Bukidnon cities to lose P170-M in 2008 IRA

Malaybalay and Valencia cities will lose millions of pesos in IRA according to lawyer Nemesio Beltran, Jr. a provincial board member from the province's second district.  
He said Malaybalay receives an IRA of at least P420 million and Valencia at around P380 million per year but the entry of more new cities last year following a relaxed requirement by Congress has alarmed the League of Cities over the expected reduction in the shares of each city.

As of yearend 2007, Mindanao had 27 provinces and 33 cities, six of them new: Bayugan, Cabadbaran, El Salvador, Lamitan, Mati and Tandag.

Bayugan in Agusan del Sur, Cabadbaran in Agusan del Norte and Tandag in Surigao del Sur are all in Caraga region. El Salvador is in Misamis Oriental, Lamitan is in Basilan, and Mati is in Davao Oriental.

The new Mindanao cities, however, were among 16 new cities nationwide whose change of status was questioned by the League of Cities of the Philippines (LCP), the association of cities nationwide, for allegedly not meeting the requirements.

Early last year, the League tried to get President Macapagal-Arroyo to veto the cityhood initiatives of at least 12 towns after the Senate waived some requirements that these towns must first satisfy before they could become cities.

In Bukidnon, the towns of Manolo Fortich, Maramag, Don Carlos and Quezon are expected to become new cities this year.

Beltran proposed a resolution at the provincial board on February 6 to urge the Senate and the House of Representatives "to rationalize and revise the internal revenue allotment sharing among the cities."

He has proposed "equitable and progressive" IRA sharing by reducing the shares of the following categories: highly urbanized or metropolis should be reduced to 20 percent; the urbanized or metropolis to 22 percent and the component and newly created cities evenly at 23 percent.

The IRA is taken from internal revenues collected from around the country forming the national internal revenue collection. The revenue is shared among cities (23 percent), provinces (23 percent), towns (34 percent) and barangays (20 percent).

More local governments per category means more units will share the percentage allotment, based on provisions in Section 285 of the Local Government Code. At present, the cities are not classified and are instead lumped as one category.  

"The mega and metropolis cities are earning big income from their own taxes and other sources and yet, they also receive billions more in IRA," Beltran said.

He said Section 285 should be amended so that as cities become urbanized or highly urbanized, they will receive lesser subsidy from the national government, while the poorer cities should receive more IRA.

Beltran has noted that a supposed moratorium on conversions from towns to cities did not address the problem of cuts in IRA shares. "For we cannot deprive the fast growing towns nation-wide in their quests and aspirations to become cities someday," he said in his proposed resolution.

"The long term solution to this IRA-sharing problem lies not in the (LCP's) call for moratorium of conversion of towns to cities, or an increase of the IRA of cities, but in the magnanimous sacrificies of the bigger and richer cities to share their IRA-bounty to the smaller and poorer cities," he proposed.  (Walter I. Balane / MindaNews)