Update: New Cities - Borongan, Tabuk, Batac

MANILA, Philippines - Three more cities have been created - two in Luzon on Saturday and one in the Visayas on Thursday -- and their proclamation as such would entitle them to a bigger share of the Internal Revenue Allotment (IRA) fund.

Despite questions about the viability and its readiness, Borongan, the capital of Eastern Samar province, was proclaimed a city at about 11:20 p.m. on Thursday.

About 300 people gathered at the plaza as city officials released balloons and lighted fireworks to celebrate the occasion.

Northern Luzon has two new cities after residents of Tabuk, Kalinga, and Batac, Ilocos Norte, endorsed the cityhood bids of their towns on Saturday.

“This is the historic moment we’ve been waiting for,” Borongan Mayor Fidel Anacta Jr. said. “The people voted for progress,” he added.

The Commission on Elections said 10,176 residents voted “yes” in Wednesday’s plebiscite to ratify the bill transforming the municipality into a city. On the other hand, 3,426 residents voted “no.”

Comelec election officer Raymund Gunda said only 40 percent of the voting population of 30,870 cast their ballots.

“The low turnout was expected because there was no vote buying, unlike the May polls,” Gunda said. The plebiscite was orderly and peaceful, he said.

Comelec-ODEDO (Office of the Deputy Executive Director for Operations) lawyer Genevieve Velicaria who oversaw the referendum said Borongan spent P2.7 million for the exercise.

Velicaria said the “no” percentage was much higher in Borongan than the other newly created cities.

Those advocating that Borongan remain a municipality have expressed concerns about the push for cityhood.

Lawyer Esminie Tomeño-Azul said Borongan was not ready for cityhood because the basic conditions were not met.

She said good roads, airport, stable power supply, and good governance were not visible.

But Junie Quilitano, Department of the Interior and Local Government provincial director, said cityhood was a catalyst for growth and development.

He said the huge IRA fund would be used for basic services and livelihood programs.

With the ratification of Borongan’s cityhood, its IRA will increase from P70 million to P240 million or more annually.

Days after the May polls, cityhood advocates put up streamers and campaigned intensively in the 61 barangays through forums and rallies.

The mayor’s secretary, Alberto Lance Acampado, said the idea of cityhood had been crafted since 1998 and was revived only recently to avail itself of the P100-million income exemption.

Borongan’s annual income is P55 million. After the cityhood celebration ended at 3 a.m., the first day of city life was relatively quiet because of power outage.

"This is our Borongan City,” a resident said.

Kalinga

Tabuk Mayor Camilo Lammawin Jr. said 17,060 residents endorsed Republic Act No. 9404 that converted the capital into a component city of Kalinga.

Tabuk, an agricultural area classified as a first-class municipality (a town with an annual average income of at least P50 million), became the Cordillera’s second city after Baguio.

Records from the Commission on Elections showed that 2,333 residents rejected the cityhood bid.

The Comelec pegged voters’ turnout at about 35 percent. Tabuk has 44,128 voters.

“This victory is great for the people of Tabuk because it will spell more economic development in the city,” said Lamma-win.

Batac became the second city of Ilocos Norte after the capital Laoag when 11,750 residents endorsed RA 9407, the law that converted it into a component city.

Ilocos Norte

Comelec records showed that 1,433 residents rejected the cityhood bid. Voter turnout during Saturday’s plebiscite was 51.46 percent.

Mayor-elect Jeffrey Nalupta, son of outgoing Mayor Jesus Nalupta Sr., will have the distinction of sitting as the first city mayor of Batac in July.

Local officials started pushing the town’s cityhood in 1998 despite resistance from the League of Cities of the Philippines that has opposed the creation of more cities in the country.

Batac, with 25,642 registered voters, expects an increased internal revenue allotment share of P250 million following its conversion as a city.

It is home to commercial establishments and tourist spots like the Marcos mausoleum. It is also considered a “university town” because the town hosts the main campus of the state-run Mariano Marcos State University. Cyrain Cabueñas, Inquirer Visayas; and Desiree Caluza, Villamor Visaya Jr. and Cristina Arzadon, Inquirer Northern Luzon - From Inquirer.net - 25 June 2007

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