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Opinion

Cebu's 3 highly-urbanized cities are autonomous

WHAT MATTERS MOST - Atty Josephus Jimenez - The Freeman

There are three cities in the group of islands of Cebu that are highly urbanized, autonomous, self-governing, and independent of the province: Cebu, Mandaue, and Lapu-Lapu. There are two hurdles that cities must undergo to be considered highly-urbanized: population which should be at least 200,000 and annual income which should be at least ?50 million. There is no minimum size requirement. The rest are component cities and are under the supervision of the governor: Bogo, Carcar, Danao, Naga, Talisay, and Toledo.

Cebu City was granted its charter as early as October 20, 1936, even before the Philippines gained its independence on July 4, 1946, although, of course, the Philippine Independence Day was changed to June 12, 1898. The Cebu City charter, by virtue of CA 038, was ratified by the people on February 4, 1937. Lapu-Lapu gained its charter on June 17, 1961 on the strength of Republic Act 3134, which was ratified on December 31, 1961. Mandaue is the youngest, having been granted a charter, pursuant to RA 5519 on June 21, 1969 and ratified on August 20, 1969.

Cebu City has a population of 964,169 based on the last survey in 2020 with 733,044 registered voters in 2022. By now, it is conservatively expected to have a population of more than a million, and more than 800,000 voters. It is a first-class, highly-urbanized city with a gross domestic product of ?288.6 billion in 2022. Its area is 315 square kilometers and has 80 barangays. The oldest street in the Philippines is in Cebu City, Colon Street, named in honor of Christopher Columbus. It is also the site of the original cross erected by Ferdinand Magellan in 1521. Cebu City is a bustling metropolis with multitude businesses and establishments. It is also an education center with more than 300 educational institutions ranging from universities, colleges, academies institutes, and parochial schools.

Lapu-Lapu's population is 497,604 as of 2020 with 245,395 voters as of 2020. Its gross domestic product is ?141.1 billion and an area of only 58.10 square kilometers, which is roughly one-sixth of the huge area of Balamban town which has 333.56 square kilometers. Lapu-Lapu is the home of the Mactan-Cebu International Airport and two of the three bridges that connect it with mainland Cebu as well as the Benito Ebuen Airbase. Mandaue is even smaller in area with only 34.87 square kilometers with a bigger population of 364,116. Its gross domestic product is ?109.6 billion, smaller than that of Lapu-Lapu.

Cebu City, Lapu-Lapu City, and Mandaue City, being highly urbanized, are independent of the provincial government. They are autonomous and self-governing. All these autonomy and independence, however, do not mean that the three cities should isolate themselves from the province. They need not build walls between themselves and the provincial government. Since all local government units are integral components of the republic, they should instead build strong bridges of cooperation and synergy. If independent republics in Europe even formed the European Union, the three highly-urbanized cities in Cebu should not behave in isolationist manner.

It is for the sake of the people that heads of all LGUs should hold hands, synergize their forces and coordinate their actions, decisions, and operations. Of course, there are clashing personalities and so, cooperation is very much easier said than done. Knowing our politicians, we cannot easily unite all the Cebuanos because our leaders have conflicting ambitions and colliding characters.

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