THE Baguio City Council has approved on first reading a proposed ordinance that would see the number of barangays in the city merged from 128 to only 34.
The ordinance, authored by all the members of the council, is subject to limitations, requisites, and plebiscite requirements prescribed by the Local Government Code of 1991 or Republic Act No. 7160. Before the plebiscites, the government is set to conduct extensive education and information campaigns and public consultations to hash out the specifics including which barangays will merge as well as allow the public to provide input.
Mayor Benjamin Magalong said the proposed amalgamation of barangays must be pursued to finally address problems on the inequitable distribution of population and resources in the barangays.
The mayor said the current barangay set-up of the city has been flagged by the Dept. of Interior and Local Government (DILG) for transgressing provisions of the Local Government Code among which the population threshold of each barangay in a highly urbanized city.
He said there are barangays with populations that go below the 5,000-limit and there are others that go beyond it resulting in problems in the distribution of resources, delivery of services and even causing unnecessary expenditures.
The ordinance calls for the establishment of a special committee comprised of the mayor and vice mayor as chair and co-chair, or their representatives, as well as the president of the Liga ng mga Barangay, the Sangguniang Kabataan, and various government officers. The committee is tasked to come up with and submit to the city the plans for the mergers and the plans for information and education campaigns regarding the merger. It is also tasked to ensure that the merged barangays are compliant with the Local Government Code of 1991.
Under the proposal, punong barangays of the new barangays are entitled to Salary Grade 14 or P32,321.00 per month and that sangguniang barangay members, barangay secretaries, and barangay treasurers shall receive Salary Grade 10 or P22,190.00 per month. Furthermore, barangay tanods and members of the Lupong Tagapamayapa shall receive P1,000.00 per month as their honorarium.
With the barangays reduced, the city is projecting savings of P335,411,940 a year when comparing the cost of annual salaries and honorariums of barangay officials with projected costs under the mergers.
The Commission on Elections (Comelec) is tasked to assist the City Government of Baguio in promulgating the rules and regulations to govern the conduct of a plebiscite.
The proposed ordinance has been referred to the city council’s Committee on Ethics, Governmental Affairs, and Personnel for review.
In her endorsement letter dated 17 October 2022, Department of the Interior Local Government City Director Millicent Carino that the total National Tax Allotment (NTA) of the 128 barangays amounting to P64,106,743.00 would be recomputed to comprise the NTA of the 34, 36, or 40 merged barangays.
“We are optimistic that the newly merged barangays will receive a comparable share from the NTA considering that the total number of the barangays nationwide that will be sharing the NTA will be reduced from P41,935 to P41,846, P41,842, 41, 840 respectively (40, 36, and 34 options),” Carino stated in her letter.
She said savings may come from the reduced cost of personal services considering decrease in the number of barangays and that these savings may be used to implement new projects, programs, and activities of the barangays to augment their budgetary allocation.
The city director said that the amalgamation of the barangays will result in a “more viable, sustainable, and efficient” management of barangay operations.
Magalong said the city needs to pursue it for purposes of economy, efficient delivery of basic services, more viable and sustainable management of barangay operations, improvement of local governance, and professionalization of the salaries of the barangay officials.
The mayor was pleased that the majority of the city councilors have expressed full support for the program even as he admitted that the process will require time to complete.
“Our city council is very supportive of the program and we hope that with that it will get off the ground but still, it will require further engagements with the community through a series of public scoping, hearings which will be a lengthy process,” the mayor said.
He said the process also includes the conduct of a referendum which will also requires not only time but also a huge budget to undertake.
The mayor earlier formed the Task Force on Amalgamation of Barangays to work on the program.
“The task force is led by City Legal Officer Richard Dayag and composed of the Liga ng mga Barangay, City Planning, Development and Sustainability Office, City Assessor’s Office, City Budget Office, the Department of the Interior and Local Government-Baguio, the Commission on Elections- Baguio, the City Mayor’s Office represented by its Special Services Division, and representatives from the Sangguniang Panlungsod.
Among its current activities is the review of the cost-benefit analysis on barangay amalgamation. Afterwards, the task force will conduct consultations with stakeholders to consider issues on population, land area, infrastructure or facilities and road networks, among others. with reports from Jordan G. Habbiling and Aileen P. Refuerzo