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MANILA, Philippines – Voters in Bulacan province are not just picking their new set of village and youth council officials on Monday, October 30, but also deciding on the future of its largest component city – San Jose del Monte.
Monday’s plebiscite – in simulcast with the barangay and Sangguniang Kabataan elections – seeks to ratify former president Rodrigo Duterte’s order in 2020 – Proclamation 1057 – which approved the conversion of San Jose Del Monte from a component city into a highly urbanized city (HUC).
The Commission on Elections (Comelec) has printed 2.09 million plebiscite ballots, equivalent to the number of registered voters in Bulacan.
If the “yes” vote prevails on Monday, the city will be independent of Bulacan province.
The plebiscite in the country’s second most populous province is shaping up to be the most divisive since the plebiscite that sought to divide Palawan province into three in 2021.
That is because there are organized campaigns both in favor and against the conversion of San Jose del Monte into an HUC.
Opponents argue that the conversion would lead to higher taxes in the city, resulting in a higher cost of living.
They also fear that the San Jose del Monte being autonomous from the province would put at risk the scholarship grants provided by the provincial government to students in the city.
Advocates of the conversion, meanwhile, say the ratification of Duterte’s proclamation would enable city officials to directly oversee government policies.
They insist the conversion would benefit Bulacan residents outside of San Jose del Monte because the provincial government would be able to focus more on their needs.
Governor Daniel Fernando, when asked where he stands on the issue, said “no father is happy when he sees his child leave,” but insisted that in the spirit of democracy, the public should have the final say.
San Jose del Monte meets the requirements of a highly urbanized city. Its population is more than 600,000, which is triple the 200,000 minimum as per the Local Government Code of 1991.
It had a net income of P141 million in 2022, also above the P50 million threshold stipulated in the law.
Voting on Monday is from 7 am to 3 pm. The elections are fully manual, and results are likely within the next 24 hours from the closing of polls. – Rappler.com