Issue EO creating NIR ahead of law, business leaders urge president

Business leaders are appealing to President Ferdinand Marcos Jr. to issue an executive order creating the Negros Island Region, which includes Siquijor, ahead of the passage of a law on its creation.

“As concerned members of the Negros Region business sector, we wish to express our strong support for the re-establishment of a separate, stand alone and full-fledged region, which will encompass Negros and Siquijor islands,” the business leaders said in a joint statement.

“It is time for Negrosanons and Siquijornons to be given their own empowered Regional Development Council, which coupled with the fair implementation of the Mandanas decision, would finally provide our regional elected leaders with the sufficient autonomy to unite, plan and execute projects to benefit our own citizens,” they said.

The statement was signed by Edward C. Du – Negros Oriental Chamber of Commerce and Industry president, Frank A. Carbon – Metro Bacolod Chamber of Commerce and Industry chief executive officer, Roberto Montelibano – MBCCI president, Edgar Sy – Bacolod Filipino Chinese Chamber of Commerce and Industry president, Arthur N. Aguilar – Biopower Group of Companies president, and Eduardo Jereza – Negros Economic Development Foundation corporate secretary.

“We appeal that the President issue an Executive Order which will re-establish the Negros Island Region with the inclusion of Siquijor Island,” the business leaders said in their joint statement.

Then President Benigno Aquino III heeded the decades old clamor for such region through Executive Order 183 in 2015 but President Rodrigo Duterte reversed it through EO 38 in 2017 notwithstanding a successful short stint of a unified Island Region with many accomplishments and no undue financial burden to the national government, they said.

President Marcos has the same power to re- establish such new region and they urge him to do so, the business leaders said.

They appealed to the Negros congressmen to pursue the passage of such law so future presidents would not reverse it once more by executive fiat.

“With due respect, the proposal to form 6A and 7A subregions will not achieve the Region’s objectives and would not do justice to its vast economic potentials. It is a mere reshuffling of the Manila bureaucracy and certainly does not address the economic governance imperatives and opportunities which abound in the Negros Siquijor Region,” they said.

Negros is the fourth largest island in our archipelago, the business leaders said.

“On a standalone basis, its Gross Domestic Product will be larger than other existing regions. The natural resource endowments of the Negros Island allow it to be economically independent. It has hundreds of thousands of hectares of prime agricultural land composed of rich volcanic and alluvial soil and are laced by six major river systems that provide massive irrigation opportunities. It has gold, silver, copper, and sulphur,” they said.

“The geothermal power potential is among the largest in the country. It is the country’s capital of renewable energy which if fully developed can power the whole Visayas grid with clean and green energy. It has at least three natural deep-water world-class harbors that are rarely visited by typhoons,” they added.

“Negros and Siquijor also have a broad infrastructure of educational institutions, home grown labor force and talents in agriculture, industry, tourism, and the digital economy,” the business leaders said.

They also said Negros and Siquijor possess world class tourism competitive potentials that can be compared with other sites which are now favored by the national government.

Negros Island is the only one out of 7,100 islands divided by two regions, the centers of which are in another island, they pointed out.

“Negros is one ecosystem and the two provinces share the same mountain range. And yet, any watershed project will have to go to two other different islands for processing and approval. This ridiculous arrangement has prevailed for decades and has stunted the economic growth of the Negros Region which has not been favored by large national budgetary allocations compared to other Regions,” they said.

They pointed out that Panay island is paired with Guimaras while Cebu is paired with Bohol as a separate Region. It is only logical that Negros is paired with Siquijor, especially since Negros Island is bigger than either Panay or Cebu, they added.

“We believe that with strong teamwork of the two Negros provinces with the elected and business leaders of Siquijor, the economic potentials of Siquijor Island would at last be given its due focus and attention and share of the budgetary resources,” they said.

The concern of Manila bureaucrats about additional funding burden will be alleviated if Negros Occidental is allocated its share from Region 6 while Oriental Negros/Siquijor get their share from Region 7, as what was done during the short lived NIR, the business leaders said.

Both shares can then be consolidated, and the re- established Region would have a workable launching financial platform, they said.

With the continued implementation of the Mandanas ruling, LGUs have been strengthening their own institutional capabilities and therefore the financial claims for an increased Manila bureaucracy resulting from a separate Region should not constitute a significant financial burden on the national budget, the business leaders said.

They also appealed to the congressmen to support the creation of a new name for the region.

“With great respect, naming our Region in alpha numeric terms would not allow our elected and business leaders to properly market the region for investors. We need a new brand name that captures the essence of our three provinces, our two languages and cultures and its natural resource endowments,” they said.*

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