By Dolly Yasa
BACOLOD City – Nipped in the bud? A reluctant twin?
The re-establishment of the Negros Island Region is facing uncertainty after Negros Oriental Governor Roel Degamo expressed disinterest in efforts to unite his province with Negros Occidental under a new administrative unit.
While they belong to the same landmass, Negros Oriental is currently with Central Visayas (Region 7) while the Occidental side is with Western Visayas (Region 6).
In Tuesday’s meeting of the Regional Development-7, Degamo was quoted as saying that he does not want their province to separate from Central Visayas.
He mentioned language and cultural differences with Negros Occidental as among his reasons for not wanting to support the NIR push.
Degamo also talked of other issues like the need to identify where to put the center of government if the NIR measure is passed in Congress.
He said Negros Oriental was already doing well as part of Central Visayas.
“Maganda naman ang takbo ng ekonomiya, dito kami sa Region 7. Bakit ako mosugal doon sa NIR (Why will I gamble with NIR)? Yun ang mga issues na dapat natin tingnan. Negros Oriental stands with Region 7,” Degamo said during the meeting.
Degamo recently assumed as governor after the Commission on Elections (Comelec) invalidated the victory of former governor Pryde Henry Teves in the May 2022 elections.
Degamo’s statement caught Negros Occidental Governor Eugenio Jose Lacson off guard.
“That is not good news, ” Lacson said when asked for his reaction by capitol reporters, Wednesday.
“But we will see, we already have senators pushing for NIR, we will continue to support that stand,” he added.
Lacson said that he will reach out to Degamo, adding that “we will find out what changed his mind.”
Negros Occ. 6th district Rep. Mercedes Alvarez-Lansang, who is a member of the House Technical Working Group on the NIR, said in a phone interview with capitol reporters that the TWG has requested Degamo twice for a position on the NIR but the latter has not responded.
Alvarez-Lansang also said that all lawmakers in Negros Occidental and Oriental are co-authors of the NIR bill.
She added the TWG has to discuss the position of Degamo on the re-establishment of the NIR.
Earlier, Senate President Juan Miguel Zubiri said the Senate Committee on Local Government chaired by Senator JV Ejercito has approved the NIR bill.
It will then be submitted to the plenary where Senate Majority Leader Joel Villanueva committed to prioritizing the measure.
When asked for his reaction to Degamo’s change of heart, Zubiri said it will be a problem if Negros Oriental will oppose it.
The late President Benigno Aquino III created the NIR through an executive order only to be dissolved by his successor, former President Rodrigo Duterte, also through an EO.
Degamo was the governor when Aquino established the NIR.
Bacolod City Mayor Alfredo Abelardo Benitez said he will push for the NIR, with or without Negros Oriental.
Benitez furnished reporters a copy of the position paper he submitted to the House of Representatives, expressing his full support for the creation of a new region.
“If (Negros) Oriental doesn’t want to be part of it, it’s up to them. If they’re happy with their present situation they will just go to Cebu, that’s up to them. But for us, particularly in Negros (Occidental) and Bacolod City, we prefer that there would be a sub-region here for fast processes with national government agencies, directly just here,” Benitez said in a PNA report.
Benitez reiterated his idea of dividing Region 6 (Western Visayas) into two regions.
Region 6-A will include the four Panay Island provinces of Iloilo, Capiz, Aklan and Antique, and Guimaras while under Region 6-B are the two Negros Island provinces and Siquijor.
“This subregion is what we will present to the President (Ferdinand R. Marcos Jr.) together with (Interior and Local Government) Secretary (Benjamin) Abalos Jr. I talked to him (Abalos) yesterday (Tuesday) on the merits, the pros and cons of the sub-region,” Benitez said. (With a report from PNA)