By Dominique Gabriel G. Bañaga
The reestablishment of the Negros Island Region (NIR) is now becoming closer to reality after the Senate approved Senate Bill (SB) 2507 on second reading.
SB 2507 or “An act establishing the Negros Island Region to be known as Region XVIII,” was approved on second reading during the Senate’s regular session on Wednesday, December 13, Senate president Juan Miguel Zubiri said in a statement yesterday.
Zubiri said the approval of the bill, which would improve the economies of the three provinces, is an early Christmas gift for residents of Negros Occidental, Negros Oriental and Siquijor.
The NIR bill, which also seeks to improve the delivery of basic government services in Negros Island through the establishment of regional government offices and to promote decentralization to strengthen local autonomy, has only one final reading to hurdle.
Under SB 2507, a technical working group will formulate a roadmap for NIR’s institutional arrangements, set up organizational requirements for development planning and investment programming, and map out the provision of public services in the proposed region.
If the bill is signed into law by President Ferdinand Marcos, Jr. after hurdling the Senate’s third and final reading, the new region will consist of Negros Occidental, Negros Oriental and Siquijor provinces.
In March of this year, the Lower House approved on third and final reading House Bill 7355, establishing the NIR.
Meanwhile, Negros Occidental Governor Eugenio Jose Lacson was elated upon hearing the Senate’s approval of the bill, adding that the development is a step closer to the goal of establishing the NIR.
The NIR was first established under Executive Order 183, signed by former President Benigno Aquino III on May 29, 2015.
The region was originally comprised by the provinces of Negros Occidental and Negros Oriental.
However, former President Rodrigo Duterte issued Executive Order 38 which dissolved the NIR in August 2017.
Former Budget Secretary Benjamin Diokno claimed that maintaining NIR would cost the national government P19 billion./DGB, WDJ