BACOLOD CITY – The proposed executive order (EO) for the creation of the Negros Island Region (NIR) is being drafted and will soon be presented to the Department of the Interior and Local Government (DILG), Mayor Alfredo Abelardo Benitez said here Thursday.
"All the departments are now collating the list of offices and manpower complement. I will present this to Secretary Benhur (Benjamin) Abalos (Jr.) for our EO proposal to President (Ferdinand R. Marcos Jr.). We're doing an inventory of the offices in Bacolod and in Dumaguete," he told reporters.
Benitez, a staunch supporter of the campaign to create the NIR, said discussions continue on whether a sub-region or a one-island region will be formed under the EO.
"We're still arguing or debating whether it will become a sub-region, like Region 6-A, Region 7-A, or NIR, which is one island, one region," he added.
Benitez said by this month, they could have the draft proposal submitted to Abalos for approval of the President.
The Bacolod mayor, who has been pushing for the issuance of an EO before the passage of the legislation creating the new region, had earlier submitted a position paper to the House of Representatives, wherein he reiterated his idea of dividing Region 6 (Western Visayas) into two regions.
These include Region 6-A comprising the four Panay Island provinces of Iloilo, Capiz, Aklan and Antique, and Guimaras, and Region 6-B, with the two Negros Island provinces and Siquijor.
In the House of Representatives, Benitez's brother, 3rd District Rep. Jose Francisco Benitez, had underscored the need to thresh out "significant details" for the creation of the NIR amid the opposition by Negros Oriental Governor Roel Degamo.
Last month, the House committee on local government approved the substitute or consolidated bill, titled "An Act Establishing the NIR, and Appropriating Funds Therefor," which provides that the NIR will be created composed of the provinces of Negros Oriental, Negros Occidental, and Siquijor, as well as Bacolod City.
Meanwhile, Benitez said Degamo’s opposition to the creation of the NIR due to the supposed "lack of equal footing" on the part of his province could be addressed.
"Why don't we address the issue at hand? If his complaint is fair representation, why don't we hear him out and address it with a solution rather than having a third (Negros) province," he said.
During his meeting with Negros Occidental Governor Eugenio Jose Lacson in Dumaguete City on Wednesday, Degamo raised the idea of creating another Negros province, consisting of the Visayan-speaking localities in the northern part of the island, to make it the fourth province aside from Negros Occidental, Negros Oriental, and Siquijor under the NIR, for each province to have an "equal footing" in the new region.
Lacson said he set the meeting to listen to the views of his counterpart from the other side of the island.
"While he reiterated some reasons why he is against it, language and cultural differences, to me, these two are really very small issues that can be easily addressed," he added.
Lacson said Degamo's concern was about "lack of equal footing" as Negros Occidental is considered the "dominant, bigger province" and they could be outvoted in the Regional Development Council, the reason why the Negros Oriental governor came up with the idea of creating another province.
"Outright he did not reject it (the creation of the NIR). As I've said, I was there to listen to him but for me, we should address the issue of equal footing," he said. (PNA)