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Thursday, July 7, 2011

NEGROS OCCIDENTAL: Where Gold Is Green






         Negros Occidental is a province located in the western portion of the Negros Island and southeast of Panay Island which is separated by the Guimaras Strait.
         It is bounded on the north by the Visayas Sea, on the south by the Sulu Sea, and on the east by the Tanon Strait and Negros Oriental. It has a total land area of 792, 607 hectares or 7,965.2 sq. km., 80% of which is arable land and suited to agriculture. Around 240,000 hectares are planted with sugarcane. In fact, the province produces half of the country’s supply of sugar through its fifteen sugar mills. Victorias Milling Company (VICMICO) is the largest sugar mill in the country with sales level of approximately $270 million annually. This earned the province a sobriquet as the “Sugarlandia of the Philippines.”
        The sugar boom in the late 1960s to the early 1980s when the price of the sugar was high in the world market and the Philippines was one of the major exporters and suppliers of sugar to the United States brought economic prosperity to the province such that distinctive signs of affluence were very much evident in the luxurious lifestyles of the sugar barons – big landowners, planters, producers and millers of sugar called the “hacenderos” of Negros Occidental. Chic style of living was brought to the province by their socialite children. Outmoded cars were frequently changed by brand new ones. Parties and shows are frequent. Celebrated artists were invited from Manila to Bacolod. The economy of the province has improved with the numerous business and commercial establishments in Bacolod as well as in other key cities of the province. This situation generate thousands of employment and job opportunities for the people not only of Negros Occidental but also of the neighboring provinces. With the higher income derived from sugar, the government was able to put up various infrastructure and development projects throughout the province.
         The proverbial “pot of gold” found among the green stalks of the sugarcane of Negros Occidental could not have been made possible without the favorable climate, the fertile soil and the tenacity of the Ilonggos (which includes people from Panay, especially from the provinces of Iloilo and Antique) to work on the haciendas as “sacadas.” Negros Occidental is blessed with a generally pleasant climate with two pronounced seasons – dry and rainy. The climate of the northern part of the province differs markedly from that of the southern part. In the north, the rainy season starts gradually in June, reaches its peak in September and October, and closed with the dry season starting from late December to May. While in the south, the climate typically features a rainy season which starts in June, reaches its maximum in August, and tapers off until October preceding the dry season starting from November to May.
The vast plains consisted mostly of sandy loam or clay loam soil and supplemented with rich topsoil of the mountains surrounding the towns of the whole province, as particularly suited for sugarcane plantation. Contributions of these mountains to the fertility of the soil could not be discounted. Most famous among these mountains is Kanlaon Volcano, the highest peak in Central Philippines with its peak of 8,100 feet or 2, 695 meters above sea level. Located about 80 kilometers away from Bacolod City, this active volcano serves as a natural barrier separating the provinces of Negros Occidental and Negros Oriental.
Its western half is rimmed with settlements formed by people of Murcia, La Castellana, Ma-ao and La Carlota while its eastern half is occupied by inhabitants of Kanlaon City, Vallehermoso and San Carlos City. The volcano has five craters with the active cone at the southernmost portion of the summit. The bigger one, an old crater north of the active cone, the “Hardin sang Balo” (Garden of the Widow) crater, measuring about a kilometer wide and about 450 feet deep, has been filled by volcanic and plant debris and is presently occupied by a rain-filled lagoon. Another old crater on the same side of the cone measuring about a hundred meters descending cylindrically to an 800 feet depth is occupied by a placid lake and contains numerous deposits of sulfur.
         The mountains of Negros Occidental including Mt. Mandalagan and Mt. Silay are covered with forests which totaled to an area of 252, 884 hectares, or around 30% of the total land area of the province. However, of this total forests, the rest are classified as lagged-over, open, cogon, pasture and brushlands, reforestation projects, mangrove or swamplands, reservations and parks. In 1979, the timber produced by these forests amounted to 170,000 cubic meters.
          Besides timber, the mountain forests serve as watershed areas for the mountain springs which flowed to converge into the six (6)big rivers of Negros Occidental namely: Himoga-an, Danao, Malogo, Bago, Binalbagan and Ilog.
          Beneath the bosom of the mountains and hills of Negros Occidental are some metallic and non-metallic minerals. Among them are copper, gold, silver, molybdenum, iron ore, coal sulphur, silica, phosphate, and gypsum. One of the biggest copper mines in the country is in Sipalay. Negros Occidental, through the foreign investors have abandoned its large-scale operations in recent years.
          Besides agriculture, the coastal towns of Negros Occidental are engaged in fishing as their major industry. In 1985, the estimated total fish product ion of the province was 92, 746.97 metric tons. This total fish production represents the combined output of the sustenance and commercial fishing and brackish/fresh water fishponds.
         The province of Negros Occidental is composed of thirteen (13) cities and nineteen (19) municipalities connected with each other by a well-paved concrete or asphalt road with the exception of a few remote and interior towns which could be reached only by a rough and mountainous. The thirteen (13) cities were: Bacolod City, Bago, Cadiz, Escalante, Himamaylan, Kabankalan, La Carlota, Sagay, San Carlos, Silay, Sipalay, Talisay and Victorias. Nineteen (19) municipalities are grouped into two: northern and southern towns. Located north of Bacolod City are the towns of E.B. Magalona, Manapla, Toboso, S. Benedicto and Calatrava. Situated on the south are the towns of Murcia, Pulupandan, Valladolid, San Enrique, Pontevedra, Isabela, Moises Padilla, La Castellana, Hinigaran, Binalbagan, Ilog, Candoni, Cauayan, Sipalay and Hinoba-an.





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