occidental.

"Nanugunan gid ako nga waay madayon ang Negros Island Region. Madamo ang magabenepisyo kung ginpadayon ini," said Roxas in a Facebook post. (I am disappointed that the Negros Island Region did not proceed. There would have been a lot of benefits if it pushed through.)

Local officials – from Negros Oriental and Negros Occidental – previously said the creation of the NIR would make it easier for both government workers and citizens to access government offices and services.

Citing the lack of funds, Duterte signed an executive order that revoked an earlier EO signed by former president Benigno Aquino III.

Roxas was interior secretary when the NIR was created.

He added on Wednesday: "With NIR dissolution, mga Negrense (the Negrenses) will be traveling farther and spending more for services and Negros Occidental and Oriental development will be slower."

With Duterte's decision, Negros Occidental returns to Western Visayas, with regional offices in Iloilo City. Negros Oriental again becomes part of Central Visayas, with regional offices in Cebu City.

This was the first time for Roxas to make a public comment on any of Duterte's decisions and policies since losing the 2016 presidential elections.

Roxas, Aquino's anointed candidate, was a distant second to Duterte in the polls. (READ: A year later, Mar Roxas enjoys the quiet of private life

‘A sad day’

Negros Occidental officials, meanwhile, were dismayed by Duterte’s decision.

Governor Alfredo Marañon Jr said Wednesday he is disappointed, but the EO was already signed by the President so they have to accept and respect the decision.

The governor said they will continue to work with neighboring Negros Oriental.

Vice Governor Eugenio Jose Lacson echoed the sentiment of the governor, as he proposed to create a special body to continue the cooperation with Negros Oriental.

“NIR is not [a] priority for this administration as can be understood in EO No. 38,” he said. “If we step back, we may lose whatever cooperation through NIR’s Regional Development Council [we have] gained.”

Negros Occidental 3rd District Representative Alfredo Benitez said it is a “sad day for Negros.” He assured his fellow Negrenses, however, they would try to ensure the President’s decision won’t have negative consequences.

“We, in the Congress, will work on having minimal effect to the island,” Benitez said.

Capitol consultant and former governor Rafael Coscolluela, a member of the NIR-Technical Working Group, also said he is “sad and disappointed, but challenged.”

He added, “We just need to keep working together as one island, with or without national government support.”

Asked about the possible effects on the Negros provinces, he said: “It might widen the gap between Negros and national government or make access to programs more difficult.”

“For the meantime, we can explore creating a Negros Development Alliance to keep our initiatives going.” – with reports from Marchel Espina / Rappler.com