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Dumaguete diocese asks Marcos to veto Negros Island Region bill

MANILA, Philippines — The Diocese of Dumaguete urged President Ferdinand Marcos Jr. to veto a bill that would create an administrative region comprising Negros Occidental, Negros Oriental and Siquijor, citing the lack of consultation with stakeholders.

In an open letter, the Diocese of Dumaguete said Marcos should reject the proposed legislation as the intention of the move remains unclear to the public. The diocese covers the provinces of Negros Oriental and Siquijor, excluding the municipalities of La Libertad and Vallehermoso, as well as the cities of Guihulngan and Canlaon.

Marcos said two days ago he is inclined to sign the bill creating Negros Island Region (NIR) into a law, saying, "it's probably a good idea."

The Diocese of Dumaguete said the passage of the bill was "marred by a lack of comprehensive information dissemination and meaningful consultation with the diverse sectors and stakeholders of Negros Oriental."

"We beseech Your Excellency to recognize the gravity of this situation and to allow us to engage in informed discourse regarding the merits and implications of the NIR, rooted in empirical studies," read the letter signed by Dumaguete Bishop Julito Cortes and eight other prelates. 

The diocese cited a 2014 survey conducted by Silliman University, which found that 43% of respondents opposed the proposed NIR, while 26% expressed their support for the merger. Thirty-one percent said they were undecided. 

The prelates also stressed the creation of NIR threatens to exacerbate existing inequalities.

"Negros Oriental finds itself disadvantaged by its fewer districts and cities compared to Negros Occidental. This asymmetry in representation and resource allocation could perpetuate systemic injustices, further marginalizing vulnerable communities," the letter read. 

The inclusion of Siquijor in NIR was also questioned. The Diocese of Dumaguete pointed out the island province has "its distinct identity, language and geographical separation from Negros."

"Our plea is not born of mere dissent, but rather from a sense of duty to safeguard the future of our beloved province. The church's sole concern in this matter is to ensure that the voice of the people