MAYOR Mauricio Domogan last week formed a special committee to take the lead in the preparatory phase and process for the proposed merging of the 128 barangays in the city.
The mayor will chair the body with Association of Barangay Councils (ABC) president Councilor Michael Lawana as co-chair.
The members include the officers and members of the Board of the Liga ng mga Barangay Baguio City Chapter composed of ABC vice president Wilbert Ponce, treasurer Murphy Maspil, secretary Arturo Rapelo Jr., Standford Ang, Ignacio Gallente, Clarence Domilies, Carlos Ananayo, Constancio Danao, Julita Sagun and Miguel L. Arnaiz, members of the board with interior and local government city director Evelyn Trinidad, community affairs officer Noel Mabutas, city legal officer officer-in-charge Melchor Carlos Rabanes, city budget officer Leticia Clemente and city planning and development officer Evelyn Cayat.
In his Administrative Order No. 24, the mayor tasked the committee recommend and submit before the Sangguniang Panlungsod of Baguio the final draft of the rationalization plan or program for the 128 barangays in its reduced number with their corresponding proposed barangay names.
The proposed merger or consolidation or division of the 128 barangays in the city of Baguio should be in accordance with Section 386 of the Local Government Code which provides that a barangay may be created out of a contiguous territory which has a population of at least 2,000 inhabitants as certified by the National Statics Office (NSO) except in cities and municipalities within Metro Manila and other metropolitan political subdivisions or in highly urbanized cities where territory shall have a certified population of least 5,000 inhabitants.
The body was also tasked to formulate and issue the appropriate rules and regulations necessary for the efficient and effective implementation of massive information drives and public hearings for the proposed merging and oversee the process of the conduct of massive information drive and public hearings for all the 128 barangays.
In his order, the mayor noted the recent population survey record of the National Statistics Office shows that many of the 128 barangays do not meet the minimum population requirement to substantiate their existence and to show compliance to provision of the law.
“On various occasions like monthly Punong Barangay meetings as well as in several forums, several issues and concerns were raised and discussed pertaining to barangay boundary disputes, seeming bias allocation of funds for various projects for larger barangays vis-à-vis barangays with lesser area and population as well as the inadequate honorarium of barangay officials,” he said.
“To present a permanent solution to problems involving the barangays and in order to extensively deliberate and thresh out all issues and concerns surrounding the proposed merging of barangays, there is a need to create a Special Committee to take the lead in the preparatory phase and process for the proposed merging of the 128 barangays in the city of Baguio.”
Lawana earlier identified the scheme as one of the league’s priorities with the year-long postponement of the barangay elections to drum up awareness to the merger plan along with its advantages and disadvantages to finally muster the needed support to the long overdue scheme.
“It is timely that we were granted a one-year extension and we hope that within that period, we can conduct an IEC (information-education campaign) to our constituents on the merger,” Lawana said.
Lawana said under the preliminary plans, the city will reduce the number of barangays from 128 to just 40-60 by merging adjoining ones.
Domogan agreed the resetting of the barangay polls will buy time to prepare the merger scheme and implement it come election time in October, 2017.
The mayor said it is high time to consider the scheme to address problems on the financial and administrative stature of some barangays which fall short based on the criteria and requirements under the Local Government Code of 1991.
The merger was first proposed in 2003 but only reached the level of holding consultations.
In 2007, the matter again surfaced but again failed to materialize.
Pro-merger advocates then said the merger would lead to the professionalization of the service and standardization of salaries of barangay heads and councils which will redound to benefits for the constituents. The reduced number of barangays would also make it easier to manage on the part of the city government apart from the fact that it would in effect help the city comply with the requirements of the Local Government Code on the set up of the barangays.
On the other hand, those opposed to the idea cited concerns on the chances of smaller barangays to get a seat in the barangay councils and to get a share from the budgets should the merger be pursued. They also aired concern on the bigger responsibility that the merger would entail on the barangay officials.