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Ilonggo Network

Environment and Negros Island Region

Finally, two decades after the idea of creating the Negros Island Region was first floated, it has finally materialized with the issuance by President Benigno Aquino III of Executive Order 183 on May 29, but only publicly released last Friday.

Governor Alfredo Marañon Jr. of Negros Occidental, along with other local officials in the province as well as in Negros Oriental, vigorously lobbied for the creation of this new region to boost socio-cultural and economic development of the two provinces comprising it.

The EO also aims to promote efficiency in the government and improve public services, while it mandates the creation of the Technical Working Group to facilitate the organization of the new region.

In my previous articles, I already emphasized the importance of creating the Negros Island Region in terms of environment and natural resources management, primarily due to several trans-boundary concerns between the two provinces. One best example is the Mount Kanla-on Natural Park that is administratively shared by Negros Occidental and Negros Oriental. With one island region, I am hoping that the local development agenda and priorities of all local governments with territorial jurisdictions over the MKNP will be consistent with the purpose for which it was established as a protected area under the National Integrated Protected Areas System of the Philippines.

The management of protected areas in the new region is quite exciting, because both provinces account for several declared PAs that, if only coherently and holistically administered, will have greater impacts in providing ecological services to the whole island, and may further scale up and improve the ecotourism potentials of the two provinces.

These protected areas have numerous and diverse scenic features, from terrestrial to coastal and marine ecosystems, which can be carefully and collectively packaged as one-island ecotourism destination.

It is also important to note that Negros Occidental and Negros Oriental share common boundaries in several watersheds. The Ilog-Hilabangan Watershed traverses several localities in Oriental and Occidental, and the same is true with other watersheds that are found in the adjacent boundaries, such as in Hinoba-an and Bayawan, and Himamaylan and Tayasan. It is, therefore, very imperative that the two involved provinces initiate joint management system of these transboundary watersheds.

There should also be unified efforts between Negros Occidental and Negros Oriental in habitat and species protection, especially since they share similar habitat types and a number of species. The Negros striped babbler that was formerly known to occur only in Mount Talinis has been recorded in MKNP, too. Many of the species shared by the two provinces are endemic only in Negros Island, and some are already listed as threatened species, like the Negros bleeding heart, Visayan tarictic hornbill, Visayan spotted deer, and the Visayan warty pigs, among others.

Given these similarities in biodiversity importance and associated threats to both species and habitats, it is crucial that Negros, as one region, should have unified programs and strategies in biodiversity conservation.

The likelihood of developing and implementing effective environmental protection and natural resources conservation is relatively promising, because the two provinces are within one management unit under one region. Before the creation of Negros Island Region, Negros Oriental was part of Region VII, while Negros Occidental was under Region VI.*

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