By Ian Nicolas P. Cigaral
NEGROS ISLAND Region (NIR), created two years ago and has yet to fully establish its own regional agencies, has been dissolved.
President Rodrigo R. Duterte signed Executive Order (EO) No. 38 on Aug. 7, dissolving the NIR established by his predecessor, former President Benigno S. C. Aquino III, through another EO.
Mr. Aquino’s EO 183 unified the provinces of Negros Occidental and Negros Oriental, located on one island, into a single administrative region in 2015 that had brought the total number of regions in the country to 18.
Negros Occidental, which has 13 cities, will now be returning under Region VI (Western Visayas), while Negros Oriental, which has six cities, will again become part of Region VII (Central Visayas).
The regional offices (ROs) established by EO 183 have also been abolished.
According to Mr. Duterte, NIR’s need for substantial appropriation for it to be fully operational “competes” for funding with priority government programs and projects, which he said must be “sufficiently funded.”
“The administrative regions were established to promote efficiency in the Government, accelerate social and economic development and improve public services,” the President said in his EO.
The Department of Interior and Local Government (DILG) is directed to supervise the implementation of the order.
“All existing personnel of the NIR ROs shall return to their previous units of deployment, or reassigned to other offices within their respective departments/agencies,” Mr. Duterte said.
“The winding up of the operations of the NIR ROs, as well as the final disposition (e.g., transfer or abolition) of their functions, positions, personnel, assets and liabilities, shall be done immediately and completed not later than sixty (60) days from the effectivity of this Order,” he added.
Budget Secretary Benjamin E. Diokno was quoted in reports last year as saying that the NIR would require at least P19 billion to operate.
According to Budget Undersecretary Laura B. Pascua, Mr. Duterte agreed to scrap Mr. Aquino’s EO 183 as early as last year, adding that the measure is a “non-issue in the 2018 budget.”
“Even now, we have not been providing additional funds for it (NIR),” Ms. Pascua said in a text message yesterday.
In a Facebook post on Wednesday, former DILG Secretary Manuel A. Roxas II, who has roots in neighboring Panay Island and had endorsed the creation of the new region, lamented the abolition of NIR.
He said many Negrenses would have benefited from NIR if it had been pushed through.
“With NIR dissolution, mga Negrense will be traveling farther and spending more for services and Negros Occidental and Oriental development will be slower,” Mr. Roxas said.
Senator Paolo Benigno “Bam” A. Aquino IV, meanwhile, expressed disappointment on the President’s directive saying this will weaken the two province’s economic development.
Acting on a clamor from Negrenses for unification, the senator filed a resolution calling for the institutionalization of the NIR.
According to a statement released by the Senator on Monday, the resolution “stressed the need for the National Government to consider and assess the broader potential and long-term impact of having an administration center in the Negros Island.”
“At the very least, this issue warrants a public discussion and we hope the Senate can still hold a hearing on the resolutions we’ve filed last year,” said Mr. Aquino, referring to Senate Resolution No. 212, which he filed Oct. 24, 2016. — with reports from Elijah Joseph C. Tubayan and Mario M. Banzon