1. Historical Background of the Region
Western Visayas covers the provinces of Aklan, Antique, Capiz, Guimaras, Iloilo and Negros Occidental. Except for Aklan and Guimaras, the four (4) provinces were created by virtue of Republic Act No. 2711 on March 10, 1917. The province of Aklan was created on April 25, 1956 under Republic Act No. 1414 and Guimaras as a sub-province of Iloilo since 1966 became a province after the referendum on May 11, 1992.
Aklan is associated with a Datu Bendahara Kalantiaw who is believed to be the country’s first lawgiver. The name of the province is also linked with the famous Ati-Atihan Festival held in the provincial capital of Kalibo. This festival commemorates a peace pact held in the 13th century between the aborigines and the early Malay immigrants.
Antique was considered as the “Home of the Sacadas” because it was a major source of migrant labor for the sugar cane fields of Negros Occidental. Its name was derived from the word “Hamtic” after “hantic-hantic” meaning large ants that are abundant in the place.
The province of Capiz derived its name from the Visayan word “Kapid” meaning twins, which were born in the area.
Guimaras was formerly called Himal-us from the word "paghimud-us", meaning a struggle for survival. In the early part of the Spanish regime, the name Himal-us was changed to Guimaras.
Iloilo was formerly called “Irong-irong” under Datu Paiburong in the confederation of Madiaas, first known organization of the barangays.
The province of Negros Occidental used to be called “Buglas” but the Spaniards changed it to Negros due to the predominant presence of Negritoes.
2. Administrative Jurisdiction
The Western Visayas Region is located in Central Philippines and composed of six (6) provinces namely: Aklan, Antique, Capiz, Iloilo, Guimaras and Negros Occidental. It is subdivided into 18 congressional districts. The provinces of Aklan, Antique and Guimaras each has one district; Capiz is composed of two districts; Iloilo Province has five districts; Negros Occidental has six districts; and the highly urbanized cities of Iloilo and Bacolod are distinct congressional districts.
Region 6 has sixteen (16) cities, one hundred seventeen (117) municipalities and four thousand fifty (4,050) barangays. The Province of Negros Occidental has the highest number of cities at 13 including its capital, Bacolod City. The province of Iloilo has two (2) cities including its capital, Iloilo City. The lone city of the Province of Capiz is its capital, Roxas City.
3. Physical Characteristics
a. Land Area
The region has a total land area of 2,022,311 hectares or approximately 35.7 percent of the total land area of the Visayas and 6.7 percent of the Philippines. The Province of Negros Occidental is the biggest in terms of land area with 792,607 hectares which is almost 40% of the total area of the region. Iloilo comes second with 471,940 hectares or 23%: Capiz with 263,317 hectares or 13%: Antique with 252,201 hectares or 12%: Aklan with 181,789 hectares or 9% and Guimaras with 60,457 hectares or 3%.
Land Area Graph of Western Visayas
b. Land Classification
Region 6 has a total land area of 2,022,311 hectares. It is classified into Forestland covering an area of 656,539.22 hectares equivalent to 32% and Alienable and Disposable lands covering 1,365,771.78 hectares or around 68%.
The Province of Aklan has a total area of 181,789 hectares of which 59% or 106,795 hectares are classified as A & D while 41% or 74,994 hectares are classified as Forestland.
For the Province of Antique, 133,566 hectares or 53% of its total land area of 252,201 hectares are classified as A & D while 118,635 hectares or 47% are classified as Forestland.
The total land area of the Province of Capiz is 263,317 hectares, of which, 64% or 169,547.27 hectares are classified as A & D and 36% or 93,769.73 hectares classified as Forestland.
The Province of Iloilo has a total land area of 471,940 hectares. Of this, 76% or 357,857 hectares are classified as A & D while 24% or 57,620.89 hectares are classified as Forestland.
The Province of Negros Occidental has a total land area of 792,607 hectares of which 68% or 540,385.62 hectares are classified as A & D, while 32% or 252,221.38 hectares are classified as Forestland.
c. Forest Cover
Based on 2005 data of Land Evaluation Party (LEP) – DENR 6, the forest cover is measured at 260,642.74 hectares or equivalent to 12.89 percent of the total land area of the region. 5.27% of the forest cover is classified as closed forest; 5.11% as open forest; 0.28% as plantation forest and 2.23% as mangrove forest.
Among the 6 provinces, Antique has the highest percent forest cover at 28.58% of its total land area or 72,022.25 hectares, followed by Aklan with 26.54% or 48,254.00 hectares. Capiz comes next with 11.47% or 30,208.27 hectares, Iloilo with 8.73% or 41,190.35 hectares, and Negros Occidental with 8.69% or 68,857.87 hectares. Guimaras has the lowest percent forest cover at 0.18% of its total land area or 110 hectares.
d. Production and Protection Forests
Of the total forestland area of 656,539.22 hectares of the region, 376,380.38 hectares or 57% accounts for production forest and 280,158.84 hectares or 43% are for protection forest. Province of Negros Occidental has the largest area for both protection and production forest at 104,877.06 and 147,344.00 hectares, respectively. Province of Aklan has 46,650 hectares of protection forest and 8,344 hectares of production forest.
Antique has 69,008.79 and 49,626.21, Capiz has 22,267 and 71,502, and Iloilo has an area of 37,355.99 and 76,727.01 hectares of protection and production forest respectively. The province of Guimaras has 2,836.11 hectares only for production forest.
e. Watershed Areas
At present, there are nine (9) proclaimed Watershed Forest Reserves (WFRs) in the region, covering an aggregate area
of 131,777 hectares. The Aklan River Watershed Forest Reserve in Aklan has an area of 23,185 hectares located in the municipalities of Madalag and Libacao.
The proclaimed watersheds In the Province of Antique are the Mau-it-Tipulu-an River Watershed Forest Reserve and Dalanas River Watershed Forest Reserve with a total area of 16,295 hectares located in the municipalities of Sibalom and Barbaza.
For the Province of Capiz, the Pan-ay River Watershed Forest Reserve is located at the Municipality of Tapaz with an area of 4,350 hectares. Two proclaimed watersheds are in the Province of Iloilo namely: Maasin Watershed Forest Reserve and the Jalaur River Watershed Forest Reserve with a total area of 15,378 hectares and located in the Municipalities of Maasin and Calinog. The Province of Negros Occidental has three (3) watersheds namely: Bago River Watershed Forest Reserve, Ilog-Hilabangan Watershed Forest Reserve, and Kabankalan Watershed Forest Reserve covering a total area of 72,569 hectares and located in the Cities of Bago and San Carlos, Kabankalan and Himamaylan
f. Protected Areas
With the implementation of RA 7586 or the NIPAS Law of 1992, the region identified twelve (12) areas as initial components that may be legislated into NIPAS. These areas are being assessed and/or will be assessed to determine the current biodiversity status as to their suitability into the new system and reclassified into different categories provided by the law or will be disestablished and placed under the different management regime.
Among the twelve (12) sites identified as initial components, three (3) were proclaimed following the procedures provided in the law, covering an approximate area of 62,059.07 hectares. Two (2) of these were enacted in CY 2001 namely: the Sagay Marine Reserve (Republic Act No. 9106 dated April 14, 2001) in the City of Sagay, Province of Negros Occidental covering an area of 32,000.00 hectares and the Mt. Kanla-on Natural Park (Republic Act No. 9154 dated August 11, 2001) located in the Cities of Bago, La Carlota, and San Carlos and in the Municipalities of La Castellana and Murcia, Province of Negros Occidental, and in the City of Canlaon and Municipality of Vallehermoso, Province of Negros Oriental and covers an area of 24,557.60 hectares. Additional NIPAS sites proclaimed were Northwest Panay Peninsula found in Buruanga, Malay, Aklan and Pandan, Libertad, Antique covering an area of 12,009.29 and North Negros Natural Park located in the cities of Talisay, Victorias and Cadiz and in the municipalities of Murcia, Don Salvador Benedicto and Calatrava with an area of 80,454.50 while the designated buffer zone covers 169.00 hectares.