- GILBERT BAYORAN
It appears that there will be no more obstacle on the proposal to create the Negros Island Region, with the three governors of Negros Occidental, Negros Oriental, and Siquijor, which will compose the new region in Visayas, having a “meeting of the minds”, during a gathering initiated by Senate President Juan Miguel Zubiri, Sept. 21.
This was the observation of Negros Occidental Gov. Eugenio Jose Lacson, who said that during the meeting in Metro Manila, that was also attended by Special Assistant to the President Antonio Ernesto Lagdameo, and Senator JV Ejercito, chairperson of the Senate Committee on Local Government, they deliberated on the proposed NIR creation.
Also present were Negros Oriental Gov. Manuel Sagarbarria and Vice Gov. Jaime Reyes, Siquijor Gov. Jake Villa, who joined via zoom, and Vice Gov. Jeffrey Ferrer.
Lacson said the meeting went well as all of them committed to support the creation of a new region.
He was told by Zubiri that President Ferdinand Marcos Jr. was already informed of the planned meeting among the three governors of Negros and Siquijor, and the President also wanted to be updated on the results of the meeting, Lacson said.
Zubiri is scheduled to meet with PBBM tomorrow, Sept. 23, to brief him on the results of the meeting, according to Lacson.
During the meeting, Lacson said they have agreed to maintain the same regional offices that was assigned already in Negros Occidental and Negros Oriental, during the short-lived NIR under the administration of then president Noynoy Aquino.
“As of now, we will follow what was already in place with the last NIR,” he added.
Siquijor wants to host agencies involved in tourism but these are with Negros Oriental already, Lacson said.
As for regional offices, Lacson further said they were advised by Zubiri to push and build the regional centers, phase by phase, since the whole amount they will need is too big.
“But, if we do it slowly, phase by phase, we can complete the regional centers for NIR,” he added.
As to the needed personnel, Lacson said that they will follow will be the system used before, until such time that the personnel requirement is completed.
“We have proven that it can be functional immediately,” Lacson said.
On the budgetary concern for the new region, which is being raised by the departments of Finance, and Budget and Management, as well as the National Economic Development Authority, Lacson said it was not mentioned during the meeting.
However, he said that Zubiri is confident that he will be able to push for the approval of the new region with the help of Ejercito, who is also among the proponents of NIR in the Senate.
Lacson added that Zubiri is targeting the Senate approval of the NIR in time for Christmas, as a gift to the three provinces of Negros and Siquijor.
Lagdameo, who joined the meeting as requested by Zubiri to the President, also favored the creation of NIR, Lacson said.
He also said he had the impression that Zubiri is confident that PBBM will sign the NIR law.
“He (PBBM) knows that, at the end of the day, it’s the new region that will benefit,” Lacson said./GB