NIR – for what, for whom?

SunStar Ombion
SunStar OmbionPerspective

I have written already a number of long and short informative and critical articles about the proposed creation of Negros Island Region or NIR as a separate administrative political region.

Now that the codal basis of NIR with province of Siquijor as a bonus, is already established, and already hailed and hyped by its proponents and backers as pivotal for accelerating the socio-economic development of Negros-Siquijor, I will go directly to my analytics on the issue – for what and for whom is NIR?

First, the local proponents of NIR were mostly local incumbent members of the House, backed by majority of local government chief executives, and mostly groups and political figures identified as big landed and big business elites and interest groups from the Occidental side. The Cebuano-speaking Orientals and Siquijodnons have expressed repeatedly their preference to stick with the Cebuano- speaking Region 7. If given a chance by the ruling administration a referendum could prove this right, or maybe wrong.

The NIR led proponents and backers who gloat over its passage into law, are the same interest groups and people who have not done much in several decades to improve the quality of life of most of the Occidentals especially the basic sectors, and worse, even pillaged the province’s vast and rich resources, its forests, water, lands, minerals and marine resources, and the violent exploitation of the farmers and farm workers.

Not contented and still insatiable for more power and profit, this same people have dreamed, prayed and fought long enough for the day of more effective control and efficient utilization of the island’s vast and rich resources. That day has come this June of 2024 under the son of former fascist dictator, President Bongbong Marcos Jr.

Second, the declaration chorused by the led proponents, their backers and the PBBM administration, that the creation of NIR will address uneven growth and disparity of funding, provide strategic convergence for resource utilization and investments, improve governance and ease of doing business, and hence accelerate socio-economic development for millions – are quite soothing and inspiring to them, but obviously not to majority poor Ilonggos and Cebuanos who have had enough of sufferings and impoverishment from the reign of feudal land lords, capitalist exploiters and their minions.

Third, NIR as a unified political administrative tool controlled and managed by the same sets of landed elitist politicians, technocrats and consultants under the effective direction and compass of established dynasties of oligarchs, will bear no new fruits and to benefit mainly same elitist circles.

Fourth, the highly monopolist and manipulative character of various elite groups especially in the Occidental, are bound to sharpen their competition and clashes for the shrinking Negros “economic pie” fueled by the crisis of monocrop sugar-based local economy.

This time it will extend between them and the Cebuano-speaking elite and middle-class groups who are deeply distrustful and contemptuous of the Occidentals. The Siquijodnons may have more practical and mystical reasons than the Orientals.

Historical lesson teaches us that one cannot build a kingdom with so many kings and princesses and self- proclaimed nobles and elite soldiers and warriors.

Fifth, and in summary, given the above dividends and equations, the NIR will unlikely accelerate balanced growth and sharing of resources, especially in the face of a sharply divided ruling elite groups and dynasties in the island. In its stead is the likelihood of more competition, division and clashes between and among the leading elitist interest groups, and between them and the majority of already impoverished basic sectors.

The worse of it all, the plunder of the island’s remaining resources, and the destruction of our ecosystems will be accelerated. Thus the worsening of our current climate crisis.

Albert Einstein once said, “you cannot solve a problem by using the same mindset and method that created it”.

“It is also political insanity to keep doing the same thing and still expecting different results, Einstein profounded.

Unless NIR creates decision making processes and multi-level implementing mechanisms ensuring effective participatory governance, where the interests of the majority especially the basic sectors are represented, its inherently reactionary and elitist character are bound to self-destruction.

City, municipal and barangay development councils have yet to see genuine and active participation of civil society organizations, and function effectively without undue influence of local chief executives and their political operators.

To complement this is to establish a parallel and independent People’s Councils in every LGU where members and non-members of Development Councils, bond together to advance participatory governance and push for comprehensive, climate crisis-adaptive, inclusive (cross-sectoral), sustainable, and resilient development.

On a strategic platform, I still challenge civil society organizations to continue the advocacy for the institutionalization (by ordinance) of a truly local participatory governance which advances the interests of the basic sectors, the democratization of lands and resources, and the realization of a balanced urban-rural development and nationalist industrialization.

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