On May 29, 2015, President Aquino signed Executive Order 183 creating Negros Island Region. This puts into one political entity the 19 municipalities and 13 cities of Negros Occidental and 19 municipalities and six cities of Negros Oriental. The two provinces of Negros used to belong to two separate administrative regions—Negros Occidental to Western Visayas or Region 6 and Central Visayas or Region 7.
One island region first hit the headlines about 20 years ago when the idea was raised by then Negros Occidental governor Daniel Lacson and Negros Oriental governor Emilio Macias during the administration of President Fidel Ramos. Lacson said One Negros will hasten growth and step up their thrust on organic food production. But it died repeatedly.
Negros Occidental Gov. Alfredo Marañon Jr. and Rep. Alfredo Marañon 3rd spearheaded its revival. At first, Negros Oriental Gov. Roel Degamo made public his opposition but eventually toed the line.
There is confusion as to what advantages in governance the creation of such administrative region could bring. Will Negros Island Region (NIR) only add up to another layer of bureaucracy? Or a panacea to any socio –bureaucratic –political problem in the locality?
Here is my take. Notwithstanding the legal construction on its creation, I think Negros Occidental will be acting like a big brother to its smaller brother, Negros Oriental.
But I seem to have developed a paranoia because of other similar events. I’m talking here of the creation of the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (ARMM). Like NIR, it was also carved out from different regions of Southern Mindanao. The thing is, the real intention of ARMM remains as elusive as peace in Mindanao. Can anyone cite some major infrastructure development in the region?
It is also good to look at the Cordillera Administrative Region. The region was carved out from Ilocos and Cagayan regions. Like ARMM, the intent was for development but how many provinces in CAR reached heights in terms of development? Baguio City, I think, did.
Sadly, history is not in One Negros side.
The spirit of the creation is to shorten bureaucracy, literally and figuratively. Proponents would like the Negrenses believe that instead of the people in Negros Oriental going to Cebu and people in Negros Occidental going to Iloilo to transact with the regional offices, they can save time and resources due to the creation of new offices in the island region.
The intent is good. But will it guarantee smooth flow of bureaucratic processes? What about funding? What development will this One Negros region bring?
I asked the father of local government, former senator Nene Pementel on his take on the One Island Region. Pimentel is positive that it will see its real heights. He believes that if this Administrative Region of Negros will prove its worth, this can be a template for federal government.
There is no doubt the president has the power to create such region. But how will it concretize good intent? As the late Supreme Court Justice Isagani Cruz once said, “No matter how well lettered is the law, the point of the matter is in the implementation.”
So, good luck!
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