Ejercito (PNA file photo)

MANILA – The Senate Committee on Local Government on Monday approved a bill that seeks to create the Negros Island Region.

Senate Bill 1236, authored by Senator JV Ejercito, seeks to merge once again the provinces of Negros Occidental and Oriental. Ejercito believes that turning the two islands into one region would give the Negrenses easier access to the services of the national government.

“Malinaw po ang pangangailangan ng ating mga kababayan sa Negros Occidental at Negros Oriental na gawing isang rehiyon ang Negros Island upang mas mapabilis at mailapit ang mga serbisyo ng national government sa kanila (The need of our compatriots in Negros Occidental and Negros Oriental to turn Negros Island into a region is clear, so that the services of the national government can be accelerated and brought closer to them),” Ejercito said.

Ejercito explained that the bill including the other similar measures proposed by his colleagues are necessary to boost the efficiency of the delivery of government services, and providing convenience for the region’s residents and at the same time in line with the administration's goal of rightsizing.

“Naniniwala rin po tayo na ito rin ay magiging daan upang mas maging masigla ang nasabing rehiyon (We also believe that this will also be the way to make the said region more vibrant),” the senator added.

Other senators who seek the same legislation include Senate President Juan Miguel “Migz” Zubiri (Senate Bill 89), Senators Sherwin Gatchalian (SB 812), Ramon “Bong” Revilla (SB 1422) and Lito Lapid (SB 1469).

Zubiri, whose family came from from Kabankalan, Negros Occidental, said there is growing clamor to bring back NIR since residents of Negros Occidental and Negros Oriental still have to travel to either Iloilo or Cebu to transact with the regional offices of several national government agencies.

“It’s the ease of doing business for government transactions. Kung cost lang, nagawa na. May buildings na po (If it’s just about cost, it’ll be done. We already have buildings),” Zubiri said.

Meanwhile, Senate Majority Leader Joel Villanueva vowed to immediately schedule the bills for second reading as soon as the committee report reaches his office.

In 2015, the NIR was established through Executive Order No. 183. It was however abolished in 2017 through Executive Order No. 38. (PNA)