Negros Island Region creation to move government service closer to people

Negros Oriental map.
Negros Oriental map.

NEGRENSES and Siquijodnons will have easier access to national government services with the revival of the Negros Island Region (NIR), composed of the provinces of Negros Occidental and Negros Oriental, and this time, also Siquijor.

Negros Oriental Gov. Manuel “Chaco” Sagarbarria told SunStar Cebu on Thursday, March 14, 2024, that regional offices of national government agencies will be located closer to residents, eliminating the need for travel to Cebu City for transactions.

Cebu City serves as the regional center of Central Visayas, where Negros Oriental currently belongs and where most national agencies’ regional offices are located.

“I see it as an advantage for our provinces. It is really different if the national agencies are just right around the corner,” Sagarbarria said in a mix of Cebuano and English.

The Senate approved on Tuesday, March 12, the proposed Negros Island Region Act on third and final reading. Senate President Juan Miguel Zubiri principally authored the bill, with co-authorship from Sen. Joseph Victor “JV” Ejercito. The House of Representatives passed a similar bill in March last year.

Ejercito said he is “very positive” President Ferdinand Marcos Jr. will sign the bill into law before the end of 2024, despite the latter having some concerns about the budgetary requirement of creating a new region.

Governor Sagarbarria, for his part, hopes the President will sign the NIR Act into law after he arrives from Europe. Marcos is visiting Germany and the Czech Republic from March 11 to 15.

According to Ejercito, at least P30 million to P40 million is needed for the establishment of a regional office.

The lawmaker said both Negros Occidental and Negros Oriental have agreed to donate land and buildings for the initial establishment of the regional offices which will be divided between the two provinces.

Ejercito said the joint bicameral committee will tackle the two NIR bills to reconcile some portions of the bills, including the division of the regional offices.

In the division of regional offices, the Senate bill states that Negros Occidental will host the agriculture and land related cluster, peace and order and security cluster, and governance cluster. Negros Oriental will house the human development cluster, infrastructure cluster, and industry and labor cluster.

Sagarbarria assured that Negros Oriental will maintain its harmonious relationship with Cebu and Bohol, saying Cebu Gov. Gwendolyn Garcia is his aunt.

In May 2015, the NIR was established through Executive Order 183 issued by then-President Benigno Aquino III. However, the NIR was composed only of Negros Occidental and Negros Oriental.

Aquino’s successor, President Rodrigo Duterte, abolished it in 2017 through Executive Order 38, citing the need to sufficiently allocate funding for priority government programs and projects. / EHP, TDE / SUNSTAR BACOLOD


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