SENATE Majority Leader Juan Miguel Zubiri has filed Senate Bill No. 2453, or the Negros Island Region (NIR) Act on Wednesday, November 17, 2021.

The bill seeks to bring together Negros Occidental and Negros Oriental, establishing them as a single administrative region called the Negros Island Administrative Region.

"The establishment of the Negros Island Region in 2015 was a long-awaited victory for Negros Occidental and Negros Oriental," Zubiri said in a statement Friday, November 19.

"Negrenses have been lobbying for NIR as far back as the eighties, so its abolishment in 2017 was a blow. Sana nabigyan ng chance ang NIR," he added.

Negros Occidental and Negros Oriental currently belong to two different administrative regions —Region 6 (Western Visayas) and Region 7 (Central Visayas), respectively.

The statement said the provinces' considerable distance from their regional centers — Iloilo for Occidental and Cebu for Oriental — has long made government services largely inaccessible to many Negrenses.

In May 2015, former President Benigno Aquino III signed Executive Order 183, allowing for the creation of the NIR, with the aim of "[accelerating] social and economic development and [improving] the delivery of public services in the aforementioned provinces."

In October 2016, the executive remarked that the NIR was too costly and was not a priority for the government, it said.

Following this, Zubiri filed Senate Resolution No. 203, in support of the continued recognition of the NIR.

By 2017, President Rodrigo Duterte would go on to sign Executive Order 38 formally abolishing the region, it added.

"I was visiting Negros recently — it's where my dad was born, actually — and the number one concern there is the reestablishment of the NIR," Zubiri said.

The Negrense senator said everyone was looking forward to the development of the region and to have the earlier EO revoked that quickly was "demoralizing."

"We need to make this a law so that whatever administration we are under, the NIR will stay," he said, adding that "the NIR will entail additional cost on the part of the national government, but it’s worth the investment."

Zubiri said, "in the long term, it would be more economical and efficient having the two provinces under one administrative region."

"Our people in Negros deserve accessible government services," he added.