• GILBERT P. BAYORAN
The proposal of Negros Oriental Gov. Roel Degamo to create a third Negros Island province, in order for him to agree to the creation of the Negros Island Region, elicited a counter proposal from San Carlos City Mayor Renato Gustilo.
As proposed by Degamo, a new province could be created from the areas covered by Vallehermoso, Negros Oriental, to Escalante City, Negros Occidental, which includes San Carlos City and the municipalities of Calatrava and Toboso.
In reaction to that proposal which was shared to Negros Occidental Gov. Eugenio Jose Lacson during their recent meeting of Negros Island governors in Dumaguete City, Gustilo aired his counter proposal of making half of Negros Oriental, from its town of Manjuyod up to Escalante City, Negros Occidental, as the area covered by the new province.
Gustilo pushed San Carlos City to be the capital of the proposed new province.
To justify his proposal, Degamo said the creation of the third Negros Island province will ensure equal voting at the Regional Development Council (RDC) meetings, noting that Negros Occidental is bigger, and the dominant province.
Degamo also cited cultural differences and the language barrier in his opposition to the creation of NIR, which is incidentally co-authored by three Negros Oriental solons.
Under the proposed NIR bill, the new region will be composed of what is now Negros Occidental, Negros Oriental and Siquijor.
Bacolod City Mayor Alfredo Abelardo Benitez, chairperson of the Regional Development Council 6, disclosed that the creation of another province in Negros Island is not necessary, while Lacson said he believes that it is not the solution to the issue of “equal footing,” being raised by Gov. Degamo
The proposed NIR bill, that includes Siquijor, is currently up deliberations by the House committee on Appropriations, after approval by the Committee on Local Government.
Gustilo said he agrees with Benitez that creating another Negros province will take time, and that the area mentioned by Gov. Degamo is not enough to qualify for a province.
But for former Mayor Richard Jaojojo, currently a councilor of Toboso, said he favors the creation of a new province, as it will be benefit the residents of northern Negros, who may no longer need to go to Bacolod City if they have their own Provincial Capitol.
By suggesting the creation of another Negros province, Gustilo said Gov. Degamo wants to divert the attention from NIR.
Gustilo said he knows Degamo also opposed initially the creation of NIR in 2015, only to eventually concede later on.
NIR, which was created through an executive order by the late former President Benigno Aquino III, was dissolved by former President Rodrigo Duterte in 2017.*