I AM pleased that the request to create an Island of Negros or an Island of Negros Region (NIR) has been reopened as a public interest concern.
Frankly, as a practicing sociologist and community development planner, I am for it, and it is long overdue, if I must point out.
So why an island region?
Negros is not only the fourth largest island in the Philippines, it is also one of the richest in terms of natural resources, above all its agriculture, its mineral and marine resources, and its magnificent natural landscapes.
It is in the heart of the central Philippines, between Cebu, the recognized center of commerce and trade in the Visayas and Mindanao, and Iloilo-Panay, the traditional center of regional economy, politics and culture.
Negros is an integral part of the Central Philippines Growth Corridor, from Iloilo to Cebu, from Tagbilaran to Tacloban. The infrastructure of this corridor is developing rapidly, and in the coming years, the inter-island bridges will further boost its growth.
The vast potential of Negros to become a modern, progressive, inclusive, resilient, smart and self-reliant agro-industrial region cannot be underestimated. The forces and the means of production important to realize it are there to be released.
Even though the basic resources of each are not yet fully and properly developed, its current and largely sugar monoculture based economy already contributes significantly to its annual Gross Domestic Product (GDP) and Regional Gross Domestic Product (RGDP) .
What more can we say if its vast and rich agricultural lands, its vast flat lands, its hydroelectric springs, its geothermal springs, its wind channels, its wide and longer exposure to the sun, its long and wide interior reverse, its various mineral reserves , its marine stocks, are being effectively and rightly exploited – instead of being plundered by hungry interest groups?
What more can we say if its tens of thousands of qualified young people from the best local technical universities, colleges and technical and vocational schools receive sufficient and appropriate programmatic support from local government units to develop, lead and manage light, medium and even some heavy ones. industries to stimulate urban and rural industrialization – instead of finding jobs abroad?
What if its army of over a million agribusiness workers were properly supported, well fed and protected by their basic rights – instead of becoming increasingly seasonal and doomed?
What more can we say if its thousands of poorly paid professionals, teachers, engineers, scientists, medical technologists and others have adequate socio-economic protection and are properly mobilized for necessary learning services, research and development and scientific practices – instead of simply being exploited for the wrong social, political and economic priorities?
What more can we say if the billions of local and national funds and assets in local government units are properly directed, managed and effectively controlled for the right development policies, programs and activities – instead of being devoured by blatant practices and flagrant corruption and bribery of politicians and clientelist politics?
The potential of Negros to become a leading developed island region in the country, where its people live in prosperity and peace with dignity, is clearly not without merit.
All it needs to achieve is a strong consensus on the development perspective from the main stakeholders, workers, farmers, fishers, odd jobs, academic community, science-technology-engineering circles, organizations of the civil society, professional organizations, foundations, cooperatives, women’s organizations, cultural artists, religious communities and recognized community leaders.
The formation of an Isle Negros should not be left to local government unit politicians and their political dynasties, as their loudmouths, rich pockets, and interlocking leaderships often make their voices the measure of everything.
I know and acknowledge that there are currently different perspectives on the NIR.
One perspective is that of politicians representing major political dynasties. Their agenda is decipherable.
The other is the perspective of supporters of a federal government, of which there are many variants and often in conflict with each other.
The least expressed, often repressed, is the perspective of the field, that of the vast sectors and class groups that are marginalized and vulnerable.
Where and how to start the process of unification – not imposition – is not easy. Prejudices and prejudices will easily catch up with any process.
Yet, I believe that sincere or well-meaning and transparent dialogues between different NIR perspectives should start somewhere.
Finally, allow me to paraphrase Saint Francis of Assisi in one of his exhortations to his disciples who felt that their mission was already advancing but not really, “let’s start because we haven’t done much yet.”*