TWO BILLS, SAME SUBJECT. House Bill (HB) 00961 was filed last June 30 by Representative Marguerite Rachel “Cutie” Del Mar (BOPK) of Cebu City’s north district. It was actually the fourth filing, since the same bill was filed by her father, the late congressman Raul Del Mar, in the past three terms, the 16th, the 17th and the 18th Congress (2013, 2016 and 2019).

HB 00081 was filed last July 1 by Representative Eduardo “Edu” Rama Jr. (Barug) of the city’s south district, the first bill from the freshman congressman.

Both have the same purpose and subject: the creation of a special administrative body for the three highly urbanized cities Cebu, Mandaue and Lapu-Lapu; the four Cebu Province component cities Danao, Talisay, Naga and Carcar; and the six towns of Consolacion, Liloan, Compostela, Cordova, Minglanilla and San Fernando.

SHARED INTENT. Under the two bills, intent or motive for creating the special body – ala MMDA or Metro Manila Development Authority in 1995 – is similar. What have prompted the measures: The explanatory notes cite growing, “rapidly urbanizing” metropolitan area, increasing “transboundary” problems, and crying need for coordination in planning and implementing development.

The Del Mar bill talks of the “big picture,” “holistic and long-term perspective” and “evidence-based and expertise-supported” management. The Rama bill calls for “collaboration and coordination” in the face of “aggravation of age-old problems” from traffic control to solid waste management.

MEGA, METRO. The special body is called Mega Cebu Development Authority in the Del Mar bill and Metro Cebu Development Authority in the Rama bill. Plainly, with the same acronym, MCDA. The first shall be managed by an MCD Board; the second by an MCD Council.

The use of “Mega” must allude to the platform to cope with the problems of a burgeoning population. An estimated more than 10 million people by 2050 will qualify Cebu as “megacity” or metropolitan area. “Metro,” on the other hand, must refer to the area.

THE MEMBERS. Memberships in the two managing groups differ.

The Del Mar bill will have 15 ex-officio members: the governor, seven city mayors, six town mayors, and the president of the League of Municipalities.

Five regular members representing the private sector will be appointed by the Board, four on recommendation of specified groups and one picked by the same Board.

The Rama bill will have the governor and the mayors as regular members, and the League of Municipalities president, as ex-officio member. Eleven non-voting members will be regional office chiefs of the National Economic and Development Authority (Neda); human settlements and urban development; public works and highways; interior and local government; natural resources; health, information, communication and technology; energy, transportation; Land Transportation Office (LTO) and Philippine National Police (PNP).

WHO SHALL LEAD. Under the Del Mar bill, the Board shall have a chairman elected from among the 15 ex-officio members, with two vice chairmen: one for the government, elected by the ex-officio members, and another for the private sector, elected by the regular members.

The Rama bill will have the chairperson of the Council elected from among the regular members.

In both bills, the management leadership will be determined by the governor and the city and town mayors, with each member having one vote.

With the manner of picking the leader legislated, dissent like the objection of Tomas Osmeña -- when a similar grouping was not yet covered by law -- would be irrelevant. Osmeña, then the mayor, reportedly didn’t want equal voting, citing the size and stature of Cebu City as compared to other local government units (LGUs) in the special body.

An old roadblock was when the mayor felt that his city was much superior to other LGUs.

The two measures, it may be noted, both adopt regular election of the leader from among the members. Aside from elected officers, the special body shall have a general manager and assistant manager.

ANOTHER THORNY ISSUE would be the possible disagreement by one or more LGUs to a policy that majority of the MCD Council/Board adopts. For example, if a policy on traffic control or solid waste disposal is rejected by a city or town, will it still be enforced?

The Del Mar bill has qualifiers. The functions of the MCD Board in formulating policies will be exercised “subject to the approval” of the LGU affected.

The bill also specifies that the measure “shall not diminish” powers and functions granted to local governments under the Constitution and the Local Government Code.

The Rama bill specifies that the special body shall not have police power and the power to legislate. It shall only have administrative functions. And it shall be “attached” to the office of the President

RESOLVING CONFLICT. The Del Mar bill also provides for a “conflict management” mechanism, which will be used to settle disputes among LGUs or between a local government and an office of the national government.

The bill author anticipates friction, even open quarrel, on issues that cross LGU boundaries.

INITIAL FUNDING. The initial amount of one billion pesos and subsequent allocations in the general appropriation bill, as well as the power to raise money by charging for some of its services, is provided by the Del Mar bill.

The Rama bill doesn’t specify the initial funding, just “an amount necessary,” but empowers the special body to impose fines and levy and receive cash contributions and technical assistance from member LGUs and government-owned corporations.

POSSIBLE FUSION. The two bills might be fused with the better and acceptable provisions from each complementing the other. An idea aimed to benefit Cebu, proposed in the House almost a decade ago, may finally be adopted.