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Bill unifying Negros provinces filed

BY GILBERT P. BAYORAN

The attempt to unify two Negros Island provinces into one region took another step after House Bill 330, authored by Negros Occidental 2nd District Rep. Alfredo Marañon III, was filed at the House of Representatives on July 1.

At present, Negros Occidental belongs to Region 6, while Negros Oriental is under Region 7.

HB 330 calls for reunification of Negros Occidental and Negros Oriental into one region, with highly urbanized Bacolod City and Dumaguete City as regional centers.

The proposed bill of Marañon is separate to the proposed Negros Island Region bill authored by Negros Occidental Third District Rep. Jose Francisco Benitez, and now includes Siquijor island.

Marañon said he expects similar bills creating Negros Island Region to be consolidated during the committee hearing at the House of Representatives.

Prior to its filing, Benitez is now gathering signatures for sponsorships of NIR creation from other Negros Island solons.

While Siquijor was not included in his proposed bill, Marañon said he would welcome if the island province of Region 7 will join NIR.

NIR was initially created in 2016 through an executive order issued by the late President Benigno Aquino III, as endorsed by then Interior and Local Government Secretary Mar Roxas. However, it was abolished after Rodrigo Duterte assumed the presidency.

Marañon is optimistic that creation of NIR will push through, noting that it has gained support during the May 9 campaign period.

Bacolod City Mayor Alfredo Abelardo “Albee” Benitez earlier disclosed that DILG Secretary Ben Hur Abalos and President Ferdinand Marcos Jr. also expressed their support for the NIR creation.

Finance Secretary Benjamin Diokno, then Budget Secretary of former President Rodrigo Duterte, supported the NIR dismantling, apparently due to lack of budget. During that period, NIR was operating on existing budget coming from the two Negros provinces

With the pronouncements of national leaders that they are supporting NIR, Marañon said “I don’t think Diokno will oppose creation of NIR.”

Bacolod Rep. Greg Gasataya, who met with other Negros Occidental solons, including Marañon, Kiko Benitez, Emilio “Dino” Yulo and Mercedes Alvarez during the inauguration of Bacolod City Mayor Alfredo Benitez, said the revival of NIR will be a priority of the Visayan Bloc when Congress resumes.*

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