Siquijor coalition joins opposition vs creation of Negros Island Region

Erwin Delilan

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Siquijor coalition joins opposition vs creation of Negros Island Region

CAPITOL. The seat of government of the island province of Siquijor.

Siquijor provincial government FB page

The Tingog Siquijodnon coalition questions the lack of consultation in the formulation of the bills approved by Congress

BACOLOD, Philippines – A storm of dissent is brewing on the serene shores of Siquijor Island as organized residents joined the opposition to the proposed Negros Island Region (NIR), to be carved out of the western and central Visayas regions. 

In a May 3 petition addressed to President Ferdinand Marcos Jr., the Tingog Siquijodnon coalition of concerned groups from the island province expressed their concerns regarding the impending creation of NIR. The petition was sent to Marcos on Monday, May 6.

Tingog Siquijodnon questioned the lack of consultation with affected provinces, particularly Siquijor, in the formulation of the bills approved by the Senate and House of Representatives. 

The group also questioned what it called the sudden inclusion of Siquijor province in the proposed region allegedly without prior dialogue, a move Tingog Siquijodnon suspected to be the NIR proponents’ afterthought.

“We claim to be a democracy. The people we elected into office are our representatives. But in this particular instance, where there is representation without consultation, the claim becomes mere lip service and illusory. Democracy only works if the people are engaged in meaningful discussion on issues, especially those that impact their community and their future,” read part of a letter signed by more than 50 Siquijodnons.

They also raised concerns regarding the implications of NIR for Siquijor’s residents. They pointed out that Siquijodnons already face challenges accessing basic services, a situation that the group feared would be further exacerbated by a regional restructuring. 

The group said the necessity to travel to Bacolod City or other distant locations for administrative matters would not only pose inconvenience but also entail additional financial burdens for residents.

Siquijor was once a part of Bohol province and later as a sub-province of Negros Oriental. It achieved full-fledged province status on September 17, 1971, during the first Marcos administration.

The legal foundation of the proposed NIR also came under scrutiny in the petition, with references made to constitutional provisions requiring plebiscites for the creation, division, or substantial alteration of local governments. 

Drawing parallels to a previous legal case involving the creation of a new province, Tingog Siquijodnon argued that the absence of a plebiscite requirement would render the proposed law void and unconstitutional.

The coalition called on the Marcos administration to consider their grievances seriously and urged the government to uphold democratic principles and constitutional mandates in its decision-making process.

Negros Oriental 2nd District Representative Manuel Sagarbarria said the revival of NIR does not require any public consultations or plebiscite because it was already created from 2015 to 2017, thus the public is already aware of it.

Sagarbarria urged anti-NIR groups to present facts, data, or any scientific study that could further substantiate their claims against NIR.

Negros Occidental Governor Eugenio Jose Lacson said he was leaving matters in the hands of Marcos.

In March, the Senate passed Senate Bill No. 2507 on its third and final reading, paving the way for the creation of the NIR. It was approved by 22 senators, with no objections or abstentions.

Aside from Negros Occidental and Negros Oriental, the NIR includes the island province of Siquijor.

Originally, the NIR was established by Executive Order No. 183-2015 during the administration of the late president Benigno Aquino III. Within two years, regional offices were established in Bacolod City and Dumaguete City as a direct result.

Aquino’s successor, former president Rodrigo Duterte, nullified Aquino’s order in 2017, citing financial constraints concerning the funding and staffing of the new regional offices. Talk had it that Duterte’s decision may have been influenced by his defeat in Negros Occidental during the 2016 presidential elections.

Following the 2022 elections, several senators and members of the House of Representatives introduced bills to resurrect the NIR.

In March 2023, the House of Representatives greenlit House Bill No. 7355, while the Senate followed suit by passing its counterpart, Senate Bill No. 2507, on March 12 of this year.

Efforts to resurrect the NIR, however, first encountered unexpected resistance from Dumaguete Bishop Julito Cortes, who denounced the congressional measure as an “insult” to the people of Negros Oriental.

On March 24, Cortes delivered a stinging rebuke, labeling the Congress-approved NIR as disrespectful to the populace of Negros Oriental. His statement sent shockwaves through local proponents of the measure. 

“We wish to register our dissent… and stand with the Diocese of Dumaguete, led by Bishop Julito Cortes, in opposing its approval,” Tingog Siquijodnon stated.

Those who signed the Tingog Siquijodnon petition are the following:

  • Cyril Baluncas
  • Grace Sumalpong
  • Guido Ganhinhin
  • Hazel Lee
  • Glo Stella Concepion
  • Marknil Krugger Bonachita
  • Juny Vios
  • Sanida Suchy
  • Maita Robinson
  • Jenica Xybelle Jane Vios
  • Perla Galanida
  • Ken Patrick Galanida
  • Honey Mae Louie
  • Hilda Tacorda
  • Babette Ferrarin
  • Ma. Gemma Orlanda
  • Merlij Vios
  • Mark Vincent Galanida
  • Grace Johnson
  • Lyndon Ligutom
  • Marie Genevieve Calunod
  • Butch Miraflores
  • Meredith Jean Galanida
  • Rebecca Monte
  • Phoebe Miraflor
  • Tita Bobsin
  • Marichi Bolongaita
  • LG Rhyl Morales
  • Gyn Cañete
  • Elvis Salindo
  • Rev. Fr. Lad Bryan Lawrence Ligutom
  • Elizabeth Salindo
  • Rose May Sumaylo
  • Julie Grancapal
  • Mercy Ybañez
  • Myrna Joy Saile
  • Elvin Salindo
  • Ludovico Calunod, Jr.
  • Jhenny Lusung
  • Marion Anne Ho
  • Arturo Lusung
  • Lynville Anne Ho
  • Antonietta Idayon
  • Catherine Idayon
  • Hellevi Idayon Michelin
  • Lyndon Idayon
  • Elaine Del Ceste
  • Dinah Bonachita
  • Bambi Santos
  • Virgie Adina
  • Arlene Luzurriaga

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