A recent Newsbreak report, GMA Creating Too Many LGUs, by Miriam Grace Go (August 22, 2007), unfairly blames President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo for the increase in the number of local government units in the Philippines.
This increase, particularly in the case of cities has been going on ever since the Local Government Code of 1991 took effect. It is encouraged by two features of the Code: (a) the formula for the distribution of the internal revenue allotment that favors cities, and (b) the relative ease in making cities. Politicians determined to increase the financial resources of their governments have been campaigning to upgrade into cities ever since they discovered these weaknesses in the Code.
In 1986, there were 73 provinces, 60 cities, and 1,530 municipalities in the country. Just before the Estrada administration collapsed, there were already 110 cities. On March 5, 2001, less than two months into office, President Arroyo signed 14 bills on the conversion of municipalities into cities. These bills had been pending in Congress even before she took office. In fact, the highest increase in the number of cities happened during the terms of her predecessors. From 1993 to the first quarter of 2001, 50 cities were created which reflects an increase of 83%.
Congress enacted Republic Act No. 9009 in 2001 to make the creation of cities more difficult by increasing the financial resources needed to qualify as such. However, subsequent laws have exempted new cities from the income requirement of this law.
Congress is responsible for the creation of new local governments not the President. The solution has been obvious for years – reformulate the scheme for the distribution of the internal allotment. Various government agencies have suggested other bases for distribution (such as poverty incidence, employment rate, or access to health facilities) which Congress continues to ignore. Until Congress musters enough courage to amend the Code, this problem will persist well beyond the term of Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo.