MIndanao has six new cities

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, are among 16 new cities nationwide whose change of status is being questioned by the League of Cities of the Philippines (LCP), the association of cities nationwide, for allegedly not meeting the requirements.

The LCP is challenging the status of newly converted cities and wants to stop the plebiscites that would ratify the laws creating more cities in the country.

But the laws creating the six new cities in Mindanao have all been ratified through a plebiscite.

Five new cities in Mindanao held plebiscites in June while the sixth held its plebiscite in July.

Early this 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.

Mayor Benjamin Abalos, Jr., LCP president, told a press conference at the end of the two-day forum on Transparent Accountable Governance (TAG) here, that aside from the non-meeting of requirements of the new cities, the creation of new cities would effectively reduce the Internal Revenue Allotment (IRA) of the existing cities by four to 12 per cent. As of June 30, the number of cities nationwide had reached 131 from 118 at the end of March. The June 30 list already includes the five new cities of Mindanao since the sixth, Cabadbaran, held its plebiscite only in July.

Under Section 450 of the Local Government Code,  the requisites for creation of a city are “an average annual income, as certified by the Department of Finance, of at least 20 million pesos for the last two consecutive years based on 1991 constant prices, and if it has either of the following requisites:   a contiguous territory of at least 100 square kilometers, as certified by the Lands Management Bureau; or,  a population of not less than 150,000 inhabitants, as certified by the National Statistics Office.”

In 2001, the income requirement was amended from P20 million to P100 million, derived from locally generated funds.

In February this year, then LCP President Mayor Jerry Treñas, expressed dismay over the Senate’s approval on February 8 of the 12 cityhood bills of municipalities seeking exemption from the income requirement provide for in Republic Act 9009. RA 9009, which was passed into law on June 30, 2001, provides for the new income requirement for the conversion of municipalities or a cluster of barangays into cities: from the previous P20-Million both locally-generated and IRA-sourced income, to P100-Million, purely locally-generated income.

“Nineteen senators favored and none voted against or abstained against the city hood of the 12 municipalities, out of the 13 that applied. Only the municipality of El Salvador in Misamis Oriental was not approved for city hood,” the Manila Times reported.

 In January, at the first LCP national convention at the Manila Hotel, the city mayors drew up a position paper expressing fear that exemptions from requirements for city hood would set a precedent for other municipalities aspiring to be cities.

Treñas said the creation of new cities would drastically reduce the Internal Revenue Allotment (IRA) shares of 118 existing cities.

The towns applying for cityhood then did not meet the P100-million requirement as the 13 towns’ locally generated incomes ranged only from P5 million to P34 million, he said.

The Manila Times report also quoted Trenas as saying the towns did not also reach the minimum requirement for population (150,000) and land area (100 square kilometers) provided by the Local Government Code of 1991 and that the  emergence of new cities would mean a big slash in the IRA allocation of existing cities.

Mati was created by Republic Act (RA) 9408 and ratified through a plebiscite on June 18. On the same day, voters in Lamitan also ratified the conversion of Lamitan town into a city through RA 9393.

Mati’s  population as of the 2000 census is 105,908 while Lamitan’s, also based on the 2000 census, is 58,709.

On June 20, voters in Bayugan ratified the conversion of the town into a city. The law creating the city is RA 9405.  The town’s population as of the 2000 census is 93,623.

On June 23, voters in Tandag ratified the conversion of the town into a city RA 9392 created the city of Tandag. A second class city, its population according to the 2000 census, is  44,327.

On June 27, the conversion of  El Salvador into a city was ratified. It was created into a city through RA 9435.  A third class city, it had a population of 34,650 as of the 2000 census.

Cabadbaran City voters ratified the conversion of the town into a city on July 28 this year.

Mindanao’s other cities are Bislig, Butuan, Cagayan de Oro, Cotabato, Dapitan, Davao, Digos, Dipolog, General Santos, Gingoog, Iligan, Isabela, Island Garden City of Samal, Kidapawan, Koronadal, Malaybalay, Marawi, Oroquieta, Ozamiz, Pagadian, Panabo, Surigao, Tacurong, Tangub, Tagum,  Valencia and Zamboanga, (MindaNews)