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A divided province

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Five years ago, we were so gung ho over the concept of One Island, One Region. That was quashed to death by the president as soon as he took office in Malacañang. Even Duterte minions who are from Negros were disappointed by this decision as majority was sold to the idea.

Whenever we travel, we pride ourselves by being Negrenses even when people poke fun at us with the trademark “tikalon”.

When the COVID-19 pandemic started, I wondered if things would have been different if that dream was not extinguished. We saw the difficulty when we had to rely on the region for testing, thus both government and the private sector pushed for our own laboratories here.

The same thing happened in Negros Oriental that eventually worked on their own molecular lab as they initially had to rely on Cebu for their test results as well and had to compete harder when the regional seat became the epicenter.

While many of us continue to hope that we can revive the concept when this president steps down and we get someone who shares our vision, this pandemic just showed us that such may not anymore happen when we ourselves, in the province, cannot get our acts together.

Bacolod City is separate from the province of Negros Occidental for being highly urbanized. But prior to the pandemic, we never really took the separation seriously except during elections when Bacolod residents do not participate in the provincial exercise.

What is even ironic is that most, if not all, provincial elected officials are residing or have homes in Bacolod.

Yet now, from the southern-most Hinoba-an to northern cities of Cadiz and Sagay, people who come from Bacolod are treated as probable virus carriers.

The divide started early on when we went into the first lockdown. Despite statements that Gov. Bong Lacson and Mayor Bing Leonardia were coordinating with each other, directives coming from their offices were not attuned with each other and that created confusion among the public. When Lacson opened up the province, Leonardia continued to lockdown Bacolod.

When the province first opened their molecular laboratory, we heard pronouncements that Negrenses would be prioritized up until DOH requested that tests from Bacolod must be processed at the provincial lab instead of Iloilo to speed up testing. Now that we have more laboratories in the city, that has become less of a problem.

Even with the arrivals of OFWs, LSIs and APORs, we treated them separately and it felt like there was competition of some sort, which in turn just worsened the situation. In one instance, we saw the governor deciding to temporarily ban the return of residents from Cebu, yet the following day, we saw a report from the city welcoming repatriates from the other island.

Now we see directives from towns and city mayors providing additional health and safety protocols for those who are coming from Bacolod.
Hinoba-an announced that essential travel for their residents to Bacolod will be allowed for as long as it does not exceed 48 hours. If they exceed that, they will be required to undergo facility quarantine and those who refuse will be denied re-entry. The same advisory was issued by Cadiz City recently while Sagay issued theirs even earlier.

We are the center of commerce in our province yet we are treated like there’s a plague in our midst.

Not that I blame them as our city has become a runaway winner in the number of covid cases over the weekend when half of the positives in the region was recorded in Bacolod alone.

What is ironic is the fact that since Bacolod still hosts the most number of hospitals, many of those from outside the city, especially those who can afford private health facilities, opt for hospitalization here.

EB Magalona Mayor Marvin Malacon was diagnosed positive along with some members of his family. All of them, according to his spokesperson, are recuperating in a private hospital in Bacolod.

In Manapla town, a municipal health officer tested positive. The doctor goes home to Bacolod everyday. It gives the allusion that perhaps, the doctor contracted the virus in Bacolod.

My point is, it saddens me to see that we have created that divide ourselves by not coordinating or simply talking and helping each other. Covid is real and it will be here for quite some time until a safe and tested vaccine will be out in the market. Can our province, Bacolod included, carry on and survive this crisis with the present mindset?

Rep. Kiko Benitez was right in saying that “COVID knows no boundaries. We need to work together to effectively battle this pandemic.”

It is not only a health crisis but an economic one and many of us are already dreading what will happen tomorrow. Now is the time to unite and set aside politics and jurisdiction. We are Negrenses. Let’s work with that mindset and perhaps, we may just win over this pandemic.*


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May 2024

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