MANILA, Philippines – As promised to leaders and residents of the two Negros provinces in the Visayas, President Aquino on May 29 signed the executive order that pulls them out of their respective regions and puts them together as the Negros Island Region (NIR).
Effective immediately, Executive Order 183 will carve Negros Occidental from Western Visayas (Region VI), and Negros Oriental from Central Visayas (Region VII).
The proposed region has a population of 4,194,525, as of 2010.
An idea 20 years in the making, the creation of a unified Negros region was initially opposed by Negros Oriental Governor Roel Degamo, but unanimously supported by officials in Negros Occidental, according to Interior and Local Government Secretary Manuel Roxas II.
EO 183 says creating a region for the two adjacent provinces is needed “to further accelerate the social and economic development of the cities and municipalities comprising the provinces of Negros Occidental and Negros Oriental and improve the delivery of public services in the aforementioned provinces.”
Negros Occidental and Negros Oriental are both 1st class provinces. Their respective capitals, however, have different income classifications: Bacolod is a 1st class city, while Dumaguete is a 3rd class city.
Local officials have cited the disparity in funding that their provinces get compared to their other provinces in their current regions.
A technical working group (TWG) has been created, composed of the Office of the President, the budget department, the National Economic Development Authority, the Department of the Interior and Local Government, and representatives of the two provinces.
Aside from drawing up a roadmap for “institutional arrangements” for the new region, the TWG will recommend the regional center. It will also arrange for organizational development, staffing, and budgeting of regional line agencies and regulatory agencies.
While the TWG is still working on development plans and investment programs for the NIR, the following agencies will serve as interim secretariats:
The funding for technical working group will be sourced from the implementing agencies and the two Negros provinces, the EO says.