From being one of the Negros Island Region’s staunch supporters, Gov. Roel Degamo is now singing a different tune.
In last week’s meeting of the Regional Development Council, the Governor stunned everyone by announcing that he was withdrawing his support from the concept of the NIR, and preferred that Negros Oriental stick it out with Central Visayas region.
The announcement struck a note of disbelief in our sister province of Negros Occidental, whose leaders have been strongly rooting for NIR since preparatory talks were held during the time of then-Gov. Emilio Macias II.
Degamo cited “language and cultural differences” as the reason for his turnaround. For him, both Negros provinces are irreconcilable in their differences.
Negros Oriental and Negros Occidental are twin provinces. They were carved out of Negros Island way back on Jan. 1st, 1890. The Spanish government back then decided to divide the Island into two provinces as it was difficult to manage the island, separated in the middle by tall mountains, from the seat of government, which was Bacolod City.
Separating the island by what language the people spoke would have meant that the Cebuano-speaking Negros Oriental province would start from Sagay, as the eastern side had more trade opportunities with Cebu.
However, the rulers back then thought of dividing the island in terms of their economic potential. All the flatlands, which were suitable for growing sugarcane, were carved out for Negros Occidental, while the mountains were given to Negros Oriental.
That is why Negros Oriental and Negros Occidental today each belongs to separate regions, or political groupings. Negros Oriental belongs to Region 7, or the Cebuano-speaking Central Visayas region, while Negros Occidental belongs to Region 6, or the Ilonggo-speaking Western Visayas region.
But if one takes a look closer, both provinces actually have more things in common than there are differences. For one, the roads in the mountains have made travel and trade shorter and faster, thus increasing opportunities for interaction and lessen the potential language barrier.
All the reasons for joining the two provinces into one regional grouping have been discussed and agreed upon by the people of both provinces before the NIR was created by President Noynoy Aquino in 2015.
The change in the Governor’s tune can only be viewed as political — something which is not at all surprising. After all, he does not have a single political ally from among our three Representatives in Congress who are crafting the bill to create the NIR.
The Governor is demonstrating to his political rivals that he is a force to reckon with, and that he should have the last say when it comes to which political grouping the Province should belong to.