THERE are 146 cities and 1,488 municipalities which means cities only comprise less than 10 percent of the total number of local government units (LGUs) covering specific land areas and populations in the Philippines. Provinces cover land areas of component cities and municipalities.

However, more than 40 percent of the total population of the country are concentrated in the cities, and more than half of the country’s workforce are working in these cities. Of 146 cities, 33 are highly urbanized – which means these cities are highly independent and autonomous even from the 81 provinces. This is why cities are important - real growth and development lies in the hands of local leaders in these cities.

But as voters, do we know our cities’ mandated responsibilities under the law? We need to do it. Our vote means our future.

President Rodrigo Duterte issued Executive Order No. 138, series of 2021 to fully devolved the functions of the local government units (LGU) under Section 17 of RA 7160 or the Local Government Code of 1991 pursuant to the increase of local share of taxes under the Supreme Court ruling in Mandanas vs. Executive Secretary (G.R. Nos. 199802 and 208488).

Under Section 17 of RA 7160, a city such as Bacolod shall endeavor to be self-reliant and shall continue exercising the powers and discharging the duties and functions currently vested upon them. They shall also discharge the functions and responsibilities of national agencies and offices devolved to them.

LGUs shall likewise exercise such other powers and discharge such other functions and responsibilities as are necessary, appropriate, or incidental to efficient and effective provision of the basic services and facilities enumerated in the said code.

Such basic services and facilities include agricultural extension and onsite research services and facilities which include the prevention and control of plant and animal pests and diseases; dairy farms, livestock markets, animal breeding stations, and artificial insemination centers; and assistance in the organization of farmers' and fishermen's cooperatives and other collective organizations, as well as the transfer of appropriate technology, also other agriculture and fishery activities which include dispersal of livestock and poultry, fingerlings, and other seeding materials for aquaculture; palay, corn, and vegetable seed farms; medicinal plant gardens; fruit tree, coconut, and other kinds of seedling nurseries; demonstration farms; quality control of copra and improvement and development of local distribution channels, preferably through cooperatives; inter-barangay irrigation system; water and soil resource utilization and conservation projects; and enforcement of fishery laws in municipal waters including the conservation of mangroves.

Pursuant to national policies and subject to supervision, control and review of the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR), implementation of community-based forestry projects which include integrated social forestry programs and similar projects; management and control of communal forests depending on dimension; establishment of tree parks, greenbelts, and similar forest development projects; enforcement of forestry laws limited to community based forestry projects, pollution control law, small scale mining law, and other laws on the protection of the environment; and mini-hydro electric projects for local purposes.

Also included in Section 17 are industrial research and development services, as well as the transfer of appropriate technology; health services which include the implementation of programs and projects on primary health care, maternal and child care, and communicable and non-communicable disease control services; access to secondary and tertiary health services; purchase of medicines, medical supplies, and equipment needed to carry out the services; and social welfare services which include programs and projects on child and youth welfare, family and community welfare, women's welfare, welfare of the elderly and disabled persons; community-based rehabilitation programs for vagrants, beggars, street children, scavengers, juvenile delinquents, and victims of drug abuse; livelihood and other pro-poor projects; nutrition services; and family planning services; programs and projects on rebel returnees and evacuees; relief operations; and, population development services.

It is also the responsibility of cities to establish and manage information services which include investments and job placement information systems, tax and marketing information systems, and maintenance of a public library, and solid waste disposal system or environmental management system and services or facilities related to general hygiene and sanitation.

The cities shall managed locally government-owned buildings, cultural centers, public parks including freedom parks, playgrounds, and sports facilities and equipment, and other public assembly areas, and other similar facilities; infrastructure facilities intended primarily to service the needs of the residents of the city and which are funded out of local public funds including, but not limited to, local public roads and bridges; school buildings and other facilities for public elementary and secondary schools; clinics, health centers and other health facilities necessary to carry out health services; communal irrigation, small water impounding projects and other similar projects; fish ports; artesian wells, spring development, rainwater collectors and water supply systems; seawalls, dikes, drainage and sewerage, and flood control; traffic signals and road signs; irrigation systems; reclamation projects and similar facilities; public markets, slaughterhouses and other city enterprises; public cemetery; tourism facilities and other tourist attractions, including the acquisition of equipment, regulation and supervision of business concessions, and security services for such facilities; tourism development and promotion programs; and sites for police and fire stations and substations and the city jail.

Cities shall manage programs and projects for low-cost housing and other mass dwellings, except those funded by the Social Security System (SSS), Government Service Insurance System (GSIS), and the Home Development Mutual Fund (HDMF) provided that national funds for these programs and projects shall be equitably allocated among the regions in proportion to the ratio of the homeless to the population.

They shall also provide investment support services, including access to credit financing; upgrading and modernization of tax information and collection services through the use of computer hardware and software and other means.

Cities shall also provide and ensure adequate communication and transportation facilities and support for education, police and fire services and facilities. There are more responsibilities based on other laws which I hope to share in future articles.