There are 38 independent cities in the Philippines, all of which are classified as either "highly urbanized" or "independent component" cities. From a legal and fiscal standpoint, once a city is classified as such:
- its Sangguniang Panlungsod legislation becomes no longer subject to review by any province's Sangguniang Panlalawigan
- it stops sharing its tax revenue with any province
Consequently, the governor and the provincial government do not have administrative supervision over an independent city and its elected officials, as stated in Section 29 of the Local Government Code, although they and the government of the independent city can always cooperatively work together on matters of common interest.
Before the enactment of Batas Pambansa Bilang 51 on December 22, 1979, all chartered cities were considered autonomous from the provinces from which they were created, although the eligibility of residents in chartered cities to vote for provincial officials was determined by their respective charters. With the enactment of Batas Pambansa Bilang 51 on December 22, 1979, all cities that were classified as belonging to the newly introduced "highly urbanized city" distinction lost their eligibility to participate in provincial elections regardless of what their charters indicated. As a result, the cities of Angeles, Cebu and Iloilo became ineligible to vote for provincial officials. The only independent cities that can still participate in the election of provincial officials (governor, vice governor, Sangguniang Panlalawigan members) are the following:
- Cities declared as highly urbanized between 1987 and 1992, whose charters allow their residents to vote and run for elective positions in the provincial government, and therefore allowed by Section 452-c of the Local Government Code to maintain these rights: Lucena, Mandaue
- Independent component cities whose charters only allow residents to only run for provincial offices: Dagupan, Naga
Registered voters of the cities of Cotabato, Ormoc, Santiago, as well as all other highly urbanized cities, including those to be converted or created in the future, are not eligible to participate in provincial elections.
In addition to the eligibility of some independent cities to vote in provincial elections, a few other factors become sources of confusion regarding their autonomy from provinces. Some independent cities still serve as the seat of government of the respective provinces in which they are geographically located: Bacolod (Negros Occidental), Butuan (Agusan del Norte), Cagayan de Oro (Misamis Oriental), Cebu City (Cebu), Iloilo City (Iloilo), Lucena City (Quezon), Puerto Princesa (Palawan), and Tacloban (Leyte). In such cases, the provincial government takes care of the expenses of maintaining its properties such as provincial government buildings and offices outside its jurisdiction by paying for the actual cost of running these facilities as well as providing the host city government with an annual amount (which the province determines at its discretion) to aid in relieving incidental costs incurred to the city.
The representation of a city in the House of Representatives (or lack thereof) is not a criterion for its independence from a province, as Congress is for national legislation and is part of national (central) government. Despite Antipolo, Dasmariñas and San Jose del Monte having their own representatives in Congress, they are still component cities of Rizal, Cavite and Bulacan respectively, as their respective charters specifically converted them into component cities and do not contain any provision that severs their relations with their respective provincial governments. Conversely, the city of Cotabato has, since its incorporation in 1959, been autonomously governed from the provinces which surrounded it. Although for the purposes of representation in the various national legislatures the city has been grouped with the province of Cotabato (until 1972), Region XII (1978 to 1984), Maguindanao (1984 to 2007; 2008 to present), and Shariff Kabunsuan (2007 to present).
And while 24 independent cities have their own representative(s) in Congress, some still remain as part of the partial representation of the province to which they previously belonged. In this case, independent cities that do not vote for provincial officials are excluded in Sangguniang Panlalawigan districts, and the allotment of SP members is adjusted accordingly by COMELEC with proper consideration of population. For example, Agusan del Norte is entitled to have eight members in its Sangguniang Panlalawigan (being a third income class province), and belongs to 2 congressional districts. The seats of the Sangguniang Panlalawigan are not evenly distributed (4-4) between the province's first and second congressional districts because its 1st Congressional district contains Butuan, an independent city which does not vote for provincial officials. The seats are distributed 1-7 to account for the small population of the province's 1st Sangguniang Panlalawigan district (consisting only of Las Nieves) and the bulk of the province's population being in the second district. On the other hand, the city of Lucena, which is eligible to vote for provincial officials, still forms part of the province of Quezon's 2nd Sangguniang Panlalawigan district, which is coterminous with the 2nd congressional district of Quezon.
Being part of an administrative region different from the province's own does not make a city independent. The city of Isabela functions as a component city of Basilan: its tax revenues are shared with the provincial government, its residents are eligible to vote and run for provincial offices, and it is served by the provincial government and the Sangguniang Panlalawigan with regard to provincially devolved services. However, by opting to remain within Region IX, Isabela City's residents are not eligible to elect and be elected to regional offices of the expanded Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (ARMM) which now includes the rest of Basilan. Services that are administered regionally are provided to Isabela City through the offices of Region IX based in Pagadian; the rest of Basilan is served by the ARMM and the regional government based in Cotabato City. Isabela City is not independent from its province, rather it is simply outside the jurisdiction of the ARMM, the region to which the other component units of Basilan belongs. Regions are not the primary subnational administrative divisions of the Philippines, but rather the provinces.
Many government agencies, as well as Philippine society in general, still continue to classify many independent cities outside Metro Manila as part of provinces due to historical and cultural ties, especially if these cities were, and are still, important economic, cultural and social activity centers within the geographic bounds of the provinces to which they previously belonged. Furthermore, most maps of the Philippines showing provincial boundaries almost always never separate independent cities from the provinces in which they are geographically located for cartographic convenience. Despite being first-level administrative divisions (on the same level as provinces, as stated in Section 25 of the LGC), independent cities are still treated by many to be on the same level as municipalities and component cities (second-level administrative divisions) for educational convenience and reduced complexity.
Read more about this topic: Cities Of The Philippines
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