Senator Juan Miguel Zubiri announced yesterday that he is filing a bill creating the Negros Island Region that he is certain will pass in the Senate, but the fight will be in the House of Representatives.
The NIR was created by virtue Executive Order No. 183 issued by then President Benigno Aquino III on May 29, 2015, which Budget Secretary Benjamin Diokno had earlier said President Rodrigo Duterte is set to rescind.
Zubiri, who was in Bacolod for the MassKara festival, also announced that the government next year is going to start the biggest infrastructure expenditure program the country has ever seen.
This will cover P900 billion worth of infrastructure projects, which includes the first phase of the Iloilo-Guimaras-Negros bridge.
To be built is the Iloilo-Guimaras bridge, followed by the Guimaras–Negros bridge, he said. It is hoped that bridges connecting Negros to Cebu, and Cebu to Bohol will also eventually be built, Zubiri said.
Meanwhile, Zubiri also said, while he filed a resolution in the Senate calling for the continued recognition of the NIR composed of Negros Occidental and Oriental, which was created by virtue of an executive order, he is set to file a bill that will ensure its creation by law.
He said he will take up the NIR status with the DBM during the Senate budget hearings that start on November 7.
Zubiri has also written the president asking him to retain the NIR, pointing out that his affinity to Negros Occidental is due to the fact that his father Bukidnon Gov. Jose Ma Zubiri Jr is originally from Kabankalan City in Negros Occidental.
The senator said he will seek an audience with the President on his return from China, to appeal to him to reconsider moves to abolish the NIR.
“I'm not promising anything, but I will take it up with the President, you know the president, he is his own man,” Zubiri said.
Zubiri pointed out that the NIR is the ultimate decentralization, “This is one way of federalizing without having to amend the Constitution.”
Like Cebu and Iloilo, we also want Negros Occidental and Bacolod to develop as well, he said.
Meanwhile, Zubiri said a bill creating the NIR will pass in the Senate with the support of Senators Franklin Drilon, Bam Aquino, Grace Poe, JV Ejercito, Sherwin Gatchalian, Sonny Angara, Joel Villanueva, Richard Gordon, and others.
Zubiri said he believes he can get the majority of the votes in the Senate for the passage of the NIR bill, “I think the fight will be more in the House of Representatives because the Senate is more independent.”
He said while there are almost 300 congressmen, NIR has 10 congressmen and partylist representatives.
They will have to convince all the other congressmen, he said.
Zubiri said he believes that there are some members of the president's core group who are anti-Negros, since, among all the regions, NIR went all out for the candidacy of Mar Roxas. He also said that because some insults were hurled against Duterte then, it became personal for some, he said.
But every time he speaks to the president, he says “That was election time let's forget it”, Zubiri said.
Zubiri said he is pushing for the passage of a bill creating the NIR, even with the move towards a federal form of government because he expects the shift towards federalism to take some time.
The discussion on charter change will take some time because the Senate' wish to vote separately from the Lower House, and not as a whole, has not been answered yet, he said.
“Until they can resolve the problem of voting separately, I believe the senators will not act on Charter Change overtones, because we believe that if we vote as one, we will be drowned out, he said.
There is a move to abolish the Senate, and as a senator I will not vote for the abolition the legislative body that I represent because the Senate is the last bastion of democracy in terms of making decisions, he said.
Two chambers of legislature are ideal for the Philippine set up to ensure check and balance, he said.*CPG
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