Senate Majority Leader Juan Miguel “Migz” Zubiri said on Friday, November 19, that he just filed Senate Bill No. 2453 that seeks to establish the Negros Island Administrative Region to be known as Region XVIII.
Zubiri, who filed the Negros Island Region Act on Wednesday, said the bill seeks to bring together Negros Occidental, Negros Oriental, and Bacolod City as a single administrative region.
The senator said a counterpart bill needs to be filed in the House of Representatives.
“I need a counterpart in the House and I’m hoping we can have the Negros congressmen file it as well,” Zubiri told DIGICAST NEGROS.
Rep. Francisco “Kiko” Benitez (Negros Occidental, 3rd District) said he will file a counterpart bill in the House of Representatives next week.
“The establishment of the Negros Island Region in 2015 was a long-awaited victory for Negros Occidental and Negros Oriental,” said Zubiri. “Negrenses have been lobbying for the NIR as far back as the eighties, so its abolishment in 2017 was a blow. I hope the NIR will be given a chance”, he said.
Negros Occidental and Negros Oriental currently belong to two different administrative regions—Region VI and VII, respectively. The provinces’ considerable distance from their regional centers -Iloilo, for Occidental and Cebu, for Oriental – has long made government services largely inaccessible to many Negrenses, he said.
In May 2015, former President Benigno Aquino III signed Executive Order 183, allowing for the creation of the Negros Island Region, with the aim of “(accelerating) social and economic development and (improving) the delivery of public services in the aforementioned provinces.”
In October 2016, President Rodrigo Duterte said that the NIR was too costly and was not a priority for the government.
Following this, Zubiri filed Senate Resolution No. 203, in support of the continued recognition of the NIR.
However, in 2017, President Rodrigo Duterte would go on to sign Executive Order 38, formally abolishing the region, Zubiri said.
“I was visiting Negros recently—it’s where my dad was born, actually—and the number one concern there is the reestablishment of the NIR,” Zubiri said. “Everyone was really looking forward to the development of the region, and to have the earlier EO revoked that quickly was demoralizing, to say the least. We need to make this a law so that whatever administration we are under, the NIR will stay”, he senator said.
“Yes, the NIR will entail additional cost on the part of the national government but it’s worth the investment. In the long term, it would be more economical and efficient having the two provinces under one administrative region. Our people in Negros deserve accessible government services,” Zubiri said.*