BY GILBERT P. BAYORAN
The inclusion of Siquijor in the proposed Region VI-B, as proposed in House Bill 1446, was logical and practical, in view of its proximity and cultural similarities to two Negros Island provinces, according to the nine solons, who jointly sponsored the bill.
With the creation of Region VI-B, HB 1446 states that greater economic coordination will strengthen economies of scale in the provinces of Negros Occidental, Negros Oriental and Siquijor, and will consolidate separate development plans into a coherent, complimentary road map for sustainable and inclusive economic growth for the provinces.
HB 1446, which was filed jointly on July 6 by Negros Island solons, including Reps. Jose Francisco Benitez, Stephen Joseph Paduano, Gerardo Valmayor Jr, Emilio Bernardino Yulo, Mercedes Alvarez, Greg Gasataya, Jocelyn Sy-Limkaichong, Manuel Sagarbarria and Arnolfo Teves Jr.
Under the proposed bill, the provinces of Antique, Capiz, Iloilo, Aklan, Guimaras and Iloilo City will compose Region IV-A, with provinces of Cebu, Bohol and Cebu City will comprise Region VII.
On the other hand, Region VI-B will be composed of Negros Occidental, Negros Oriental, Siquijor and highly urbanized city of Bacolod.
Under the present set up, Negros Occidental belongs to Region 6, while Negros Oriental and Siquijor are under Region 7.
A similar bill calling for the creation of Negros Island Region, excluding Siquijor, was also filed earlier by Negros Occidental 2nd District Rep. Alfredo Marañon III, which he expects to be consolidated with other bills during House committee hearing.
Negros Island Region, which was created through an executive order issued by the late President Benigno Aquino III, was dissolved by Rodrigo Duterte, due to the substantial funding requirement.
The creation of Region VI-B was among the six additional bills filed by Benitez last week, bringing to 17 the bills he filed after the 19th Congress opened in June 30.
Among the six new bills filed by Benitez were HB 1445, or the Jobs Next Bill, HB 1447 that calls for the establishment of Negros Occidental High School for the Arts and Design, HB 1448 creating a regional trial court in Silay, HB 1449, which is a Social Workers compensation bill, and HB 1450, known as the Teacher Education Bill.*