Zubiri assures benefits for Siquijor in NIR

Senator Juan Miguel Zubiri (seated center) met with some local officials of Negros Occidental and Negros Oriental at the L’Fisher Hotel in Bacolod City on Wednesday to thank them for their support following the recent approval of the Negros Island Region (NIR). (Standing from left to right) Bacolod lone district representative Greg Gasataya, Negros Occidental Vice Governor Jeffrey Ferrer, fourth district Board Member Jose Benito Alonso, fifth district representative Emilio Yulo, and Bago City Mayor Nicholas Yulo, with (seated from left to right) Negros Oriental second district representative Manuel Sagarbarria, Negros Occidental first district representative Gerardo Valmayor Jr., Governor Eugenio Jose Lacson, and sixth district representative Mercedes Alvarez-Lansang. (Contributed photo)

By Glazyl Y. Masculino

BACOLOD CITY — “Give it a chance, and you’ll see the difference.”

This was the appeal of Senator Juan Miguel Zubiri to those who still resist the inclusion of Siquijor in the Negros Island Region (NIR).

“I don’t understand why they oppose it. I see no reason. But rest assured that the people in Siquijor will benefit from the NIR,” Zubiri said.

Zubiri emphasized that all assistance, livelihood programs, projects, and funding will be just 20 minutes away from Siquijor, as top-tier regional offices will be situated in Negros Oriental.

Under the law, the 16 regional offices that will be located in Negros Oriental include the Department of Education (DepEd), Technical Education and Skills Development Authority (TESDA), Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD), Department of Health (DOH), Commission on Higher Education (CHR), Civil Service Commission (CSC), Philippine Statistical Authority (PSA), Professional Regulation Commission (PRC), Department of Labor and Employment (DOLE), Department of Trade and Industry (DTI), Department of Science and Technology (DOST), Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA), Department of Tourism (DOT), Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC), Department of Public Works and Highways (DPWH), and Department of Transportation and Communication (DOTC).

“These departments are primary offices that could provide necessary assistance and enable people to process their permits, licenses, and certifications with ease,” Zubiri said.

“A 20-minute pump boat ride to Dumaguete City or Negros Oriental is much more convenient than a whole day of travel to Cebu, where they might need to spend a night,” he added.

Zubiri noted that it would be difficult for the people of Siquijor to travel all the way to Cebu, considering the distance and the risks involved. He is hopeful that the people of Siquijor will see the benefits of their inclusion in the NIR.

On June 13, President Ferdinand Marcos Jr. signed into law the NIR, or Republic Act 12000, composed of the provinces of Negros Occidental (including Bacolod City), Negros Oriental, and Siquijor.

Negros Occidental sixth district representative Mercedes Alvarez-Lansang assured that no province in the NIR will be left behind.

“That’s precisely the reason why we came up with this bill, which eventually became law, because we believed these three provinces also deserve that much attention from the national government,” Lansang said.

She noted that when they filed the bill, a representative from Siquijor was also included as a principal author, indicating that the people of Siquijor wanted to join the newly created region.

Lansang added that this month a technical working group (TWG) will be formed, composed of the Department of the Interior and Local Government (DILG), Department of Budget and Management (DBM), National Economic and Development Authority (NEDA), representatives from the provinces, and legislative districts to discuss the plans or roadmap of the NIR.

Afterward, the Implementing Rules and Regulations (IRR) will be drafted within 60 days, she said.

Meanwhile, Zubiri said the NIR is targeted to be fully implemented by the first quarter of next year.

He suggested that local government units (LGUs) lend available buildings for the establishment of regional offices in the provinces.

The 14 regional offices that will establish their regional offices in Bacolod City, Negros Occidental, are the Department of Agriculture (DA), Department of Agrarian Reform (DAR), Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR), Housing and Land Use Regulatory Board (HLURB), Department of Justice (DOJ), DILG, Philippine National Police (PNP), Department of National Defense (DND), Office of the Civil Defense (OCD), DBM, NEDA, Commission on Audit (COA), and Commission on Elections (Comelec).

Bacolod lone district representative Greg Gasataya said, “Whatever is more practical at this point in time to fast-track the implementation of NIR, we will go with what is beneficial for all and acceptable for the majority.”


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