House approves NIR rebirth bill on second reading

By Dolly Yasa

BACOLOD City – The bill pushing for the re-establishment of the Negros Island Region was approved on second reading Wednesday night according to Rep. Jose Francisco Benitez (3rd district, Negros Occidental) in a press statement. “Let’s continue to support this bill, and hope for its final approval,” Benitez further said.

The bill authored by all Negros Island lawmakers will lump the provinces of Negros Occidental, Negros Oriental, and Siquijor in one region.

Benitez said that the NIR bill approval was part of an omnibus motion to approve several local bills in the calendar of business, Wednesday night.

Now known as House Bill 7355, the NIR bill was co-sponsored by numerous other members of the House of Representatives, including Siqujor Rep. Zaldy Villa and Abang Lingkod Rep. Stephen Joseph Paduano.

With the approval of the bill on second reading, a Negros Island Region technical working group will be constituted, to be composed of representatives from the Office of the President, Departments of Budget, Interior and Local Government, Office of the Governor of Negros Occidental, Negros Oriental and Siquijor, and all the elected representatives of Negros Island, as well as Siquijor.

Earlier,  Rep. Mercedes Alvarez-Lansang (6th District, Neg. Occ.) said that the TWG will do the following:

-formulate strategic plans to put in place the institutional arrangements for NIR;

-recommend to the Office of the President the preferred location of the regional center; and

-arrange the requirements for the organizational development, staffing, and budgeting of regional line and regulatory agencies, as well as the imperatives for development planning and investment programming.

The DILG will serve as the NIR secretariat, while all departments, bureaus, offices, agencies, including government-owned and controlled corporations, and government financial institutions, have been ordered to extend full assistance to the NIR TWG, in support of its functions and activities.

Meanwhile, the proposed executive order for the creation of Negros Island Region is set to be discussed by the Regional Development Council 6 (RDC6) during its meeting this month according to Bacolod City Mayor Alfredo Abelardo Benitez, who is also the RDC-6 chairman.

Benitez said that RDC 6 will formalize its options for the re-establishment of NIR.

An executive order for NIR recreation, without prejudice to legislative measures being pursued by Negros and Siquijor lawmakers in the House of Representatives, is also being pushed by business groups from both Negros Occidental and Negros Oriental.

Whatever the results of the RDC 6 meeting, it will be formally sent to President Ferdinand Marcos Jr. for appropriate action, Benitez said.

The mayor said that during his discussion with President Marcos Jr., Benitez said the Chief Executive is ambivalent towards NIR.

“But I guess he wants to listen to all sides, before making his decision,” the mayor said.

The NIR was first established in 2015  by then-President Benigno Aquino III.

It was later abolished by his successor President Rodrigo Duterte also through an executive order.