Rep. Jose Francisco “Kiko” Benitez (Neg. Occ., 3rd District) said he is optimistic that the Senate will approve the bill creating the Negros Island Region by the first quarter of next year.
“I think the commitment is to finish it by the first quarter of next year,” Benitez told DIGICAST NEGROS on Friday, Dec. 8.
Benitez said he does not expect the NIR bill to be approved in December as the Senate’s priority now is the 2024 national budget.
But in informal conversations with Senate President Juan Miguel Zubiri and Senator Joseph Victor Ejercito “they seem committed to passing the bill in the Senate”, Benitez said.
“I think they are just trying to ensure that it doesn’t get vetoed so they are cleaning up some of the provisions that maybe vetoed by the president,” Benitez said.
“It boils down to funding provisions,” he said.
Under the bill, NIR shall be composed of Negros Occidental, including Bacolod City, Negros Oriental and Siquijor.
Benitez said he thought the NIR “would happen faster but obviously Negros Oriental has had its issues, which is now apparently settling down.”
Senator Joseph Victor “JV” Ejercito pushed for the swift passage of the consolidated Senate Bill No. 2507 or the Region (NIR) Act in his sponsorship speech on Wednesday.
Senate President Juan Miguel “Migz” Zubiri co-sponsored the bill.
Other co-authors of the bill are Senate President Pro Tempore Loren Legarda, Majority Leader Joel Villanueva and senators Win Gatchalian, Ramon Bong Revilla Jr. and Manuel “Lito” Lapid.
Zubiri said reestablishing the NIR would bring the government closer to the people.
Benitez is among the authors of the NIR bill in the Lower House that was approved in March.*