Bacolod City – The Department of Budget and Management appears to have a crucial role in the creation of Negros Island Region, especially in relation to budget issues.
Rep. Mercedes Alvarez (6th district, Negros Occ), co-chair of the Technical Working Group in the deliberation of proposed NIR bills by the House committee on Local Government, said they are still waiting for the position paper of the DBM with regard to the proposed revival of the NIR.
The NIR, which was created through an executive order issued by the late President Benigno Aquino III, was abolished in 2017 by his successor, Rodrigo Duterte, who cited budget constraints.
Then Budget Secretary Benjamin Diokno, currently the Finance secretary, opposed NIR, stressing that the ₱ 19 billion proposed budget was too costly for the government.
“We have to wait the position paper, especially that of DBM, since nothing will happen to the separate region, or sub-region proposals, if there is no budget,” Alvarez said.
The House committee on Local Government chaired by Rep. Rex Gatchalian tasked the TWG to consolidate the numerous bills regarding creation of NIR, some of which even includes Siquijor.
As to the creation of sub-regions for Regions 6 and 7, pending the deliberations of proposed NIR bills filed in Congress, Alvarez said she will study it first.
She added that it was not formally put on the table yet by any member, and the TWG has yet to convene, as they are still awaiting position papers of Negros Oriental and the DBM.
Bacolod City Mayor Alfredo Abelardo “Albee” Benitez, chair of the Regional Development Council 6, earlier described the proposal of DBM and National Economic Development Authority to create two sub-regions as “the fastest way to move forward,” while Congress deliberates the NIR proposal.
Benitez said they are discussing the degree of autonomy of a sub-region.
But Negros Occidental Gov. Eugenio Jose Lacson and Vice Gov. Jeffrey Ferrer say they still prefer NIR, as opposed to creating sub-regions. (Gilbert Bayoran via The Visayan Daily Star (TVDS), photo courtesy of TVDS)