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Negros region promising for resource management

The move to create Negros Island as one region is now gaining more attention and support from local leaders.

The idea actually started in the mid 90s when the 1st Negros Island Summit was held in Canlaon City, Negros Oriental. For whatever reasons, however, the proposal did not prosper, and it is only now that officials from the two provinces comprising the Negros Island are more determined to have it approved. Last Friday, another summit was held between the two neighboring provinces of Negros Occidental and Negros Oriental.

Currently, Negros Occidental is under Region 6, of which the regional offices are located in Iloilo, while Negros Oriental falls in Region 7, with Cebu as the center of regional operations. If the initiative to establish Negros Island as one region proceeds, it will have a separate regional center, and most likely, that shall be established in a strategic boundary adjoining the two provinces, particularly Kabankalan City and Mabinay town. Most of the local leaders, from the House of Representatives, provincial, municipal and city authorities to barangay captains, have expressed conformity to this initiative, in spite of some reservation by some regional officials, especially the National Economic Development Authority in Region 6.

The creation of Negros Island region is really important in Negros Island, especially on trans-boundary issues and concerns on environment and natural resources.

The two provinces share the Mount Kanla-on Natural Park, although a larger portion is in the Occidental side. The South Western Negros Key Biodiversity Area is also covered by the boundaries of Hinoba-an (Occidental) and Bayawan (Oriental) and other adjacent municipalities, while the Ilog-Hilabangan Watershed similarly encompasses the different cities and municipalities at the core of the island. The two provinces likewise share some endemic species of flora and fauna.

The creation of one region would somehow synchronize the development and conservation framework and efforts in Negros Island. It will foster more cooperation and coordination between municipalities and cities that are within the boundaries of important conservation sites. This is particularly important since most of the island’s ecosystems are trans-boundaries in nature.

With one island region, the social and economic services may further improve, such that impoverished upland and coastal dwellers that are dependent on natural resources for livelihood may be provided with additional sources of income. In terms of economic activities, the presence of regional centers in the island may further boost employment in Negros.

It is therefore important that the provinces in Negros shall start considering the development of an island-wide framework on environment and natural resources management. This proposed framework should take into account the ecological services of the different ecosystems shared by the two provinces, especially the critical watershed.

For instance, the South Western Negros KBA and the Ilog-Hilabangan Watershed have no clear institutional mechanisms for their effective protection and management, in general. The two provinces may create a management body for these critical conservation sites of the island. Aside from watershed services, the remaining forests in these ecosystems are also important habitats of numerous endemic species of flora and fauna.

It is right time that Negros Island should be created as a separate region.*

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