BY GILBERT P. BAYORAN
The re-establishment of Negros Island Region (NIR) and the construction of Panay-Guimaras-Negros bridge has the support of President-Elect Ferdinand Marcos Jr.
This was revealed by Bacolod City Mayor-Elect Alfredo “Albee” Benitez, who recently met with President Marcos Jr. and incoming Interior and Local Government Secretary BenHur Abalos.
“NIR is acceptable to them. They are okay with it” Benitez disclosed on Saturday, during the oathtaking of his younger brother, Rep. Jose Francisco Benitez, as the reelected congressman of the 3rd district Negros Occidental, at the Magikland activity center in Silay City.
Benitez said he will ask Negros Occidental Gov. Eugenio Jose Lacson and Negros Oriental Governor-Elect Pryde Henry Teves to write a formal letter signifying their support for NIR restoration.
NIR, which was created through an executive order issued by the late President Benigno Aquino III in 2016, was dissolved by President Rodrigo Duterte a year after.
Rep. Benitez disclosed that Siquijor also expressed its intention to join the NIR.
All the 11 Negros Island solons, seven in Negros Occidental, three in Negros Oriental, and Abang Lingkod party-list Rep. Stephen Joseph Paduano, as well as the Siquijor Representative-elect Zaldy ”Jecoy” Villa have all agreed to file the “new NIR bill” on July 1.
At present, Negros Occidental belongs to Region 6, while Negros Oriental and Siquijor are under Region 7.
Under the proposed new NIR bill, Rep. Benitez said the infrastructure type agencies will have their regional offices in Bacolod City, with extension offices in Dumaguete City.
On the other hand, the social welfare agencies will be in Dumaguete City, with extension offices in Bacolod City.
Senate majority floor leader Juan Miguel Zubiri who is being groomed as the next Senate president, had earlier pledged to support the NIR restoration.
Mayor-Elect Benitez also said he discussed with President-Elect Marcos his plans for Bacolod City, especially strategies on how to solve the housing backlog. “He (Marcos) is willing to help Bacolod City,” Benitez added.
In his meeting also with incoming First Lady Atty. Liza Araneta-Marcos, whose family roots can be traced to Bago City, Negros Occidental, Mayor-Elect Benitez said he was told the new administration will also push for the construction of the Panay-Guimaras-Negros bridge. He added the construction of the bridge will start before the end of Marcos administration.*