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Two Negros provinces

By: Erik Espina

AS a Cebuano and Oriental Negrense, merging the Negros Provinces into one region was a politically charged decision exploiting an excuse in the previous Administration. Then DILG Secretary Mar Roxas spearheaded the move, collapsing two provinces into a new region, with pretext to spur economic development and expedite bureaucratic processes.

Perceptive observers saw EO 183 by the previous president as “in aid of election” with the impending candidacy of Roxas for the presidency who happens to be an Ilonggo. This was an Ilonggo led merging of both provinces (One Negros) for Roxas. Had he won, likely, the Bacolod side would have dominated more Regional offices constructed on their end of the divide given kinship to language, relatives, greater voter population, with Ilonggo speaking leaders better connected to Malacañang than the Dumaguete side. Cebuano Negros would argue they would be treated as equals in the regional marriage of territory.

Political realities and variances in cultural mannerisms on both halves of the island are pronounced. Lest the learned people of Dumaguete forget, there was a strong drive to market themselves as “Oriental Negros” to recalibrate quicker public identification versus the knee-jerk when one speaks of Negros to an audience, the take away is Bacolod.

Ask an Ilonggo whether he is Visayan, and he will answer “No”. He most likely will reply “Ilonggo”. Begs the question, where is Negros Occidental, Iloilo etc located? Ask the same question on the Dumaguete portion, and you get an affirmation. Ethnic ribbing from the Oriental side whisper of noticing when the Bacolod side is visiting e.g. their expensive vehicles, clothing, and at times, loud exchanges. Besides, if there is to be parity in the geographical matrimony, note the Occidental is 7,965.21 sq. km, while Oriental is 5,385.5 sq.km.

Certain areas (Escalante, San Carlos etc.) of the Occidental side are Cebuano speaking than Ilonggo. A referendum is the way to go. President Duterte was correct issuing EO 38 revoking a most expensive proposition of a Negros Island Region competing with budgetary priorities.