Negros Occidental

Negros officials, business groups jubilant as Senate approves creation of new region

Erwin Delilan

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Negros officials, business groups jubilant as Senate approves creation of new region

APPROVED. Senate President Juan Miguel Zubiri gives the thumbs-up sign alongside officials from Negros Occidental and Negros Oriental after the Senate approved a measure to reestablishing the Negros Island Region.

courtesy of Juan Miguel Zubiri

Aside from Negros Occidental and Negros Oriental, the new region will also include the island province of Siquijor

BACOLOD, Philippines – Officials and businesspeople in the Negros provinces were in high spirits after the Senate passed, on third and final reading on Tuesday, March 12, a measure to create the Negros Island Region (NIR).

With 22 affirmative votes, and no objections or abstentions, the approved Senate Bill No. 2507 will be transmitted to Malacañang for signing by President Ferdinand Marcos Jr.

“This is what we have been waiting for. This is what we asked from the sitting president during the 2022 campaign period. This is the fulfillment of everyone’s dream here in Negros – to be united and not separated by seas anymore,” said Negros Occidental Vice Governor Jeffrey Ferrer.

Aside from Negros Occidental and Negros Oriental, the NIR will also include the island province of Siquijor.

The Metro Bacolod Chamber of Commerce and Industry (MBCCI) and Negros Oriental Chamber of Commerce and Industry (NOCCI) hailed the passage of the NIR bill as a positive development for the twin Negros provinces and cities, as well as for Siquijor.

Frank Carbon, chief executive officer of the MBCCI, said the NIR would greatly benefit the areas in terms of electric power supply and peace and order.

With the NIR, Carbon said many roads linking Negros Occidental and Oriental would soon be paved.

That, he said, would mean a significant improvement in the peace and order situation in Negros as the NIR would create a good business climate.

Senator Joseph Victor Ejercito, chair of the Senate’s committee on local government who sponsored the measure, said the idea to create NIR was conceived 30 years ago.

Ejercito said he is a Negrense at heart because his mother, former San Juan City Mayor Guia Gomez, is from Silay City, Negros Occidental.

“A promise fulfilled,” said Senate President Juan Miguel Zubiri. Although his family settled in Bukidnon in Northern Mindanao, Zubiri said he also considers himself to be a Negrense because Kabankalan City, Negros Occidental, is his birthplace.

Zubiri said the measure means that whenever Negrenses need to follow up their documentation in the regional offices, it will only be on the island of Negros.

Bacolod City Representative Greg Gasataya said the Senate approval of the measure would be a “game changer” for people in Negros, including his city, as it would pave the way for easy access to public services.

Gasataya also said he was optimistic that the NIR would significantly improve the quality of life because of the consolidation of government resources and policies to address regional challenges and promote economic growth.

Initially, the NIR was created through Executive Order No. 183-2015 issued by the late president Benigno “Noynoy” Aquino.

Regional offices were set up in Bacolod City and Dumaguete City in just a span of two years as a result of that.

But citing funding constraints for the new regional offices and manpower, former president Rodrigo Duterte threw out Aquino’s two-year-old order through EO No. 83-2017. But talk that circulated in Negros at that time suggested that Duterte did so because he lost in Negros Occidental during the 2016 presidential elections.

Months after the 2022 elections, several lawmakers in the House of Representatives and Senate filed bills for the revival of the NIR.

In the Lower House, consolidated bills were pushed by representatives from Negros Occidental: Juliet Marie Ferrer, Alfredo Marañon III, Gerardo Valmayor Jr., Jose Francisco Benitez, Bernadino Yulo, and Mercedez Alvarez-Lansang, Jocelyn Limckaichong of the 1st District of Negros Oriental, and Bacolod’s Gasataya. Representative Joseph Stephen Paduano of Abang Lingkod Partylist also helped push the measure.

In the Senate, the measure received support from Ejercito, Zubiri, and senators Win Gatchalian, Ramon “Bong” Revilla Jr., and Lito Lapid, whose bills were consolidated. –

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