RURAL UPDATE

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BY JOHNNY NOVERA
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Welcome home to Region 6…

STARTING this month, all of us in Panay and Guimaras should happily welcome back to Region 6 the city of Bacolod and the province of Negros Occidental, including its 13 cities. They should not be sad that they are coming back to Region 6. We have been blood brothers and are speaking a common language all these years. We love you all.
Congress failed to approve a budget for the Negros Island Region (NIR) that was created on May 29, 2015, under Executive Order No. 183 by then President Benigno Aquino III.
For 2016 it was asking an appropriation of P19.6 billion but the Budget Department turned down the request saying it cannot afford the amount. In effect, we believe that this will dissolve NIR.
We remember writing a series of articles on this issue and voicing out the objections of various sectors when Bacolod and Negros Occ. were considering the merger with Negros Oriental to form the Negros Island Region (NIR).
Our first article that came out on April 21, 2014, cited the strong economic and social ties between Iloilo and Negros Occidental province as enhanced by daily ferry boat trips between the two capital cities of Bacolod and Iloilo. Historically, in fact the original settlers who conquered the wilds of Negros Occidental to convert them into productive sugar farms at the turn of the century came from Iloilo. Many families of Negros Occ. have Ilonggo roots as evidenced by their common family names.
Then we came out with our second article on Nov. 11, 2014, titled “One-Negros Proposal Meets Objections.”  Here, we pointed out the need for more consultations and study of the proposal because the decision will affect a large group of people – 2.9 million residents in Negros Occidental and 1.3 million on the Oriental side.
On Nov. 18, 2014, our column asked, Why the Rush, Mr. Governor? When we passed Bacolod on our way for a visit to Silay City, we learned that Gov. Alfredo Maranon Jr. was pressing for immediate approval of the proposed merger. We would rather agree with Gov. Roel Degamo of Negros Oriental who recommended a NEDA study first of this issue and then have it endorsed to Congress for approval if justified.
On March 17, 2015, we came out with “Back to the One-Negros Issue” and wrote of the continuing objections of various sectors. In fairness, not only the leaders of the two Negros provinces affected shall have a say on the issue but the Regions as well that will lose part of their territory to the merger.
On April 21, 2015, we wrote, “What Is Your Stand on the One-Negros Issue?” We would like to incite continuing public discussion especially for Regions 6 and 7 affected by the proposal. But now the cat is out of the bag! Then DILG secretary Mar Roxas, with the insistence of Negros political leaders, suddenly reversed himself to endorse the Negros Island Region (NIR) proposal to President Noynoy Aquino III for approval, even with the incompatibilities of language and culture between the merging provinces.
Later, as you know DILG secretary Mar Roxas lost his candidacy for President even if supported by the new Negros Island Region (NIR). However, after the elections, Negros Occidental officials quickly jumped to join the party of the new President! Poor Mar Roxas. Never mind, but that is politics. Let us build a new Region 6.
The region of Western Visayas or Region 6 is very strategic in implementing the government’s business dispersal program. Our location is equidistant from all parts of our archipelago and we are strategically served by five airports of international standard. They are located in Silay City for Negros Occidental. Then Iloilo, Capiz and Aklan have also one international airports each, plus another one being expanded now to international status at Caticlan, Aklan, especially to serve Boracay tourists just across the strait.
For sea travel and cargoes, Western Visayas is served by an international seaport, considered one of the safest ports in the world.
For the people of the city of Bacolod and Negros Occidental, welcome home to Region 6 and a renewed Western Visayas! (For comments or re-actions, please e-mail to [email protected])/PN
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