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Negros Island Region completes its comeback today

• GILBERT P. BAYORAN

NIR PRIMEMOVERS. Rep. Mercedes Alvarez (6th District, Negros Occ.), Former Senate President Juan Miguel Zubiri, Negros Oriental Reps. Manuel Sagarbarria and Jocelyn Limkaichong (front row, left to right), Rep. Emilio Bernardino Yulo (5th District, Negros Occ.), Bacolod Rep. . Greg Gasataya, Senator JV Ejercito, Rep. Alfredo Marañon III (2nd District, Negros Occ.), Rep. Gerardo Valmayor (1st District, Negros Occ.) (standing, left to right)*

The long-awaited signing of the Negros Island Region bill by President Ferdinand Marcos Jr. into law is scheduled for June 13 at 2 p.m. at Malacañang Palace in Manila.

Negros Western Governor Eugenio Jose Lacson confirmed Wednesday that he was among those invited to witness the signing of the NIR into law, which was also expected to be attended by local government officials of Negros Oriental and Siquijor , as well as all NIR solons and senators who sought his approval.

Overall, we are happy from all sides: Negros Occidental, Negros Oriental and Siquijor, Lacson said.

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

Lacson said “there is still so much to be done” after the law is signed, especially setting up the regional offices and the Regional Development Council. “We’ll just take it step by step. The fact that the President will sign it into law is already an achievement for all of us,” he added.

Both the Metro Bacolod Chamber of Commerce (MBBCI) and the Philippine Chamber of Commerce and Industry (PCCI) in Region 7 welcomed today’s scheduled signing of the NIR bill. MBCCI CEO Frank Carbon called the NIR “a boon for business” that would create synergy to boost both local business and tourism.

Carbon also said the creation of the new region would improve interprovincial road connections and improve Negros Island’s airports and seaports. The creation of the new region, he stressed, would have a positive knock-on effect on energy generation and transmission, and on the development of water resources.

On his Facebook account, PCCI Region 7 Governor Edward Du said: “Happy Independent Negros Island Region. Tomorrow (June 13) we will be reunited with our Siamese twin siblings Ilonggo,” as he thanked PBBM for the approval.

Negros Occidental 3rd District Rep. Jose Francisco Benitez, who co-authored the NIR bill in the House of Commons, said June 13 is unfolding history for the people of Negros as PBBM is poised to establish a new Visayas region to sign.

Benitez said the establishment of NIR will bring government services closer to the people of Negros Island and Siquijor and facilitate integrated development planning towards inclusive, resilient and sustainable development in the region.

We hope that DILG will immediately convene the Technical Working Group that will iron out the institutional arrangements for the transition, he added.

Under the current setup, Negros Occidental belongs to Region 6, while Negros Oriental and the island province of Siquijor fall under Region 7.

Benitez also thanked PBBM for supporting the dream of Negrosanons to have a separate administrative region for Negros Occidental, Negros Oriental and Siquijor.

We are also indebted to the support of Speaker Ferdinand Martin Romualdez and our Kasimanwa former Senate President Migz Zubiri, the dedication of all Negros and Siquijor Congressmen, and our champions in the Senate, especially our Kasimanwa Senator JV Ejercito, all of whom have worked together to pass the NIR bill, the solon further said.

Bacolod Representative Greg Gasataya said the ceremonial signing of the bill establishing the NIR is a huge victory for the region as it means that government services will finally be brought closer to Negrosanons, Siquijodnon and Bacolodnons.

The unity shown by Negros Oriental, Negros Occidental and Siquijor only highlights our commitment to quality and accessible public services for our constituents.

These critical policies will help direct our attention and efforts toward planning and consolidating efforts to stimulate growth and development in the region and improve the quality of life within our jurisdiction, Gasataya said.

Our people will no longer have to cross mountains or seas just to access the services they deserve. There is no better way to welcome our 126th Independence Day than to institutionalize our cohesion as one region for the sake of better service delivery to our people, the Bacolod Solon added.

Bacolod Mayor Alfredo Benitez, who is attending the NIR law signing ceremony in Malacañang, said he is excited that NIR, being a separate region, will soon bring many benefits to the residents of the three-county region provinces.

More infrastructure and development projects, creating more growth areas, opening more government positions that will provide opportunities to our local government workers, reducing bureaucratic processes because we will have our own regional offices here in Negros are just some of the benefits that the NIR will provide. bring, Mayor Benitez added.

Negros Occidental Vice Governor Jeffrey Ferrer, a personal advisor to PBBM for Western Visayas, also thanked the President for fulfilling the dream of Negrosanons.

“Finally, the rebirth of NIR will happen, and it will be forever and ever,” Ferrer said.

Negros Occidental 5th District Representative Dino Yulo said the NIR would spur more development, especially in rural areas and highlands of the province, and lead to lasting peace and order.*