Rep. Juliet Marie Ferrer (Neg. Occ., 4th District) said on Friday, February 3, that she cannot accept the proposal of Negros Oriental Gov. Roel Degamo to create a third province in Negros as a pre-requisite for the passage of the Negros Island Region (NIR) bill.
Ferrer, author of House Bill 119 that is the mother bill of the NIR consolidated and substitute bill, said ultimately it is Congress who has the legislative authority to approve it.
Degamo, in a meeting with Negros Occidental Gov. Eugenio Jose Lacson on Wednesday, said the new region should include four provinces to ensure equal voting at Regional Development Council (RDC) meetings.
The bill pending in Congress calls for the creation of a new region composed of Negros Occidental and Oriental, and Siquijor.
Degamo wants the new region to include four provinces by creating a third one from Vallehermoso in Negros Oriental to Escalante City in Negros Occidental.
Ferrer said the rationale for the NIR bill that she filed is to make the regional government offices more accessible in order to make it more convenient for the constituents of the NIR.
“Although they are expressed differently by the different authors, the explanatory note of all the NIR bills have the same tenor. There was no intention to outnumber the representatives of Negros Oriental in the Regional Development Council. If this was the case, the Negros Oriental representatives would not support the bill,” she said.
Ferrer pointed out that the Negros Oriental representatives do not just support the creation of the NIR, they are also co-authors of the bill.
The creation of a third province in Negros requires a long legislative process and eventually a plebiscite that is costly, she said.
“It is not necessary and in fact divisive. The people of Negros have been living harmoniously despite the different dialects so there is no reason to make a division based on their dialects now,” she added.
Degamo earlier cited the differences in language between Negros Occidental and Oriental as one of the reasons for his opposing the creation of the NIR.
“The legislative power is vested in the Congress of the Philippines. The creation of laws including the creation of the Negros Island Region is constitutionally vested in Congress. In this case, all the representatives of concerned provinces, Negros Occidental, Negros Oriental and Siquijor, support the NIR bill,” Ferrer said.
The collective wisdom of Congress should be respected being the representatives of the people and the legislative authority recognized by the fundamental law of the land, she said.
“For these reasons, I cannot accept the proposal to create another province in order to make the provinces on equal footing,” Ferrer said.*