- CHERYL G. CRUZ
Negros Island Region proponents are waiting for policy papers from various government units and agencies for the hearings on the expanded NIR bill to start in the House of Representatives.
Negros Occidental 3rd District Rep. Jose Francisco Benitez said Monday that the House Committee on Local Government, chaired by Valenzuela 1st District Rep. Rex Gatchalian, has asked for opinions from Cebu and Iloilo officials, and the concerned Regional Development Councils, on the proposed creation of the expanded NIR.
Benitez is the main author of House Bill 1446, which seeks the creation of Region VI-B, to be composed of the highly-urbanized Bacolod City and the provinces of Negros Occidental, Negros Oriental, and Siquijor.
With the proposed transfer of Negros Oriental and Siquijor to Region VI-B, Region VII shall be composed of the provinces of Cebu and Bohol, and Cebu City. The provinces of Antique, Capiz, Guimaras, and Iloilo, and Iloilo City shall form part of Region VI-A, the proposal added.
Filed July 6, it was co-authored by Negros Occidental solons Gerardo Valmayor Jr. (1st District), Emilio Bernardino “Dino” Yulo (5th), and Mercedes Alvarez (6th), Bacolod Rep. Greg Gasataya, Negros Oriental representatives Jocelyn Sy-Limkaichong (1st), Manuel Sagarbarria (2nd), and Arnolfo Teves Jr. (3rd), and Abang Lingkod Partylist Rep. Joseph Stephen Paduano.
Benitez said the electoral protest in Negros Oriental has also delayed the submission of the province’s official position on HB 1446, but he said that even before the May 9 elections, newly-proclaimed Governor Roel Degamo and Henry Pryde Teves have also been supportive of the NIR.
“I don’t expect him (Degamo) to reject the NIR now,” Benitez said, adding that there is also “no real expectation of resistance from provincial heads”.
The biggest obstacle to hurdle would be the budgetary questions from the Department of Budget and Management, he added.
Then President Rodrigo Duterte signed Executive Order 38 on Aug. 7, 2017, abolishing the NIR or Region 18, formed by virtue of EO 183 of then president Benigno Aquino III in 2015, due to substantial funding requirements needed.
But Benitez said “DBM’s horizon of expectation is every two years (since) its planning is biannual. “(But) depending on how you do the phasing in the implementation of the NIR, I think the NIR budget issue ought to be rationally addressed,” he stressed./CGC