INTERIOR and Local Government Secretary Manuel Roxas II said that Negrenses will be writing their own destiny as they are given the

“historic opportunity” to plan their future under the Negros Island Region (NIR).

“This is a moment of historic opportunity. For the first time, Negros Occidental and Negros Oriental can come together and make a coherent plan for the entire island,” Roxas told officials of Negros Occidental during a preliminary meeting on the NIR held at the Social Hall of the Provincial Capitol in Bacolod City Monday afternoon.

Both Negros provinces have a combined population of 4.5 million.

Roxas met with officials of Negros Occidental for the first time since he announced Friday that President Benigno S. Aquino III signed on May 29 Executive Order No. 183, creating the NIR.

Before giving his message, Roxas handed over to Governor Alfredo Marañon Jr. the President’s Copy of the EO 183, drawing applause from the audience that included leaders of the sugar industry, congressmen, mayors, vice mayors, councilors, barangay officials, and employees of the Department of Interior and Local Government (DILG).

“With this instrument, you can write your own destiny, you can write your own destination, you can write your own itinerary, and you can write your own plan on how to arrive there,” Roxas added.

On June 15, the NIR technical working group formed by President Aquino will convene in Manila.

It will be composed of representatives of the Office of the President (OP), the Department of Budget and Management (DBM), National Economic Development Authority (Neda), and the DILG, of the Provinces of Negros Oriental and Negros Occidental. Resource persons from the University of St. La Salle and Silliman University will also take part in the discussions.

Moreover, the DILG chief also told the officials that Negros Occidental, being the bigger and the richer province, has the burden of leading the region to faster progress.

“Mind you, this is not easy now. (But) you will no longer have the excuse. The challenge, the inspiration of taking the future in your hands (means) you are also now responsible for your future,” Roxas said. “The decisions are yours; the responsibilities are yours because the authority is yours as well. The Regional Development Council will be led by Negrenses. The Regional Peace and Order Council will be led by Negrenses. The Regional Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Council will be led by Negrenses.”

Roxas, who has been instrumental in pushing for the approval of the NIR before the Office of the President, considered as an anomaly the fact that Negros Occidental and Negros Oriental are the only provinces in the country that belong to the same island, but don’t belong to the same region.

He said he understands the feelings of the people of Negros Occidental, who seemed like the proverbial “middle child” had less attention from his or her parents. That is, considering that Iloilo has Senate President Franklin, Aklan has the famous Boracay Island, and Capiz also has him, who is a Capizeño, he said.

Under the NIR, Negros Occidental is “no longer the middle child,” Roxas said, adding that Negrenses also have a “secret weapon,” that is, his mother, Negrense Judy Araneta, a native of Bago City.

Roxas admitted that the transition of the two Negros provinces into becoming a one-island region will “not be easy” and will be “a very big responsibility.”

“But I know that you can do it. Negros has always stood tall, faced many challenges,” he added. (Nanette L. Guadalquiver)