NIR expected to be operational before year ends, Benitez says

Bacolod Mayor Alfredo Abelardo Benitez presides over the RDC meeting attended by Dumaguete City Mayor Felipe Remollo (1st and 2nd from left) and the mayors of Negros Occidental.*CPG photo

Bacolod Mayor Alfredo Abelardo Benitez expects the Negros Island Region (NIR) to be operational before the year ends.

Benitez convened the Western Visayas Regional Development Council in Bacolod City on Monday, May 27, for a coordination meeting on the NIR set up.

He pointed out that President Ferdinand Marcos Jr. during his visit to Bacolod last month assured that he would sign the NIR, composed of Negros Occidental, Negros Oriental and Siquijor, into law.

Benitez said the NIR bill was sent to the Office of the President on May 13. The president has 30 days either to sign it or it will lapse into law, Benitez said.

“We’re looking at June 13 as the deadline and another 60 days to finish the IRR (implementing rules and regulations). We will have an implementing region before the year ends,” he said.

The RDC 6 meeting was attended by Rep. Mercedes Alvarez (Neg. Occ., 6th District), Rep. Gerardo Valmayor (Neg. Occ., 1st District), Dumaguete Mayor Felipe Remollo, the mayors of Negros Occidental and the regional directors of Western Visayas.

Benitez said it was a consultative meeting in anticipation of the enactment of the NIR Law. They discussed the concerns and issues on the new region so solutions can be found before its actual implementation, he said.

Benitez said as RDC head for Visayas he will ask for a similar meeting with RDC 7 to discuss their proposals in terms of staffing, allocation of resources and offices for the NIR.

He also plans to hold a consultative meeting with the officials of Negros Oriental and Siquijor.

“We are making all these preparations to be sure there are no major issues or stumbling blocks” in the implementation of the NIR, he said.

It is just a matter of getting Central and Western Visayas organized for the creation of the NIR, Benitez said.

Remollo said he thankful that Benitez is being proactive even before the NIR Act is signed.

He pointed out that when the NIR was created by virtue of an executive order issued by then President Benigno Aquino III it existed from 2015 to 2017 so there is already a template, “we just have to improve in it to make it work better.”

If the NIR could be implemented with a modest budget before there is no reason why they cannot do it again now, Remollo said.

He said Dumaguete City is ready to host the 16 regional agencies assigned to Negros Oriental under the NIR at its government center. In fact they already have a regional office for the Department of Education, Remollo said.

Remollo does not think Siquijor will mind the new region being called NIR since it has been referred to as an island of Negros Oriental.

Rep. Alvarez said when the IRR of the NIR is made they want to insert the provision that regional offices will not be prohibited from establishing extension offices in other provinces of the region.

Benitez and Remollo want to sit as resource persons of the technical working group that will draft the IRR for the NIR.

Victorias Mayor Javier Miguel Benitez, Negros Association of Chief Executives president, said the Negros ACE passed a new resolution reaffirming their full support for the NIR that was submitted to the Office of the President.

Benitez said he met with Negros Oriental officials during the weekend “to show them that we are welcoming and wanting to show our hospitality to them”.

He suggested that the local chief executives hold teambuilding in Siquijor after the signing of the NIR law.*

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