• GILBERT P. BAYORAN
The provincial government of Negros Oriental is “excited” over the realization of the proposed Negros Island Region (NIR), according to Provincial Tourism Board director Woodrow Maquiling Jr.
“We want NIR to come into fruition sooner than later,” said Maquiling, who represented Negros Oriental Gov. Manuel Sagabarria at the opening of the 16th Negros Island Organic Farmers Festival on November 15.
Maquiling added that Gov. Sagarbarria and other Negros Oriental stakeholders are “really anticipating and excited about the proposed NIR,” he said.
The NIR bill, after it was approved by the House of Representatives, is now up for deliberation by the Senate committee on Local Government, chaired by Senator JV Ejercito, whose mother, Guia Gomez, has roots in Negros Occidental.
The proposed NIR includes the provinces of Negros Occidental, Negros Oriental and Siquijor.
Senate President Juan Miguel Zubiri earlier said that they are targeting the approval of NIR in the Senate by year end.
Maquiling said he will hold discussions with Bacolod City Mayor Albee Benitez on how to “further push tourism for the whole island already.”
“MassKara Festival is one of the grandest not just in the country but the rest of the world as well,” he pointed out.
He added that we want to push and help prior to the NIR “we could start with tourism, especially food tourism.”
“The slow food movement is starting now in Negros Oriental. It started here in Occidental and has spread to the Oriental side. The governor is very supportive of that,” Maquiling also said.
“We are looking at food tourism and organic agriculture as one of the bedrock of Negros Island relationship between the two provinces,” he further said.*