Gatchalian backs creation of Negros Island Region

By Jose Cielito Reganit

January 12, 2023, 7:55 pm

MANILA – Valenzuela City 1st District Representative Rex Gatchalian on Thursday expressed full support for the creation of the Negros Island Region (NIR) which its authors said will hasten the economic and social growth and development of the provinces of Negros Occidental, Negros Oriental and Siquijor as a single administrative region.

“The establishment of the Negros Island Region has undergone numerous consultative meetings, and an exhaustive and thorough examination and discussion on the various position papers submitted to the committee on the various issues. We thus fully support the legislation of this important measure, which Negrenses have long aspired for,” the chair of the House Committee on Local Government said.

Gatchalian’s panel approved the substitute bill establishing the NIR Tuesday, it’s first hearing of the year.

The bill is a consolidation of House Bills 119 of Rep. Juliet Marie de Leon Ferrer (4th Dist. Negros Occidental); 330 by Rep. Alfredo Maranon III (2nd Dist. Negros Occidental); and 1446 by Reps. Jose Francisco Benitez (3rd Dist. Negros Occidental), Joseph Stephen Paduano (Party-list, ABANG LINGKOD), Gerardo Valmayor, Jr. (1st Dist. Negros Occidental), Emilio Bernardino Yulo (5th Dist., Negros Occidental), Mercedes Alvarez (6th Dist. Negros Occidental) and Greg Gasataya (Bacolod City).

Under the proposed measure, the NIR shall be composed of provinces, cities, municipalities and barangays in Negros Oriental, Negros Occidental and the island province of Siquijor.

The authors of the measure emphasized that re-unifying the two Negros provinces under one administrative region is necessary for economic growth to redound to the benefit of the people through the close economic coordination of the two Negros provinces.

They also said the inclusion of Siquijor province in the proposed NIR is “logical and practical” due to its proximity and cultural similarities to Negros Island.

At present, Negros Occidental and its capital Bacolod City are under Region 6 (Western Visayas), while Negros Oriental and Siquijor are parts of Region 7 (Central Visayas).

Gatchalian also lauded the technical working group led by Alvarez and Cebu City 2nd District Rep. Eduardo Rama Jr. that deliberated and heard for six months the various positions on the NIR creation, and ensured to come out with a consolidated bill that is amenable to all concerned sectors.

In a report to the committee, Alvarez said the consolidated bill has the full backing of the business sector, which include the Metro Bacolod Chamber of Commerce and Industry and the Negros Oriental Chamber of Commerce and Industry.

“The business sector has issued a strong manifestation for the legislation of the NIR, not just as a measure to provide a sense of permanency, but also to ensure the continued development of the NIR,” she said.

On May 29, 2015, the NIR was first created through Executive Order 183 signed by then-President Benigno Aquino III, separating Negros Occidental from Western Visayas and Negros Oriental from Central Visayas.

However, on Aug. 7, 2017, former President Rodrigo Duterte issued EO 38 abolishing the NIR, stressing the need to ensure that priority government programs and projects are sufficiently funded.

But with the approval of the consolidated NIR bill at the committee level, Gatchalian hoped the quest of Negrenses for reunification under a single administrative region would finally be realized in this 19th Congress.

As chair of the Committee on Local Government, the Valenzuela City lawmaker will likely sponsor the bill when it will be taken up in plenary sessions.

“I congratulate the authors of this measure for tirelessly pursuing the Negrenses’ dream of consolidating the two Negros provinces. We assure our Negrense brothers and sisters that this Committee will continue to fully support this measure until its final approval in the House,” Gatchalian said. (PNA)