BACOLOD CITY, Philippines – Save the Negros Island Region (NIR). This was the battle cry of the local officials led by Governors Alfredo Marañon Jr. of Negros Occidental and Roel Degamo of Negros Oriental during the Negros Island Region Forum at the Provincial Capitol Social Hall held here Monday, October 24. The forum was attended by Interior Undersecretary for Public Safety Jesus Hinlo Jr.
Hinlo was sent by Interior Secretary Ismael Sueno to listen to the position of the leaders here amid reports of the possible dissolution of the NIR.
A majority of the officials of both provinces, including Vice Governors Eugenio Jose Lacson of Negros Occidental and Edward Mark Macias of Negros Oriental, were present to express their support and to appeal to President Rodrigo Duterte not to sign the executive order abolishing NIR.
Directors of different regional line agencies and representatives from various sectors also showed their support.
NIR was established through the EO signed by Duterte’s predecessor, former president Benigno Aquino III, on May 29, 2015. It was created to fasttrack the development of the two provinces.
Prior to its creation, Negros Occidental was part of Western Visayas and Negros Oriental belonged to Central Visayas. (FAST FACTS: The Negros Island Region)
However, Budget Secretary Benjamin Diokno earlier said that the Duterte is set to sign the EO dissolving NIR due to budget constraints.
Hinlo said that Sueno, who is pushing for the retention of the region, will bring up the NIR issue in the next Cabinet meeting, which set on the first week of November.
“Let us not despair. There’s always hope. I know he (will) always change his mind if it’s good for the people,” he added.
During the forum, Hinlo asked the officials who of them was in favor to retain NIR. Everyone raised their hands.
When asked about who who wanted it abolished, nobody responded.
Hinlo noted that the local officials were unanimous on their support for the retention of NIR.
“The sentiments of the Negrosanons must be made known to the president. The people here are asking for the continued existence of NIR. There will be no additional cost to the national government because they’re not asking for building of infrastructures right now. They would appeal for the status quo and they assured they would be able to deliver good services to their constituents,” he added.
Further, the local leaders drafted and signed the letter of appeal to Duterte during the forum.
“We’ve heard the cry of the Negrosanons. I will hand carry the appeal of the Negrosanons and give it to Secretary Sueno for him to personally deliver to the president and fight for Negros in the Cabinet meeting,” Sueno said.
The appeal read, “We, the people of Negros Island, the fourth largest island in the country, have always nurtured the dream of being reunited, having long been separated into Regions 6 and 7, the only island in over 7,100 islands of the Philippines that belonged to two different administrative regions.
“As Negros Island Region (NIR), composed of two provinces, with 19 cities (including one highly-urbanized), 38 municipalities, and 1,219 barangays in 10 Congressional Districts; with a land area of 13,351 square kilometers and a population (2010 census) of 4,194,525 persons, we are now experiencing easy access to our regional offices and a more focused and integrated development planning and implementation of programs and projects in order to speedily alleviate the plight of our poor, improve connectivity within the island, promote peace and order and public safety, and enhance agricultural productivity and overall economic performance,” it continued
The appeals also said the continued existence of NIR will not incur additional cost to the national government and that they assure the President that they will be able to effectively function with the status quo on the budget.
It added NIR’s continued existence would level the playing field in terms of development management in the Visayas regions and accelerate the transformation of Negros Island as a showcase of socio-economic progress, in turn encouraging reverse migration and decongestion of Metro Manila.
The appeal went on to say, “We humbly ask you, our President, to retain the Negros Island Region and recognize it as such as we support your advocacy for Federalism... we are here to ask your help to allow the Negros Island Region to continue to exist and flourish. As Negrosanon, we need to reinforce our cultural identity which has long been divided by mountains, language, and by the political division of Regions 6 and 7. The Ilonggos have their Panay and Guimaras. The Cebuanos have their Cebu. We plead with you as Negrosanon for us to have our Negros." – Rappler.com