“WE want to bring the government closer to the people.”

This was stressed by Senate President Juan Miguel “Migz” Zubiri as the Senate Committee on Local Government approved on Monday, December 5, the establishment of the Negros Island Region (NIR) on the committee level.

Zubiri is author of one of the bills filed on the NIR that seeks to bring Negros Occidental and Negros Oriental under one administrative region.

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

This forces Negros residents to travel to the regional centers of either Iloilo or Cebu, in order to conduct government transactions, the Negrense senator said in a statement.

“If you’re coming from Negros Oriental, and you want to file your papers with the Department of Transportation, Land Transportation Office and Department of Health, lalakbay ka pa, going to Cebu,” Zubiri stressed.

He added: “Maghahanap ka pa ng billeting diyan,” he said, adding that “you’re going to have to find a place to stay, hotel. The same goes with Negros Occidental. They have to travel from Bacolod to Iloilo. Malayo, at hindi po iyan 24/7 lalo na kung masama ang panahon. Hindi sila makaka-RoRo (roll-on/roll-off ships). Hindi sila makaka-transact.”

In 2015, President Benigno “Noynoy” Aquino issued Executive Order No. 183 to create the NIR, merging the two provinces under one administrative region, and effectively bringing government services closer to the residents of Negros island.

In 2017, however, the NIR was abolished under Executive Order No. 38, after the Duterte administration deemed it too costly an undertaking.

On the cost, Zubiri said: “Nagawa na, may buildings na po. I don’t think it’s going to cost us more to revive the NIR.”

Apart from Zubiri, the NIR also received support from Committee Chairperson Joseph Victor Ejercito and Senate Majority Leader Joel Villanueva, who committed to prioritize the bill in plenary. (With PR)