There seems to be a growing support for the restoration of the defunct Negros Island Region (NIR).

In fact, Negrense reelectionist Senator Juan Miguel Zubiri said its revival will be his priority legislation should he win a seat in the senate in the 2022 elections.

The senate majority leader, in a press conference at Stone Hill Suites in Bacolod City over the weekend, said that with the new administration next year, hopefully, legislation for NIR’s revival will be passed.

In the presence of Negros Occidental Governor Eugenio Jose Lacson and Vice Governor Jeffrey Ferrer, Zubiri said he will refile his NIR bill "come hell or high water."

“We have enough allies in the Senate that will push for this,” he said, lamenting that "I was disappointed when the Executive Order that created the NIR was vetoed.”

He stressed that “that is why it is important that there should be a law so that we will have NIR whoever sits as president.”

For his part, Lacson called on Negrenses to consider candidates whose platforms include the revival of NIR.

Ferrer echoed a similar stand saying that if a candidate will not support the move, "I will campaign against (that candidate).

So far, among the presidential candidates, only Vice President Leni Robredo and Senator Panfilo Lacson have expressed support to revive the NIR.

Robredo, who was in Negros Occidental recently, stressed that it would be a big opportunity for the province and its neighbor Negros Oriental to finally plan like an island and pool their resources together.

Senator Lacson, for his part, said what the people want in the two provinces should be followed and shall prevail.

For other presidential candidates, Ferrer said “if they campaign in Negros, let us ask them if they support or not.”

The NIR was created through an executive order by the late former president Benigno Simeon Aquino III in a bid to unify the provinces of Negros Occidental and Oriental in 2015.

However, the island region was short-lived as it was dissolved by President Rodrigo Duterte a year after he was elected into office in 2017, citing budgetary constraints.

Zubiri, during his stay in the province, visited different towns and cities and met with mayors.

He also had a meeting with leaders of at least 35 sugar groups and associations at the Nature's Village Hotel in Talisay City where they discussed the concerns on rising prices of fertilizer.

“Sugar associations and federations were there and I also gave them my commitment that I will continue fighting for the sugar industry," he said.

Zubiri pointed out that the problem of the fertilizer cost, which is now over P2,000 per bag, is affected by the high cost of fuel.

Citing the report of the National Economic and Development Authority (Neda), Zubiri said fuel cost may increase to as high as 100 dollars per barrel from the present cost of 80 dollars per barrel.

During his meeting with the sugar leaders, the senator laid down short-term to long term solutions to the prevailing industry woes.

Part of which is the subsidy through vouchers with P1,000 discount to be given to the farmers, he said, adding that “the high cost of fertilizer, though, is just temporary that goes along with the price of fuels.”

Zubiri also disclosed that one of the medium term solutions is to come up with “an honest to goodness organic fertilizers and Negros needs to pursue organic production.”

He is also pushing for the revival of Philippine Phosphate Fertilizer Corp. which was owned by the government producing fertilizers but was already privatized.

A public-private partnership is being eyed to produce fertilizer in the country, the senator added.

On the same day, meanwhile, Zubiri turned over to Lacson, Ferrer and Provincial Disaster Management Program Division Head Zeaphard Caelian 400 evacuation tents.

The governor said the tents will be placed under the Provincial Disaster Risk Reduction Management Office (PDRMO) and they will be distributing it especially in times of need.*