Naga City And The Independent Component City Classification

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A Highly Urbanized City (HUC) in the Philippines is politically and financially independent of the province where they nominally belong, if ever. Among the HUCs in the Philippines are: Manila, Quezon City, Makati, Caloocan, Pasig, Marikina, Taguig, Mandaluyong, San Juan, Pasay, Paranaque, Las Pinas, Muntinlupa, Malabon, Navotas, Valenzuela in the NCR; Cebu City, Mandaue and Lapu-lapu City in Metro Cebu; Baguio, Angeles, Olongapo, Lucena in Luzon; Puerto Princesa in Palawan; Iloilo, Bacolod and Tacloban (upon approval in a referendum) in the Visayas; and Davao, General Santos, Butuan, Cagayan de Oro, Iligan and Zamboanga City in Mindanao for a total of 33. Twenty-one of these cities have their own representation in Congress and some have more than one representative.

Being independent, the HUC’s legislation is no longer subject to review by the Provincial Board and it stops sharing its revenue with the province. Hence, HUCs are first-class divisions like provinces though for cartographic convenience they are not depicted separate in most maps.

HUC residents cannot vote nor run for provincial offices. However four or five HUCs have still political rights in the provinces where they nominally belong. This is so because the Local Government Code guarantees that cities converted to HUC after 1987 will have their charters still operational. So Lucena and Mandaue residents can still vote and run for provincial elections. Tacloban, a newly-declared HUC will probably belong to this category if the residents agree to the conversion. Lapu-lapu and Puerto Princesa residents, however, can only vote in the provincial elections.

On the other hand, most cities in the Philippines are Component Cities. Politically they are not yet independent of the province since its residents can still vote and run for provincial elections. Though its source of the Internal Revenue Allotment (IRA) is different from that of the province’s, it still shares part of its revenue with its province.

In between the two classes are the Independent Component Cities (ICC). Only four cities clearly belong to this category: Santiago in Isabela, Dagupan in Pangasinan, Ormoc in Leyte and Naga City. They are partly independent of the city where they nominally belong but the exact terms are set by their respective city charters. Santiago and Ormoc residents cannot run and vote in provincial elections while Dagupan and Naga residents can run but but not vote in provincial elections. Still, ICCs are legally and financially independent of the province they nominally belong to.

Being big urban centers HUCs host the intellectual, artistic, academic, political and financial cream of the province where they nominally belong. Even the media and religious is centered in the HUCs. Banning them from running for provincial offices severely depletes the talent pool available and the level of debate. Whatever the railings of the city’s cream against the province’s leadership it won’t matter at the provincial level because anyway they don’t vote nor do they contribute to the provincial coffers. And this is the reason why some provincial governments get away with inanities and its residents have to be “content” with second-rate and not-so upright administrators and politicians. In many instances people will see that the city councilors are even superior to the provincial board members and the city mayor is head and shoulder above the governor.

Dagupan and Naga residents can share its political talent with the province but being unable to vote it practically dooms the chances of its best sons and daughters. This practically guarantees second-rate-ism.

There have been soundings to convert Naga City back into a Component City. All is needed for this is a congressional amendment to the city charter to enable city residents to vote in the provincial elections. This has to be followed by a plebiscite.

I wonder if the incumbent congressman will do this. And it is the normal custom in Congress that another congressman will not table a bill that concerns the turf of his colleague.

It is my long-held belief that independent HUCs and ICCs are an unnecessary evil in a provincial setting. It is just alright in the National Capital Region (NCR). But in a provincial setting it simply disenfranchises the best talents of the province.

(Photo credit: gorio belen)

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