SEPARATE bills filed after the 19th Congress opened last June 30 seek to convert three towns into component cities of Cebu Province and add one more congressional district.

If the bills pass the legislative mill, the new cities will increase the number of component cities in the province from six -- Bogo, Danao, Talisay, Naga, Carcar and Toledo -- to nine, and the number of legislative districts from seven to eight.

PROPOSED CITIES. The new cities will be:

[] City of Consolacion, proposed in House Bill #1324 filed by 6th District Representative Daphne Lagon and her husband Ako Bisaya party-list Representative Sonny Lagon.

[] City of Liloan, in HB #99, by 5th District Representative Vincent Franco "Duke" Frasco.

[] Balamban City, in HB #1018, by 3rd District Representative Pablo John "PJ" Garcia.

ARGUMENT FOR 8TH DISTRICT. The proposed eighth district will be carved out of the existing first district: two cities, City of Talisay and City of Carcar, and two towns, San Fernando and Sibonga, with a total population of 395,285. Thus leaving for the first district only the City of Talisay and Minglanilla town, with 414,050 inhabitants.

Neophyte congresswoman, Rhea Gullas, wife of Talisay City Mayor Gerald Anthony “Samsam” Gullas, argues that the first legislative district, which the Gullases have ruled for the past decades, is under-represented. The district has a population of 809,335, as of 2020, biggest among the seven districts of the province.

Pretty soon, the other three big-population districts -- 5th, 643,000; 3rd, 616,326; and 4th, 540,000 -- could use the same argument for additional congressional seats.

Being the "gateway to southern Cebu and neighboring provinces of Negros Oriental and Siquijor in Central Visayas," the first district being split into two districts "will sustain the momentum of growth in South, benefiting the people of Cebu and of Central Visayas." That assumes that another congressman will mean more infrastructure such as highways, roads and bridges.

REQUIREMENTS FOR CITIES. Another amendment to the Local Government Code, signed by President Rodrigo Duterte on April 11, 2022 as Republic Act 11683, still imposed these minimum conditions:

[] P100 million income; and

[] 100 square kilometers of contiguous land OR

[] 150,000 inhabitants

The said amendment, however, would exempt municipalities applying for cityhood from the requirements on land and population if its income is at least P100 million for two consecutive years. Then senator Panfilo Lacson, author of the Senate version of the bill, said some town despite their small area or population "have shown they can provide essential facilities and services comparable to or even above par with existing cities."

HOW WOULD 3 CEBU TOWNS FARE on the requirements? The explanatory note in their respective bills gives Congress and the public the idea they want to sell: if they fall short on land area or population, as Consolacion and Liloan did in a previous application, their income makes up for the deficiency.

-- CONSOLACION in 2020 had revenues "amounting to more than five hundred thousand pesos (P508,042,698)." (Must be a typo there: "thousand" in the words but million in the number.) A profile of Consolacion says the town had a revenue of P300,974,038.69 in 2016. The intended amount in the Lagon couple's bill must be P508 million plus.

As to land and population, the bill says its past attempt to become a component city was "derailed because of its failure to meet the requirement on land or population." Philatlas, in a profile of the town, says it has an area (as of 2013) of 147.20 square kilometers and a population (in 2020) of 148,012.

Consolacion’s land area meets the requirement as to size but may not be contiguous. The town population, the bill says, "must have already exceeded 150,000" as of the time of filing. The application deserves "a closer consideration," the Lagon authors say.

-- LILOAN, like Compostela, had applied for component city before but the 2019 bill lapsed upon the end of the 18th Congress.

The 2022 bill says Liloan has a total land area of 52.1 square kilometers. It claims to be one of the 10 most populous local government units "with a very high population density for every square kilometer." Philatlas says that as of 2020 census, Liloan had a population of 153,197. Obviously, it doesn't meet the land area requirement of 100 square kilometers but passes the population benchmark of 150,000.

On income, Liloan reportedly earned in 2020 revenues totaling P369,446,7958.

-- BALAMBAN, also first-class in income, has a 2010 population of 71,237 as certified by the National Statistics Office, with a 3.69 percent growth rate (higher than the national rate, says the bill). Based on its growth rate, present population is estimated by the author at 80,000. The town has an area of 337 square kilometers.

As to income, as of 2010, the town had total revenues of P126,454,332. The bill promises in a section (#62) that Balamban City shall be "in compliant to the income requirement prescribed under Republic Act #9009," which in 2001 raised the minimum amount to P100 million. The town is "very qualified," Garcia says, in terms of income and land area, among others, to become a city.

THE 3 TOWNS' COMMON PITCH. What the three bills argue and plead for is that becoming a component city would benefit the local government and the people it serves. Something like, make our town a city and we will be rich enough -- or be richer -- to qualify as a city.

The Lagon couple says it would "enhance" Consolacion in its "capability to deliver more and improved social services to its constituents and encourage more investors to locate and do business" there.

Congressman Frasco's plea has some note of urgency: The conversion of Liloan into a city "can no longer be delayed" because becoming a city "will greatly boost the capacity to respond to the increasing needs and demands of its constituents."

Congressman Garcia says the upgrading of Balamban's status will "enhance its capacity to meet the growing demands of the industries in the town," referring to the shipyard industry in the town. It is "a necessary pre-requisite for Balamban to achieve its fullest potential and enhance its status as a growth center" in the province, PJ Garcia says.

STILL UNDER PROVINCE, DISTRICT. A common provision in the bills, each of which will be considered the city's charter if approved and signed into law, is that qualified voters of the city can vote and be voted upon in the election for governor, vice governor and Provincial Board members.

Also, the city will be still under the jurisdiction of the Province and within the congressional district to which it now belongs.

All that, subject to the proviso, "unless otherwise provided by law."

COMMON PRE-REQUISITE after approval of each law will be a plebiscite to conducted by Comelec at the expense of the LGUs concerned. They'll say it's still the voters who decide. But politicians set the machinery of change running and influence how the people's decision is made.