‘HOPE HE DOES’ | PBBM may sign Negros Island Region Act in April, Benitez says

‘HOPE HE DOES’ | PBBM may sign Negros Island Region Act in April, Benitez says
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President Ferdinand Marcos Jr. may sign into law the creation of the Negros Island Region (NIR) in April, Third Dist.Rep. Jose Francisco Benitez said Saturday, March 17.

He said that the senators took into account the support of the President when they approved the bill.

"I'm assuming the President will sign. I hope he does," Benitez said.

"As long as he does not veto it, it will lapse into law. It's in the hands of the President," Benitez said.

Negros Oriental 2nd District Rep. Manuel Sagabarria, chair of the House Committee on Local Government, has decided to adopt the Senate version of the NIR bill, he said.

"So the bill will not have to go through the bicameral committee of Congress. It will go through official enrollment in both Houses and will be sent to Malacañang," Benitez, one of the authors of the House version of the bill, said.

He added that it will take about a week or two before we hear a response from Malacañang, he added.

Benitez, however, said there is a difference between the House and Senate versions of the NIR bill.

"The House version did not dictate where the regional centers will be, but leaves it open to the Transition Team to decide. The Senate decided to contend with any potential ambiguity by putting it in the bill itself. Congressman Sagabarria said it is easier to accept the Senate version. He already lodged an official response to the House Committee on Rules,” he pointed out.

The House will then schedule it for ratification, which is set for next week, he also said.

Benitez added that the division of the different national agencies between the two provinces will follow the same division as it was when the NIR was first implemented.

As to concerns about funding for the new region, Benitez said they will be addressed in terms of phasing of its implementation.

"Depending on funding resources, that is why the governors of the three provinces and Bacolod City have to come together to create that transition process. How much and how fast can these offices be opened," he also said.

Benitez said there is a transition process where the governors and Bacolod come together to address the funding gaps for the short and long term.

Meanwhile, Bacolod City Mayor Alfredo Benitez said city government is already preparing for transition to the new region, even before the passage of the NIR bill.

He said the city government has sent letters to all regional offices through the Regional Development Council to offer them of setting up satellite offices in the Negros Occidntal capital city.

"A place at our Bacolod Express Services Office at Ayala Mall Capitol Central and at SM City Bacolod. They can cater to some regional offices. Ninety percent have expressed interest in putting up satellite offices," he said.

He added that these offices will be a point of contact for the public for receiving documents, applications and inquiries.

But it will not be a full complement, he said.

Benitez said that the RDC Western Visayas has been expecting it.

"Most of the regional directors have already been part of the first NIR," he said, adding that he thinks there is no resistance from them.

"The whole wisdom of the NIR law was to make services accessible to us in Negros," the mayor said.

The President, he said, has always advocated for online services because of technology.

"Physical offices don't matter because of modern technology. So physical offices may not be needed anymore," he added.*


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