Arguments against an island region

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Friday, July 25, 2014


UNA vez más. Valencia Mayor Edgar Teves, former vice governor of eastern province of Negros, explained last week why he opposes the One Negros Island Region proposal.

On one hand, Teves agrees on the one-island region based on improving the economy and good governance: It would give Negros a strong political influence on the national government. It would also be easy to package and promote tourism.

He admitted that the One Negros Island has a great potential for becoming a land-based and integrated business hub. It could also speed up the delivery of basic services and promote the equitable distribution of resources. It could result in better peace and order in both provinces, and there will be new growth areas as a result of the creation of regional offices in the region.

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On the other hand, his uncle Herminio G. Teves disagrees with his nephew even on those points. The elder Teves insists that the One Negros issue is purely political rather than economic. It is mostly the creation of political advantage, he said. Naturally, Negros Occidental has the edge in gaining more RDC chairmanship because it is bigger in size. “We will still be second fiddle.”

Herminio, however, has no problems with becoming second fiddle in the current Region 7 set-up. Population and income wise, Negros Oriental is smaller, therefore, it gets the smaller pie in the infrastructures.

Either way, however, the Oriental side will have lesser representation. The fact that the Oriental side, Bohol, and Siquijor get lesser development resources compared to Cebu Island. No, not even Cebu Island. Make that Metro Cebu.

However, within the Regional Development Council 7, it has 14 private sector representatives selected from the four member-provinces using the RDC approved formula of 50 percent for population, 20 percent land area, and 30 percent for equal sharing. Thus, Region 7 has the following allocation: 2 for Siquijor; Negros Oriental and Bohol have 3 each; and the lion share of 6 for Cebu.

Ed Du, president of the Oriental chamber of commerce and industry, said that economically, the Oriental side has greater access to Cebu market because of our unlimited access to the regional Cebu centers. “It will take us five hours to go to Bacolod.”

Well, no one is talking of making Bacolod the regional center. All road leads to Kabankalan, either from Dumaguete or from Bacolod. There is no need to reach Kabankalan by sea and air. A land route will do, thank you.

Then there is this quaint argument. The division since the pre-Spanish times and until now is by language barrier. The Ilonggos belong to the Panay group while the Negros Oriental group belong to the Cebuano culture and character.

What exactly is this Cebuano culture and character? That has yet to be clarified. If the Teveses insist on the linguistic divide, this argument cannot hold water.

Negros Occidental is NOT a solid Hiligaynon-speaking region. In Panay, besides Hiligaynon, Panaynons speak Kinaray-a in some parts of Iloilo and Antique while Akeanon is the lingua franca in Aklan. In northeastern Negros Occidental, we have Cebuano-speaking people from Escalante down to San Cárlos City as well as Cebuano-speaking residents of Hinobaan.

Besides, if language is the measure of culture and character, then we cannot even have a united Philippines to speak of. We have between 120 to 175 languages in the Philippines, depending on the classification method. Two are official, while (as of 2010) we have Bikol, Cebuano, Hiligaynon, Ilocano, Kapampangan, Pangasinan, and Waray as official auxiliary languages.

Yes, despite these linguistic diversity, the Filipinos are now becoming aware of their national identity. As Filipinos, we largely share the same culture that makes us distinct from Malaysia, Brunei or Indonesia. What that Filipino culture is has to be tackled in a future discussion.

*****

(bqsanc@yahoo.com)

Published in the Sun.Star Bacolod newspaper on July 25, 2014.

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