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NIR signed into law

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• GILBERT P. BAYORAN

President Ferdinand Marcos Jr. signs the Negros Island Region bill into law at Malacañang Palace, witnessed by lawmakers and governors of the NIR provinces.*

President Ferdinand Marcos Jr. yesterday fulfilled its promise to Negrenses of approving the NIR, after he signed RA 12000, creating a new region in Visayas that will be composed of the provinces of Negros Occidental, Negros Oriental, and Siquijor.

The NIR Act – which establishes the Negros Island Region – will unify the provinces of Negros Occidental, Negros Oriental, and Siquijor, to promote administration decentralization; strengthen local autonomy; and accelerate economic, cultural and social development.

“This union is long overdue and makes very practical sense, especially in the Negros Island, where people are located on one island but are governed under separate administrative regions,” President Marcos said.

“So, for decades now, Negrenses have endured the rigors of sea travel, unnecessary expenses, bureaucratic red tape, [and] inefficiency that this arrangement has brought, especially when there is a need to urgently access government services from regional centers on other islands,” he added.

The Chief Executive also noted the glaring uneven growth and disparity of funding between the two provinces, which share many of the same natural resources and industries such as sugar, tourism, and renewable energy.

President Marcos also extended his gratitude to the legislators for passing the law as he emphasized that the new Negros Island Region “will be a bulwark of greater growth as well as a conduit for more effective and efficient delivery of essential services in the region.”

“We envision as well the NIR as one of the centers of development in the Visayas, further accelerating socio-economic development for the millions of Negrenses and providing strategic convergence regarding resources, investments, and economic planning,” he said.

“Indeed, in unity, there is always strength. And that is what we are building, and I trust that the people of the newly established Negros Island Region will work together to complement each other’s strengths to build a more united and flourishing Negrense community,” the president added.

After more than three decades in the making and spanning the terms of six governors of Negros Occidental, NIR has finally come to fruition, according to Governor Eugenio Jose Lacson.

This welcome development will undoubtedly lead to positive impacts on the maintenance of internal security, peace and order, environmental management, disaster risk reduction, tourism promotion, integrated development planning, and easier access to regional offices, said Lacson, who witnessed yesterday the signing of NIR into law, at Malacañang Palace, in Manila.

He also thanked President Marcos Jr. for “making our hope a reality,” as well as Speaker Ferdinand Martin Romualdez, Senators Migz Zubiri and JV Ejercito, the governors of Negros Oriental and Siquijor, and all the solons of the newly created NIR, “for their resolve and commitment to making this happen.”

Negros Oriental Gov. Chaco Sagarbarria, in a statement, said the creation of a new administrative region “is a testament to what can be accomplished when various sectors work together towards a shared vision.”

The establishment of the Negros Island Region, relative to Republic Act (R.A.) No.12000, demonstrated the importance of recognizing and addressing regional disparities, and promoting inclusive development, Sagarbarria added.

By bringing together local government units, civil society organizations, and other key players, this initiative aims to foster economic growth, improve public services, and empower communities on Negros Island. By uniting behind a common purpose, stakeholders have shown that meaningful progress can be achieved even in complex political environments, he further said.

Negrense Senator President Juan Miguel Zubiri, had pushed the passage of Negros Island Region bill during his term as Senate president, disclosed on Thursday that NIR will bring in a “wave of development” into the new region.

President Ferdinand Marcos Jr. has fulfilled its promise to Negrenses of approving NIR, after he signed RA 1200, creating a new region in Visayas, that will compose the provinces of Negros Occidental, Negros Oriental and Siquijor, he said.

Zubiri added that NIR is going to bring in unprecedented growth and development to Negros Oriental, Negros Occidental, and Siquijor, as they are all merged into one administrative region.

The NIR Act is one of the priority measures of the Marcos administration.

“The NIR has long been a dream of mine and of my fellow Negrenses,” said Senator Zubiri, whose paternal family hails from Kabankalan, Negros Occidental. He authored and co-sponsored the Senate bill on the Negros Island Region, Senate Bill No. 250

“We have long wanted to have our own region, with our own government offices readily accessible to our people.”

Prior to the signing of the NIR Act, Negros Occidental was part of Region 6, while Negros Oriental and Siqujior were under Region 7.

That administrative set-up has long been considered costly and inconvenient by residents of the three provinces, who have had to travel to Iloilo or Cebu in order to transact with their respective regional government offices, Zubiri said.

“With the NIR, we will be able to bring the government closer to our people, be able to attract more investors to come to the region, since the merging into one administrative region is set to improve our ease of doing business.”

The NIR was initially established in 2015, through an executive order issued by the late President Benigno Aquino III. However, it was abolished by his successor, Rodrigo Duterte in August 2017, allegedly due to funding issues.*

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