Leaders of the provinces of Negros Oriental, Negros Occidental, and Siquijor have pledged to continue pushing for the creation of the Negros Island Region, as the Senate holds a series of hearings in relation to the crafting of the NIR bill.
Senate President Juan Miguel Zubiri announced on his social media page that the top leaders of the three provinces are on board this historic goal, as he pledged to see through the passage of the Negros Island Region bill in the Upper Chamber by December this year.
Zubiri said those who attended last week’s meeting in Manila were Negros Oriental Gov. Chaco Sagarbarria, Vice Gov. Jake Reyes, Negros Occidental Gov. Bong Lacson and Vice Gov. Jeffrey Ferrer. Siquijor Gov. Jake Villa joined them via Zoom.
Also in the meeting were Sen. JV Ejercito, who chairs the Senate Committee on Local Government, and Presidential Assistant Anton Lagdameo.
“I committed that before we go on a break in October, we will be able to at least tackle it, debate on it. We’re hoping to do the second reading before (the) end of September. At the very latest, it would be passed into law before Christmas. Our Christmas gift to the region, as long as it will not be vetoed,” Zubiri said during a press briefing here Saturday.
The Senator, who traces his roots on the father side to Negros Occidental, said he would talk to President Marcos Jr. about the NIR bill, as he acknowledged that the Department of Budget of Management is not keen on the creation of more regions and departments.
Zubiri said he sees no opposition among his colleagues at the Senate.
“As far as I’m concerned, I’ve committed it to the people of Negros, I will pass it in the Senate,” he added.
Zubiri said Negros Island has an area and a population, which is more than 4.6 million, large enough to become a region.
Gov. Eugenio Jose “Bong” Lacson of Negros Occidental and Gov. Manuel “Chaco” Sagarbarria of Negros Oriental have expressed support for the creation of the NIR.
In the Senate, the committee on local government has initially approved Senate Bill 1236, authored by Sen. Joseph Victor Ejercito, seeking to create the NIR to boost the efficiency of the delivery of government services and provide convenience for the region’s residents in line with the administration’s goal of rightsizing.
Last March, House Bill 7355, creating the NIR, was passed on third and final reading in the House of Representatives.
Titled An Act Establishing the NIR, and Appropriating Funds Thereof, it provides that the NIR shall be composed of the cities, municipalities and barangays in Negros Oriental, Negros Occidental and the island province of Siquijor.
During his weekend visit in Bacolod City, Zubiri inspected the ongoing construction of two key infrastructure projects funded through his initiative.
These are the Bacolod Museum in barangay Alijis, and the Bacolod General Hospital in barangay Vista Alegre.
The museum-auditorium will cost more than P400 million when fully completed next year.
“We wanted to have a museum where locals and tourists alike can learn about and appreciate the story of Bacolod and our people. This museum-auditorium will also be a place for contemporary and future artists, who continue to enrich our sense of pride and identity here in Bacolod,” the Senator said.
For the hospital, Zubiri has facilitated the release of P400 million from the General Appropriations Act to partly fund its construction.
“Bacolod is the most populous city in Western Visayas, and for it to not have its own dedicated tertiary government hospital severely limits the health options of its over half a million residents,” he added. (with a report from PNA)
Photo Caption: Senate President Juan Miguel Zubiri (center) is flanked by the two Negros Island chief executives: Oriental Gov. Chaco Sagarbarria and Occidental Gov. Bong Lacson, with their respective presiding officers: Vice Gov. Jake Reyes and Vice Gov. Jeffrey Ferrer after discussing about the Negors Island Region. Also in the meeting were Sen. JV Ejercito and Presidential Assistant Anton Lagdameo. (Migz Zubiri photo)