Senate panel approves Negros Island Region bill

By Dolly Yasa

BACOLOD City – Senate President Juan Miguel Zubiri confirmed to Daily Guardian that the Senate Local Government Committee has approved the bill establishing the Negros Island Region (NIR).

The committee chaired by Senator JV Ejercito tackled the bill on Dec 5, 2022.

Zubiri who traces his family roots in southern Negros said that “we want to bring government closer to the people,” thus his support for the measure.

He is one of the authors of the NIR bills that pushed to place Negros Occidental and Negros Oriental under one administrative region.

Zubiri pointed out during the hearing that both provinces are under separate regions, Negros Occidental belongs to Region 6 while Negros Oriental to Region 7.

“This forces Negros residents to travel far to reach the regional centers,” he said.

This includes travelling by boat and if one cannot finish their business transaction with regional government offices, they have to spend for billeting or accommodation as well.

He also cited that in 2015, then President Noynoy Aquino issued Executive Order No. 183 which created NIR by merging the two provinces under one administrative region, “effectively bringing government services closer to the residents of Negros island ”

“But in 2017, the NIR was abolished through Executive Order No. 38 after the (Rodrigo) Duterte administration deemed it too costly an undertaking,” he added.

On the question of cost, Zubiri defended that “nagawa na, may buildings na, I don’t think it is going to cost more to revive the NIR.”

He said that the issue of rightsizing should be taken into proper context “as long as the people do not suffer when it comes to government service.”

“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,” Zubiri further stressed.