Thursday, August 23, 2007

Local government avalanche is Congress' fault

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.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

I totally agree that the venue to address the problem of irresponsible conversion of municipalities to cities is the legislature. However, I would say that GMA plays a very important role in realizing and addressing this problem. Obviously, the executive government, particularly the Budget Department, is well aware of the financial crises that will happen if the system continues to allow municipalities to convert themselves into cities despite the fact that they are neither densely populated nor urbanized. What is happening is a worse form of patronage politics. The national government never really intends to push for genuine autonomy of local governments. Local governments are cheap source of political machinery for national politicians. Thus, it will be completely irrational for the national officials to even encourage local governments to be self sustaining. And this explains why despite the fact that fixing the problems of IRA allocation only requires a few tweaking in Congress, the problem will never be fixed because it is inconsistent with the interest of the national officials/ politicians. And despite the fact that Congress is responsible for fixing the law, GMA’s inaction to this problem makes her responsible for this.

-- cmg