By Dolly Yasa
BACOLOD City – The opposition of Negros Oriental Governor Roel Degamo will not impede the recreation of the Negros Island Region (NIR).
This was the reaction of Rep. Mercedes Alvarez-Lansang (6th district, Negros Occidental), chairperson of the Technical Working Group of the House Committee on Local Government, who confirmed to reporters Tuesday night that a substitute bill for the creation of the NIR was approved by the committee.
Alvarez-Lansang reiterated to reporters here that the committee has not received the position paper of Degamo against the rebirth of NIR.
“But I would like to say that all three congressmen of Negros Oriental are principal authors of the bill,” she added.
The three lawmakers are Reps. Josy Limkaichong (1st district), Chiquiting Sagarbarria (2nd district), and Arnie Teves (3rd district).
Alvarez-Lansang further said that “it would have been nice if he (Degamo) submitted his position paper because the committee has been reaching out to his office.”
“But at the end of the day ang pag-approve sang NIR bill is really on Congress,” she stressed.
The lawmaker also said that the three Negros Oriental representatives are principal authors of the bill and represent their constituents “so we give importance to what they are saying because they also represent the voice of the people in their respective districts.”
Alvarez-Lansang explained that the substitute bill includes the island of Siquijor in the NIR, not just Negros Occidental and Oriental as contemplated in the original measure.
She hopes the NIR bill will be ready for President Ferdinand Marcos Jr.’s signature before end-2023.
Earlier, Senate President Juan Miguel Zubiri said the Senate Committee on Local Government also approved the NIR bill.
Degamo had mentioned language and cultural differences with Negros Occidental as among his reasons for not wanting to support the NIR.
He also cited several other issues like the need to identify where to put the center of government if the NIR proposal would be passed.
Degamo said that his province was already doing well as part of Central Visayas.
On this issue, Alvarez-Lansang retorted that “we share more common interests than differences like language.”
The NIR was first created in 2016 through an executive order issued by then-president Benigno Aquino III.
But Aquino’s successor, former president Rodrigo Duterte, issued an EO abolishing the NIR and reverted the provinces to their original regions.
Duterte cited budgetary constraints as one of the reasons for abolishing the NIR.