BACOLOD City – Lawmakers from Negros Occidental are respecting the opposition of Negros Oriental Gov. Roel Degamo on the creation of the Negros Island Region (NIR) even as the technical working group (TWG) in the House of Representatives approved the consolidated bill on Tuesday.
“We respect his views as to what concerns he has. That’s why we would like to reach out to him so we will know what his concerns are,” Negros Occidental 5th District Rep. Emilio Bernardino Yulo told reporters here on Wednesday.
Degamo earlier said he was not keen on Negros Oriental being part of the NIR and would rather his province remain under Central Visayas, citing cultural and language differences.
In an interview, Negros Occidental Governor Eugenio Jose Lacson said he has contacted Degamo on Wednesday and will propose to hold a meeting with him after the Christmas holidays.
“I will ask him whether on the first or second week of January,” he added.
The creation of the new region has been proposed through the three bills filed separately by legislators from Negros Occidental.
On Tuesday, the TWG of the House committee on local government led by Negros Occidental 6th District Rep. Mercedes Alvarez and Cebu City South District Rep. Eduardo Rama Jr. approved the consolidated bill with the support of committee chair, Valenzuela 1st District Rep. Rex Gatchalian.
Negros Occidental 3rd District Rep. Jose Francisco Benitez filed House Bill 1446, which included the island-province of Siquijor, together with eight other lawmakers, among them Yulo and all the three congressmen of Negros Oriental.
“The inclusion of Siquijor Province is logical and practical due to its proximity and cultural similarities. The dream of consolidating the two Negros provinces – Oriental and Occidental – in one administrative region, continues to live on. This is a Negrense aspiration deeply grounded in our histories,” Benitez said in a statement on Wednesday.
He noted that “for 300 years under the Spanish colonial government, Negros Occidental and Negros Oriental were governed as a single province. It was only in 1890 when Negros was divided into two provinces.”
“Re-unifying the two Negros provinces under one administrative region is necessary for economic growth to redound to the benefit of the people through the close economic coordination of the two Negros provinces,” Benitez added.
To date, Negros Occidental and its capital Bacolod City are under Western Visayas or Region 6 while Negros Oriental and Siquijor are part of Central Visayas or Region 7.
On May 29, 2015, the NIR was first created through Executive Order 183 signed by then-President Benigno Aquino III, separating Negros Occidental from Western Visayas and Negros Oriental from Central Visayas.
However, on Aug. 7, 2017, former President Rodrigo Duterte issued EO 38 abolishing the NIR, stressing the need to ensure that priority government programs and projects are sufficiently funded. (PNA)