• GILBERT P. BAYORAN
It appears that there are no more obstacles facing the proposal to create the Negros Island Region, with the three governors of Negros Occidental, Negros Oriental and Siquijor, which will compose the new region in Visayas, already having a “meeting of the minds” during a meeting on Thursday, which was initiated by Senate president Juan Miguel Zubiri, Gov. Eugenio Jose Lacson disclosed yesterday.
Lacson said the meeting at a hotel in Metro Manila “went well”, as all of them committed to support the creation of a new region. It was attended by Special Assistant to the President Antonio Ernesto Lagdameo, Senator JV Ejercito, chairperson of the Senate committee on Local Government which is deliberating the proposed NIR bill, Negros Oriental Gov. Manuel Sagarbarria and Vice Gov. Jaime Reyes, Siquijor Gov. Jake Villa, who joined via Zoom, and Vice Gov. Jeffrey Ferrer.
Lacson said he was told by Zubiri that President Ferdinand Marcos Jr. was already informed of the planned meeting among three governors of Negros and Siquijor, and added that he also wanted to be updated on the results of the meeting.
Zubiri is scheduled to meet with PBBM today to brief him on the results of the meeting, according to Lacson.
During the meeting, Lacson said they agreed to maintain the same regional offices that was assigned already in Negros Occidental and Negros Oriental during the initial existence of NIR.
As of now, we will follow what was already in place with last NIR, he added.
Siquijor wanted to have agencies involved in tourism, but it is with Negros Oriental already, Lacson said.
As for regional offices, Lacson further said that they were advised by Zubiri to push and build the regional centers “’phase by phase” which he agreed, “because if we ask for the whole amount, it is too big.”
“But if we do phase by phase, slowly we can complete the regional centers for NIR,” he added.
As for the needed personnel, Lacson said that the previous system will be followed until such time the personnel requirement is completed.
“We have proven that it can be functional immediately,” he added.
Regarding the needed budget, an issue which being raised by the Departments of Finance, Budget and Management, and the National Economic Development Authority, there was no mention of it during the meeting, he added.
But he said that Senate president Zubiri is confident that he will be able to push the approval of the new region with the help of Senator Ejercito, who was also among the proponents of NIR in the Senate.
Lacson added that Senator Zubiri is targeting its approval by Senate during Christmas, as a gift to the three provinces in Negros and Siquijor.
Special Assistant to the President Lagdameo, who also joined the meeting, as requested by Zubiri from the President, also favored the creation of NIR, the Negros Occidental governor further said.
Asked if Senate president Zubiri is confident that PBBM will sign it into a law, apparently referring to NIR, Lacson replied “that’s the impression that we had, because we are all in agreement to create the new region.”
He (PBBM) knows, at the end of the day, it’s the new region that will benefit, Lacson further said.
“I understand though that both leaders of the two Negros provinces are now agreeable to pursue NIR and have come to terms on how to go about this, then whatever is the will of the people of Negros Island, I will personally support,” presidential sister and Senator Imee Marcos earlier stressed, in a statement she issued.*