One island, one green economy

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Wednesday, June 18, 2014


MUCH of the discussions on the one-island region debates focused on the ethnolinguistic divide – Hiligaynon versus Cebuano-speaking Negrenses. I think this is a petty issue. Indonesia has more than 700 living languages yet the archipelago is united speaking in Bahasa Indonesia. In our country, we have 120 to 175 spoken languages. Yet our archipelagic countries have a national state.

Currently, regional governance of Negros Island is based on ethnoliguistic and water divides. Negros Occidental belongs to Western Visayas Region, despite the fact that the Guimaras Strait divides the region. Yet linguistically speaking, Region VI is divided into the Hiligaynon, Cebuano, Karay-a and Akeanon languages.

On the other hand,the Tañon Straight separates the Oriental side to the Cebu mainland, the heart of Region VII. The Cebuano language unites Central Visayas.

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From the ecological standpoint, however, our public officials in both sides of Negros Island should adopt an ecosystem-based management (EBM) as the basis for creating a one-island region for governance. EBM is an integrated approach that considers interactions between humans and the environment. The goal of EBM is to sustainably manage natural resources and biodiversity by maintaining ecosystem processes, functions and services.

EBM is an approach that emphasizes connectivity between biological and social systems; consequences of human actions within ecosystems; protection and restoration of ecosystem structure, function and key processes; and integration of biological, socioeconomic and governance perspectives. (Principles and Practice of Ecosystem-Based Management, Wildlife Conservation Society)

In the context of the Negrense island EBM, mountains play a crucial role. Mt. Kanlaon volcano is one of the most active volcanoes in the Philippines and straddles the Occidental and Oriental parts. Kanlaon isthe highest peak in all of the Visayas region. Other notable peaks on the island are Mts. Silay and Mandalagan in Negros Occidental, and Cuernos de Negros in Negros Oriental.

The proposed one-island region should consider the role of our mountains, not the seas. The United Nations’ Mountain Environment Program argued that mountains are an important source of water, energy and biological diversity. Furthermore, they are a source of such key resources as minerals, forest products and agricultural products and of recreation. As a major ecosystem representing the complex and interrelated ecology of our planet, mountain environments are essential to the survival of the global ecosystem.

The two Negrense provinces have signed in 2005 to make the island an organic food bowl. What is often ignored, however, is that large volume of organic rice production and also coffee, among other products, are sourced from mountain communities around the buffer zones of the Mt. Kanlaon Natural Park and the Northern Negros Natural Park.

Recently, the Mountain Partnership, a United Nations global voluntary alliance, invited the provincial government of Negros Occidental to promote sustainable mountain development by encouraging different actors and stakeholders — government, civil society groups, intergovernmental organizations, and the private sector — to work together in a more cooperative and effective manner to achieve goals.

Mountain communities are struggling in many parts of the world to cope with the impacts of climate change and other drivers that are affecting mountains more severely and faster than many other ecosystems.

So we want a one-island region? We want to develop a green economy to reverse the decline of the island’s biodiversity, mitigate the release of greenhouse gases, halt the degradation of terrestrial ecosystems?

Then let’s go for the union of the Oriental and Occidental side. Create the EBM-based island regional governance mechanism where our Negrense mountains will form a pivotal role for our economic development.

*****

(bqsanc@yahoo.com)

Published in the Sun.Star Bacolod newspaper on June 18, 2014.

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