Negros Island Region

Mayor pushes for renaming Negros Island Region to acknowledge Siquijor

Erwin Delilan

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Mayor pushes for renaming Negros Island Region to acknowledge Siquijor
Mayor Wilfredo Capundag Jr. of San Juan, Siquijor, points out that the new region comprises more than just Negros Oriental and Negros Occidental

BACOLOD, Philippines – A mayor has pushed for the renaming of the Negros Island Region (NIR) out of fairness to the island province of Siquijor and as a show of inclusivity.

San Juan, Siquijor Mayor Wilfredo Capundag Jr. said on Sunday, June 16, that the NIR should be renamed the Negros Island-Siquijor Administrative Region (NISAR) to emphasize that the new region comprises more than just Negros Oriental and Negros Occidental.

Capundag’s call came three days after President Ferdinand Marcos Jr. signed Republic Act 12000, which carved out Negros Occidental from Western Visayas, and Negros Oriental and Siquijor from Central Visayas into a new three-province region.

He proposed the renaming to acknowledge Siquijor’s inclusion and avoid the impression that the region consists solely of the two Negros provinces, which share boundaries on Negros Island.

Capundag also advocated for the decentralization and equitable distribution of the national government’s regional offices, suggesting that some should be set up in Siquijor.

This, he said, would promote transparent and inclusive decision-making processes in the new region and ensure meaningful inputs and contributions from Siquijor stakeholders.

Former Negros Occidental governor Rafael Coscolluela, an early advocate of the NIR creation, welcomed Capundag’s proposal to rename NIR to NISAR. Coscolluela also suggested holding the first NIR Regional Development Council (RDC) meeting in Siquijor to ensure Siquijodnons feel included in the new administrative region.

Even before the NIR’s creation, Capundag expressed concerns that Siquijor’s inclusion might disadvantage Siquijodnons in terms of distance and time efficiency when visiting regional offices, most of which are located in Negros Occidental.

Travel from Dumaguete to Bacolod, for instance, can take seven to eight hours by bus via the Kabankalan-Mabinay-Bais Road. In contrast, traveling from Siquijor to Cebu City takes about four hours by fast craft via Tagbilaran, Bohol, six hours by boat, or 45 minutes by plane from Dumaguete.

Capundag also feared that Siquijor’s inclusion in NIR could undermine the unique heritage and language of Siquijodnons, leading to the dominance of other dialects and affecting efforts to preserve their linguistic heritage.

Responding to this, Coscolluela said, “Let me stress that Siquijor is Siquijor, and no administrative reform will undermine her uniqueness.”

Coscolluela assured that the unique cultures, traditions, beliefs, heritage, and languages of the new region’s provinces would continue to be preserved and celebrated through festivals, literary works, cross visits, cultural exchanges, and media initiatives.

Dumaguete Bishop Julito Cortes has expressed disappointment over the creation of the NIR and hinted at possible legal actions to challenge the new law.

Negros Occidental Governor Eugenio Jose Lacson, however, asserted that the NIR’s creation would have positive impacts on local peace and order, environmental management, disaster risk reduction, integrated development planning, and enhanced transportation and tourism across the new region.

Meanwhile, Frank Carbon, chief executive officer of the Metro Bacolod Chamber of Commerce and Industry (MBCCI), suggested that decision-makers consider making Kabankalan City in Negros Occidental the regional center.

Carbon said Kabankalan is strategically located on Negros Island, and travel from Dumaguete to Kabankalan would take about two hours, and from Bacolod to Kabankalan, less than two hours. – Rappler.com

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