It was a year of triumphs and setbacks for Negros Occidental as the province received national recognition for its outstanding local initiatives under the leadership of Governor Eugenio Jose Lacson, but also suffered unprecedented losses in its multi-billion hog industry due to diseases.
Local peace efforts
In early December, Lacson, who chairs the Regional Peace and Order Council (RPOC) in Western Visayas, received the Gawad Parangal from the National Task Force to End Local Communist Armed Conflict (NTF-ELCAC) during its fifth founding anniversary at Camp Aguinaldo in Quezon City.
He was cited for his efforts in making a positive impact on society, and working for the convergence of efforts to attain the goals of ending the local armed conflict.
As the chairperson of the RPOC and Provincial TF-ELCAC, Lacson has been advocating for the surrender of communist rebels and avail of the benefits offered by the national and local governments, and making Negros Occidental insurgency-free.
Meanwhile, the Negros Occidental Police Provincial Office, led by provincial director Colonel Leo Pamittan, was also awarded Best Police Provincial Office in rites celebrating the 122nd Police Service anniversary of the Philippine National Police in August.
However, the peace efforts also suffered some setbacks.
In August, a police officer died while three others were wounded in an armed encounter while on their way to serve warrants of arrest to communist terrorists in the hinterlands of Calatrava town, northern Negros.
Corporal Jaime Nuñez died, while those wounded were deputy station chief Captain Jesus Alba, Staff Sergeant Frank Caballero and Corporal Dennis Nasis, all of Calatrava police.
“We should push ELCAC because we want a peaceful society. We cannot allow this to continue,” Lacson said.
Seal of Good Local Governance
Another national recognition conferred on Negros Occidental was its inclusion in the roster of the Seal of Good Local Governance (SGLG) awardees last December 14 by the Department of the Interior and Local Government.
The SGLG, enacted through Republic Act 11292 in 2019, is an institutionalized award, incentive, honor, and recognition-based program that encourages the commitment of LGUs to continuously progress and improve their performance in various governance areas.
For the feat, the provincial government received an SGLG marker and an incentive fund of P4 million.
“The SGLG represents more than an award and a distinction and serves as a testament to the province’s unwavering commitment to delivering outstanding public service through fostering transparency, upholding accountability, and embracing the principles of good governance,” Lacson said in a statement following the awarding ceremonies at a hotel in Manila.
Rice at P25 per kilo
On the local front, Negros Occidental has been a trailblazer in offering rice at a lower price in the local market.
In October and November, farmers of the Federation of Irrigators’ Association of Central Negros-Bago River Irrigation System (FIACN-BRIS) sold rice at only P25 per kilogram at the “Bigasan ng Bayan” at the Food Terminal Market in Bacolod City.
Lacson lauded the voluntary act of the irrigators’ association, composed of rice farmers from Bago City and the neighboring local government units (LGUs), of making low-priced rice available to Negrenses.
The provincial government earlier tapped the FIACN-BRIS, which is under the National Irrigation Administration-Negros Occidental Irrigation Management Office, for its Dagyaw Project to produce high-yield rice at a lower production cost with the assistance of job order workers, who are also association members, in planting crops and operating farm machinery.
ASF, other hog diseases ravage P6-B swine industry
After over three years of being free from African swine fever (ASF), the dreaded viral disease hit several farms in various parts of Negros Occidental last April, wreaking havoc on the province’s P6-billion hog industry.
ASF and other animal illnesses, such as hog cholera, almost wiped out the swine population in some localities in the fourth district, among these San Enrique town and Bago City.
Data from the Provincial Animal Biosecurity Incident Management Team showed that in Negros Occidental, which is a top backyard hog producer in the country, almost 18,000 pigs have died in at least 20 LGUs between April and August.
The estimated loss was valued at close to P200 million. (PNA)