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A Case To Save The Negros Island Region

MAKATI, Philippines - We are two days away from the annual celebration of Cinco De Noviembre, the holiday in Negros Island which commemorates the Nov. 5, 1898 event when the Negrenses revolted against the Spaniards headed by Governor Col. Isidro de Castro. The Spaniards decided to surrender upon seeing armed troops in a pincers movement towards Bacolod.

The marching revolutionists led then by Gen. Juan Araneta from Bago and Gen. Aniceto Lacson from Silay carried fake arms consisting of rifles carved out of palm fronds and cannons of rolled bamboo mats painted black. By the afternoon of November 6, de Castro signed the Act of Capitulation, thus, ending the Spanish rule in Negros Occidental.

As we approach November 5, we are reminded that once again, Negros is threatened.  At the early part of the year, we saw the creation of the Negros Island Region, Region 18.  Three weeks ago, Budget Secretary Benjamin Diokno said that President Rodrigo Duterte is set to sign an executive order (EO) to abolish the Negros Island Region (NIR) created during the term of former President Benigno Aquino III.  Diokno was quoted as saying, “The EO on the NIR is not in the budget anymore. It will be repealed. It’s pending at the Office of the President. Anyway, it will be signed anytime soon”.

I hope Duterte doesn't sign it on Nov. 5.  I hope Duterte doesn't sign it at all.

Veteran journalist, Rolly Espina, had a very nice column in the Visayan Daily Star last Oct. 17, stating reasons why we should retain the Negros Island Region.  It goes...

Over the weekend, except for a few in my family who religiously follow the news, most of them have minimal idea on why we ought to retain the Negros Island Region.

Their understanding was simply to unite the two provinces, to logically situate regional offices, to spur internal development and because it will make life convenient for 5 million people.

That understanding is good enough but let me share what Marlin Sanogal, the provincial planning and development officer and also part of the technical working group sent me which gives more meaning why all Negrenses should lobby and pray hard for the retention of the NIR.

Social media is flooded by the wear black campaign to show our support for the retention but perhaps, if we all enjoin the action and really make Negros a sea of black which hopefully can reverberate to Malacañang, then maybe, just maybe all our efforts will be respected.

Perhaps organizers of the One Island, One Region can set one date and not many days for this campaign to really impress the point we want to make and to show the rest of the country that the work we did in the last two decades deserve more respect.

The supposed revocation of the Executive Order 183 creating the NIR was based on the premise that it is costly and a waste of money since there is a move to shift to a federal system of government which is an advocacy of our president.

The TWG defends that the proposed budget is just about P12 billion to cover personal services, MOOE, capital outlay of regional line agencies and state colleges and universities. Furthermore, though there has been no budget allocated from the national government directly to the newly-created region, the NIR has been working for the past year with allocations coming from their previous regional offices in Region 6 and 7.

Their accomplishments in the past year proves that we can retain the same set-up without abolishing the NIR until a national budget can be allocated or if indeed the federal move will change the whole game.

To directly quote the TWG's rationale for its retention, “Revoking NIR on the issue of budget as costly and waste of money is somewhat shortsighted and misses the point of the unification.”

In fact, that is too tamed to say the least. The statement by Budget Secretary Benjamin Diokno and Communication Sec. Martin Andanar smack of arrogance and disrespect to the effort and will of the people.

They say we are not yet operating and as such, can be dismantled without causing much damage notwithstanding the fact that there are 33 regional offices already created and in place to continue what they have started last year.

But guess what? Among the 33 regional offices created, the first to be recalled back to the central office is the regional head of the Budget department. What is it with Diokno and Negros? Perhaps there is something more personal in his deliberate campaign to dissolve the NIR? Anybody has any idea about this?

More importantly, according to the TWG, four departments which is vital to our development and management of our island – Regional Development Council, Peace and Order Council, Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Council and the Statistical Committee, will make the two provinces “lose their venues for an integrated planning, implementation of programs and monitoring.”

It did not matter to the powers that be that the NIR existence has “leveled the playing field” in terms of development in the Visayas.

This is one area which has been very contentious and which prompted the creation of the NIR in the first place.

The provinces of Negros Occidental and Negros Oriental has always been at the receiving end of regional budgets from Regions 6 and 7 before because the regional seats were not in our island but in Iloilo and Cebu which, you call can see for yourself, has moved faster in terms of development that our key cities of Bacolod and Dumaguete.

Now that we have a chance to further this development through a unified region, they wanted to take it away from us just like that. Isn't this Imperial Manila all over again?

There were many reasons the TWG stated why we need to retain the NIR but it will take up more than just one column. But for starters, the presence of a regional disaster management council alone will provide faster response when needed.

Just imagine when disaster strikes and we here in the occidental side have to wait for actions from Panay and those in the oriental side from Cebu. This has happened before, do we want that again?

I will reserve the next days to make a case for the retention of the NIR. Hopefully, those who remain indifferent to the threat of its dissolution will finally join the action.*


Digitalhacienda.com @digitalhacienda

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