MANILA, Aug. 10 -- The Department of Tourism (DOT) on Thursday expressed confidence that tourist arrivals in the Negros provinces would still continue to increase despite the abolition of the Negros Island Region (NIR).

“Under the current set up, the number of tourist arrivals in both Negros provinces is very high and will continue to grow,” Tourism Assistant Secretary and spokesperson Frederick Alegre said in a text message.

On Wednesday, President Rodrigo Duterte signed an executive order (EO) abolishing the NIR that was created during the term of his predecessor, former President Benigno Aquino III.

EO No. 38, which was signed by the President on August 7, repealed Aquino’s EO No. 183 which the latter signed in 2015.

In abolishing the NIR, Duterte stressed that there is a need to ensure that priority government programs and projects are sufficiently funded.

As provided by EO 38, Negros Occidental and Negros Oriental shall revert to Region VI (Western Visayas) and Region VII (Central Visayas) respectively.

Data from the Department of Tourism (DOT) showed that Negros Occidental, including Bacolod City, acquired almost 1.664 million visitors in 2016.

Meanwhile, data showed that Negros Oriental acquired around 696,403 visitors in 2016. 

Senators, however, were concerned that this move may hamper the region’s development and poverty alleviation efforts

Senator Miguel Zubiri said that he was “saddened” but “respected” President Duterte’s decision.

“I am saddened by the latest development concerning the Negros Island Region, however, I respect President Duterte’s decision for its abolition,” Zubiri said in a press statement.

Zubiri said he believes that these provinces will definitely play a key role in the President's plan to move towards federalism.

Senator Paolo Benigno Aquino IV, for his part, said that he was disappointed by this move could weaken the economic development and hamper efforts to alleviate poverty in the region.

Aquino said that the Senate should consider finding out whether there are negative long-term effects for a divided Negros Island Region.

Both senators have filed separate resolutions urging to look into the NIR issue. (PNA)