Local Government Secretary Mar Roxas yesterday turned over the copy of the executive order creating the Negros Island Region (NIR) signed by President Aquino to Gov. Roel Degamo at the Negros Oriental Convention Center. 


The turnover was witnessed by representatives from local government units, academe, and civil society organizations. 


EO 183 states the need to further accelerate the social and economic development of the LGUs in the provinces of Negros Oriental and Negros Occidental and improve the delivery of public services.


However, Sec. Roxas said the EO is “an instrument to guide both provinces to arrive at the results that you want to happen, but it’s up to the Negrenses how to use it. The future is in your hands.”


In a meeting with provincial officials, Roxas cited National Economic Development Authority (NEDA) statistics that Negros Oriental has the highest poverty rate in Region 7 with 50 percent of its population categorized as poor.


“This is not something to be ashamed of but something to recognize to do something about, we have to plan to address the situation and find the way out,” he added.


He noted that part of the reasons of why there are many poor may be because of lack of investments, infrastructure in tourism, power and road networks that bring goods to the markets, among others.


In the coming months, the NIR will have regional councils that will respond to its own needs which include the Negros Island Development Council, Negros Island Peace and Order Council, and the Negros Island Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Council, whose priorities will be for the advantage of Negrenses.


Sec. Roxas said a Negros Island Region Technical Working Group will be organized on Tuesday, June 16, in Manila to plan institutional and organizational changes in the process of integrating the two provinces. 


Initially, the Secretary said it is a consensus that a regional center will be divided equally and the first to choose the cluster government departments is given to Negros Oriental which office will be in the regional headquarters based in Dumaguete City.


 It is also agreed that for now, no regional center will be set up because it will be costly but rather use the funds for services for the people.


All government departments will be put in clusters; human development cluster, social services, infrastructure, economic, and security cluster.


For his part, Negros Oriental Gov. Roel Degamo said the EO opens doors for talks and consultations towards the realization of Negros Region with the support of the TWG.


Gov. Degamo said consistent to his stand is to consult the people by inviting representatives from different sectors to formulate proposals, which he believes is beneficial to the advancement of the province. (rmn/jct/PIA7-Negros Oriental)