Negros Or. guv pushes for ‘Bisaya’ province under NIR

Governors Eugenio Jose Lacson (left) of Negros Occidental and Roel Degamo of Negros Oriental.

By Dolly Yasa

BACOLOD City – Negros Occidental Governor Eugenio Jose Lacson said Negros Oriental Governor Roel Degamo is pushing for the creation of a new province under the proposed re-establishment of the Negros Island Region (NIR).

Lacson revealed the proposal after a closed-door meeting with Degamo in Dumaguete City, Negros Oriental on Wednesday.

He said Degamo has “put on the table, the idea of creating the new region with four provinces.”

The counter-proposal of Degamo is to create a new province that will include the “Bisaya” speaking towns and cities of Negros Occidental – Sagay, Escalante, San Carlos and Toboso – along with Vallehermoso in Negros Oriental.

“Bisaya” refers to the Cebuano dialect which is spoken in areas covered by Sagay City to San Carlos City, Negros Occidental.

Lacson said Degamo contended that his proposal would level the playing field in terms of representation at the Regional Development Council.

The proposed NIR bill in Congress is composed of the provinces of Negros Occidental, Negros Oriental, and Siquijor.

Earlier, Degamo cited the difference in the dialect spoken by the two Negros provinces as a major basis for his opposition to the NIR, which has already been approved by the House and Senate Committees on Local Government.

He also repeatedly pointed out that the creation of NIR will put Negros Oriental at a disadvantage as it would only have three districts compared to Negros Occidental, which has seven.

He also said that Negros Oriental only has six cities, against Negros Occidental which has 11.

Degamo said this would also mean there will be no equal sharing of resources and income, apart from the language barrier.

Lacson said he respects the decision of Degamo to oppose NIR, adding that he was hopeful that once these concerns have been ironed out, “perhaps he might reverse his decision.”

“What is important is that we will continue to keep our lines open and this will not be the last time that we will sit down and talk and maybe next time, I will be in a better position to answer the issues he has raised,” the governor said.

The NIR was first established in 2015 during the administration of the late President Benigno Aquino III through Executive Order No. 183.

But it was abolished by former President Rodrigo Duterte also through an EO citing the need to ensure that priority government programs and projects are sufficiently funded.

“The establishment of regional offices of departments and agencies in the NIR requires substantial appropriation to be fully operational, thus competing with government priority programs and projects funding,” Duterte said.