‘BIG LOSS FOR WV’: DOT-6 to ramp up tourism promotions as Negros leaves

Sipalay in Negros Occidental is an emerging tourist destination and the latter’s separation from Western Visayas will definitely be felt by regional economy. (Photo courtesy of Sipalay Beach Resort FB)

By Rjay Zuriaga Castor and Mariela Angella OIadive

The Department of Tourism Western Visayas (DOT-6) has announced plans to enhance tourism programs amid the impending separation of Negros Occidental and Bacolod City from Panay Island.

DOT-6 Director Crisanta Marlene Rodriguez revealed that Western Visayas recorded 5.3 million tourist arrivals in 2023, with Bacolod City accounting for 780,000 and Negros Occidental for 694,000. Rodriguez described this potential loss as significant for Western Visayas.

“I feel a bit sad about the separation because Negros Occidental and Bacolod have unique tourism offerings. They are big in nature, which attracts our Western markets. They also have unique culture and food,” Rodriguez said during a press conference on Wednesday, June 19.

Rodriguez noted that Negros Occidental and Bacolod accounted for approximately 26% of the region’s tourist arrivals, a substantial figure.

Data from the Negros Occidental provincial government indicated that tourist revenue reached P6 billion in 2023, surpassing the P5 billion earned in 2022.

Recently, Sipalay City hosted the opening leg of the Western Visayas International Open Water Swim Circuit in March, part of DOT-6’s efforts to promote sustainable tourism.

Despite the administrative separation, Rodriguez emphasized that cultural and historical ties between Negros Occidental and Panay Island will remain.

“You can’t really separate them from Panay Island, especially since we have shared culture. The Sugar Trail, part of our shared history, includes Negros. They won’t be totally separated except administratively,” Rodriguez stressed.

To mitigate the impact of the establishment of the Negros Island Region — comprising Negros Occidental, Negros Oriental, and Siquijor — Rodriguez said DOT-6 “will have to ramp up our tourism promotions” for Western Visayas.

She urged local government units to explore new destinations through exploratory assessments, which DOT-6 can help develop.

Currently, DOT-6 is awaiting the formulation of the Implementing Rules and Regulations (IRR) following the approval of Republic Act 12000 by President Ferdinand Marcos Jr. on June 13, 2024, officially establishing the Negros Island Region.

Rodriguez remains optimistic about the region’s tourism sector adapting and continuing to grow despite the administrative changes. She assured support for every tourism program initiated by Negros.

In a separate event, Iloilo Governor Arthur Defensor Sr. expressed confidence that the relationship between Iloilo and Negros Occidental, particularly in commerce, will remain unaffected despite the latter’s separation from the region.

He highlighted that the creation of the NIR will benefit Negros Occidental by simplifying government transactions and enhancing administrative decentralization.

“The creation of that administrative region is for better governance and for better delivery of services in terms of administrative capability and the bureaucracy,” he said.

Defensor, who previously supported the NIR’s formation as part of the Visayan bloc in Congress during his tenure as a congressman, reaffirmed his backing for the move.

“Our ties with Negros will not change. They will remain our relatives. My mother is from Negros, and I’m sure many of you also have kin there,” he expressed.


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