BACOLOD CITY – The House committee on local government has approved the substitute bill for the creation of the Negros Island Region (NIR), which now includes the adjacent island-province of Siquijor.
"The governor (Jake Vincent Villa) and congressman (Zaldy Villa) of Siquijor have manifested that they really want to be part of the separate region," said Negros Occidental Sixth District Representative Mercedes Alvarez, who is a member of the body's Technical Working Group (TWG), in an interview here Tuesday night, following the approval of the bill earlier in the day.
She added that after proposed legislation hurdled the first reading, the NIR-TWG will be formed to make a roadmap towards the creation of the new region.
Currently, Negros Occidental province and this capital city are part of Western Visayas or Region 6 while Negros Oriental province and Siquijor are under Central Visayas or Region 7.
"Now, we will move to the committee on appropriations since this bill would entail funding. After this, we will move to second reading in the plenary debates after which, it will be the third reading," Alvarez said.
The consolidated bill, titled "An Act Establishing the NIR, and Appropriating Funds Therefor", has been introduced by all the legislators from Negros Occidental, including Alvarez, Greg Gasataya of the Lone District of Bacolod, Gerardo Valmayor Jr. of the First District, Alfredo Marañon III of the Second District, Jose Francisco Benitez of the Third District, Juliet Ferrer of the Fourth District, Emilio Bernardino Yulo of the 5th District, and Joseph Stephen Paduano of Abang Lingkod party-list.
Previously, three separate bills were filed by Benitez, Ferrer and Marañon for the creation of the NIR.
In the substitute bill, it provides that the NIR will be created composed of Negros Oriental, Negros Occidental and Bacolod City, and Siquijor.
According to the bill, the NIR-TWG will be composed of the Office of the President (OP), Department of Budget and Management (DBM), Department of the Interior and Local Government (DILG), the representatives of the Office of the Governor of Negros Occidental, Negros Oriental, Siquijor, and all the elected members of the House of Representatives of the said provinces, including Bacolod City.
The DILG is designated as the Secretariat until the TWG has completed its task, it added.
"The TWG shall formulate a roadmap to put in place the institutional arrangements for the NIR and recommend to the OP the preferred regional center," the bill stated.
Also, the NIR-TWG shall "arrange the requirements for the organizational development, staffing, and budgeting of regional line and regulatory agencies as well as the imperatives for development planning and investment programming".
"The final report and recommendation of the TWG shall be approved by the President, who shall the final decision," the bill further said.
In the Senate last month, the committee on local government approved Senate Bill 1236, authored by Senator Joseph Victor Ejercito, seeking to create the NIR to boost the efficiency of the delivery of government services and provide convenience for the region’s residents in line with the administration's goal of rightsizing. (PNA)