BY GILBERT P. BAYORAN
The Senate Committee on Local Government led by Senator Joseph Victor “JV” Ejercito yesterday approved several bills seeking the establishment of the Negros Island Region.
Senate President Juan Miguel Zubiri, Senate deputy majority leader Juan Victor Ejercito, Senators Bong Revilla, Sherwin Gatchalian and Lito Lapid have sponsored separate bills creating NIR.
Ejercito, who chairs the Senate committee on Local Government and presided over the committee hearing, said there is a strong clamor for NIR, the establishment of which will fast track the delivery and bring closer, national government services to the people.
While rightsizing is a priority of the current administration, Ejercito, whose mother hails from Bacolod City, said these bills are necessary for boosting the efficiency of service delivery in the area and providing convenience for the region’s residents.
The said bills include Ejercito’s Senate Bill No. 1236, Zubiri’s Senate Bill No. 89, Gatchalian’s Senate Bill No. 812, Revilla’s Senate Bill No. 1422, and Lapid’s Senate Bill No. 1469.
Zubiri, whose father hails from Kabankalan, Negros Occidental, said the Siquijor governor also expressed their intention to join the new region.
Negros Occidental 3rd District Rep. Jose Francisco Benitez included Siquijor in his sponsored NIR bill, which is now being consolidated with numerous similar bills filed by Negros Island solons in the House of Representatives.
Zubiri also stressed during the hearing that there is growing clamor for the establishment of the NIR since residents of Negros Occidental and Negros Oriental still have to travel to either Iloilo or Cebu to transact with the regional offices of several national government agencies.
“It’s the ease of doing business for government transactions. Kung cost lang, nagawa na (If cost is the concern, it’s done). May buildings na po. I don’t think it’s going to cost us more to revive the NIR, because it has been done for several years,” the Senate President said.
For his part, Majority Floor Leader Joel Villanueva vowed to schedule the bills for second reading “as soon as the committee report reaches his office.”
The NIR was established in 2015 through Executive Order No. 183 and was abolished in 2017 through Executive Order No. 38.
Senator Ronald “Bato” Dela Rosa also stressed the need that NIR should be passed under legislation, so that it can no longer be revoked.
Dela Rosa recalled that he visited the defunct Negros Island Regional Police Office, when he was still the chief of the Philippine National Police.*