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Ejercito explains delay of NIR passage

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• GILBERT P. BAYORAN

The death of two Negros Oriental governors and the need to convince President Ferdinand Marcos Jr. on the viability of proposed Negros Island Region (NIR) was blamed for the delay of its passage in the Senate.

This was revealed yesterday by Senator Joseph Victor Ejercito, who chairs the Senate committee on Local Government, where the NIR bill is still pending further deliberations.

The creation of NIR, which will be composed of Negros Occidental, Negros Oriental, and Siquijor, has already been approved by the House of Representatives.

“As I mentioned before, there were unforeseen circumstances like the death of the late Negros Oriental Gov. Roel Degamo and his successor (Carlo Jorge Joan Reyes), which delayed the process,” Ejercito said.

There is no truth to the insinuation that the NIR Bill is stuck in my committee, he stressed.

Ejercito also said that he and Senate President Juan Miguel Zubiri had already met with Negros Occidental Gov. Eugenio Jose Lacson and Negros Oriental Gov. Manuel Sagarbarria in Manila two months ago, and they discussed the NIR creation.

He added that they need to convince PBBM of the (NIR) viability, as he is apprehensive of creating a new region, as it will entail a lot of money.

“We don’t want to pass the measure only to be vetoed. That is why we are making sure all bases are covered,” Ejercito stressed.

In lieu of giving new budgets to regional offices of NIR, if approved, Lacson had been suggesting the utilization of existing budgets and personnel of various government offices in putting up regional offices, which was adopted in the previous iteration of NIR.

In 2016, NIR was created through an executive order issued by the late President Benigno Aquino III. However, it was later abolished by his successor, Rodrigo Roa Duterte.

During their meeting in Metro Manila with Senate President Zubiri and Senator Ejercito, Lacson said that he and Sagarbarria agreed to adopt the previous set-up of regional offices to be assigned in the two provinces.

Negros Oriental recently called for a swap of the offices of the Department of Budget and Management (DBM) and the Commission on Elections (Comelec), in exchange for the Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD) and the Department of Health (DOH), to be located in Negros Occidental, which got the initial approval of Gov. Lacson.*

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