Duterte orders abolition of Negros Island Region, solons feel for Negrenses

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Metro Manila (CNN Philippines, August 9) — President Rodrigo Duterte ordered the abolition of the Negros Island Region (NIR), the 17th region created in 2015.

Duterte on Monday signed Executive Order No. 38, revoking EO 183 signed by then President Benigno "Noynoy" Aquino on May 29, 2015 that formed the new region, composed of Negros Oriental which was then part of Central Visayas (Region VII) and Negros Occidental of Western Visayas (Region VI).

These two provinces just adjacent each other will again be part of separate administrative regions.

"The provinces of Negros Occidental and Negros Oriental shall revert to Region VI and Region VII, respectively," EO 183 read.

Duterte said the establishment of regional councils and offices for the NIR "requires substantial appropriation to be fully operational, thus competing with government priority programs and projects for funding."

He ordered the Department of the Interior and Local Government (DILG) to supervise and complete the abolition within 60 days from the effectivity of EO 183.

Presidential Assistant for the Visayas Michael Dino hinted in October 2016 that the NIR may be abolished because the government cannot fund the ₱19 billion needed for establishing it.

Effect on Negrenses

Former Interior Secretary Mar Roxas, who served the Aquino administration, on Wednesday expressed disappointment over the impending abolition.

"Sayang (What a waste). With NIR dissolution, mga Negrense will be traveling farther and spending more for services and Negros Occidental and Oriental development will be slower," Roxas said in a tweet.

Negrenses will now have to travel hours by land and sea or air to get to Iloilo City or Cebu City, to avail of services of regional offices located there.

Over 4.4 million people live in the Negros region, according to the 2015 Census on Population.

Senators Bam Aquino and Miguel Zubiri who filed Senate resolutions in October 2016 as the Duterte government announced plans to revoke the creation of NIR, feel sad for the Negrenses.

"We are disappointed with the decision to abolish the Negros Island Region amidst the Negrenses' appeal for unification," Sen. Aquino said.

In his 2016 resolution, Aquino said the establishment of the region will "accelerate social and economic development and improve the delivery of public services" throughout the region composed of Bacolod, a highly urbanized city, 18 other cities, 28 municipalities, and 1,219 barangays.

Although he respects Duterte's decision, Zubiri said "we will not stop looking for reasons to have the NIR re-established."

But Negros Oriental Governor Roel Degamo said he fully supports the President's decision and urged his fellow officials to do the same.

"Although we are not a region anymore but we can still continue cooperating especially in the peace and order of the province," he said.

Degamo, however, said he will request the President to retain regional offices of the Department of Foreign Affairs and Professional Regulation Commission in Dumaguete City.

Dumaguete City-based journalist Roy Bustillo contributed to this report.