BACOLOD (Updated) -- Negros officials expressed sadness and disappointment over President Rodrigo Duterte's decision to disband the Negros Island Region (NIR).
Duterte signed Executive Order 38 on August 7, revoking EO 183 that created the NIR on May 29, 2015.
Negros Oriental will revert to Central Visayas (Region 7) and Negros Occidental to Western Visayas (Region 6).
Negros Occidental Governor Alfredo Marañon Jr., who launched #Save NIR Movement together with Negros Oriental Governor Roel Degamo last year, said he was dismayed, but has to accept and respect the decision of President Duterte.
He said Negros Occidental will continue to work and collaborate with Negros Oriental.
"It is a sad day for Negros," said Negros Occidental third district Representative Alfredo Benitez.
“We, in Congress, will work on (making sure this will have) minimal effect to the island,” he said.
Negros Occidental Vice Governor Eugenio Jose Lacson proposed to create a special body to continue the cooperation with Negros Oriental.
“NIR is not priority for this administration as can be understood in EO No. 38,” he said. “If we step back, we may lose whatever cooperation that NIR’s Regional Development Council has gained.”
Capitol consultant and former governor Rafael Coscolluela, a member of NIR-Technical Working Group, said he was “sad and disappointed, but challenged.”
“We just need to keep working together as one island, with or without National Government support,” he said.
“For the meantime, we can explore creating a Negros Development Alliance to keep our initiatives going,” he added.
Abang Lingkod partylist Representative Stephen Paduano, who filed House Bill 4532 titled “An Act establishing the Negros Island to be known as Region 18,” said all Negrense lawmakers "will do our best to work out appropriations so that the projects and programs of the two Negros provinces will not be affected by the reversion of Negros Occidental to Region 6 and Negros Oriental to Region 7.”
The EO 38 also abolished the regional offices and regional councils under NIR. All personnel will either return to their previous units or be reassigned to other offices and all assets disposed of over the next 60 days.
The order revoked EO 183, which was signed by former President Benigno Aquino III on May 29, 2015 to establish the NIR composed of Negros Oriental and Occidental provinces.
The new EO noted that the government lacks the funds to finance the operations of government offices created for NIR.
The directive stated that the establishment of regional offices of departments and agencies "requires substantial appropriation to be fully operational, thus competing with government priority programs and projects for funding."
Budget Secretary Benjamin Diokno said last year that the NIR would cost the government at least P19 billion. He described the creation of the region as an “expensive exercise.”
Diokno also said funds for the NIR have not been included in the 2016 and 2017 national budgets.
He assured then that its abolition would not affect the delivery of basic services in the two Negros provinces.
“The services will be provided by existing regions before the creation of NIR. We go back to the status quo,” Diokno said then.
Under EO 38, the Department of Interior and Local Government will supervise the reversion of Negros Occidental and Negros Oriental to their previous regional groupings as well as the abolition of the NIR regional offices and councils. (SunStar Philippines and SunStar Bacolod/With PNA)
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