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The Negros Island Region: What Went Wrong and What Would Have Been Right?

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RICHARD L. RECELLA

1999-20546

PA 208

THE NEGROS ISLAND REGION (NIR): WHAT WENT WRONG AND WHAT WOULD HAVE BEEN RIGHT?

I. Introduction

As early as the 1980s, a separate region for the Negros Island was already been suggested to improve the delivery of basic services for the two provinces that composed the island. Back then the Negros Island is the only island in the country with provinces belonging to separate regions. Negros Occidental is under the administration of the Western Visayas Region (Region VI) while Negros Oriental on the other hand is clustered with Cebu and Bohol in the Central Visayas Region (Region VII). To be able to process transactions with their respective regional offices, residents of Negros Occidental would travel 130 kilometers across Guimaras Strait to reach Iloilo City in Panay Island while Negros Oriental residents would have to endure 170 kilometers of both sea and land travel to Cebu City.

In 2013, the talks for the one-island region continued courtesy of the efforts of then Negros Oriental Representatives Pryde Henry Teves and George Arnaiz and Negros Occidental Governor Alfredo Marañon Jr. pointing out that this reform would introduce better coordination between the provinces in terms of tourism, disaster management, infrastructure management and development planning. (Cebu Daily News, 2013)

On May 29, 2015 by virtue of the Executive Order No, 138 of then President Benigno Aquino III, the NIR was formally established to promote efficiency in the government, accelerate social and economic development and improve public services in its two provinces.

The existence of the region was short-lived because on August 17, 2017, the new President Rodrigo Duterte signed Executive Order No. 38 which abolishes the NIR citing the lack of funding to establish a new regional center due to the other priorities of the new administration. However, the dissolution of the NIR was not warmly received by the Negrenses as this was perceived as a political attack on the region primarily because majority of them voted for then presidential candidate Mar Roxas who was among President Duterte’s opponents during the 2016 National Elections. (Sunstar Philippines, 2017).

  1. Statement of the Problem

The creation of the Negros Island Region (NIR) has been marred with controversy since its inception. Former Department of the Interior and Local Government (DILG) Secretary Mar Roxas single-handedly lobbied for the formation of the NIR and it was believed this is courtesy of his affinity to the Negros Island since his mother, the late Judy Araneta-Roxas traces her roots from Bago, Negros Occidental. One must be asking now whether Mar Roxas’ just wanted to appease her maternal family’s side or is he really concerned with the economic development of the island?

According to the National Economic Development Authority (NEDA), the creation of the NIR alone would cost the government around P20 billion, this includes the costs for putting up a new regional growth center located in the pre-identified town of Mabinay, Negros Oriental. One must again be asking if whether is it really wise to foot the bill for such a project of that high cost to benefit just two provinces?

Also, history tells us that inhabitants of the Negros Island while collectively known as Negrenses come from two distinct cultural backgrounds: Negros Occidental is Hiligaynon-speaking while Negros Oriental is Cebuano-speaking (Lopez-Gonzaga, 1991). Will this new region be undermining the ethnic and linguistic differences of its people?

              [pic 1]

                 Figure 1. The Political Map of Negros Island Region

  1. Definition of Terms

Administrative Region – a portion of a country delineated for the purpose of administration.

City – a large human settlement with extensive systems of housing, transportation, utilities, land use and communication.

Component City – a city which is subject to the administrative supervision of the province where it is located.

Highly Urbanized City – a city with a minimum population of two hundred thousand (200,000) inhabitants and with an annual income of at least fifty million pesos (P50,000,000.00).

Municipality – a political corporate body endowed with the facilities of a municipal corporation, exercised by and through the municipal government in conformity with the law.

Province – the largest unit in the political structure of the Philippines. It consists, in varying numbers, of municipalities and in some cases, component cities.

Region – a sub-national administrative unit comprising of several provinces having more or less homogenous characteristics such as ethnic origin of inhabitants, dialect spoken, agricultural produce, etc.

  1. Methodology

The conduct of this research is by virtue of analysis of secondary data available at the archives of the University Library and online. Due to time and budget constraints, the researcher was not able to personally travel to Negros Island to gather and collect primary data.

  1. Review of Related Literature

Not much has been published regarding the establishment and the nullification of the Negros Island Region due to its premature creation and early abolishment. However, the researcher was able to found some related literatures that were able to explain why the NIR’s creation was expedited and why its abolishment was fast-tracked.

II. DISCUSSION

A. Cultural, Historical and Geographical Basis of NIR

From November 3-6 1898, the Negrenses rose in revolt against the Imperial Spanish authorities headed by the politico-military governor, colonel Isidro de Castro. The Spaniards decided to surrender upon seeing armed troops marching in a pincer movement towards Bacolod. The revolutionaries were actually carrying fake arms consisting of rifles and cannons rolled from bamboo mats. On November 5, the short-lived Negros Republic came into fruition when Spanish officials surrendered themselves to native leaders and a provisional government was then established with Aniceto Lacson as President.

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