Officials here are pushing for the passage by the House Representatives next month of a bill that seeks the creation of a lone congressional or legislative district for the city.
South Cotabato 1st District Rep. Pedro Acharon Jr. said Thursday the support for House Bill (HB) 5162 has been gaining ground and it could be approved on third and final reading when their sessions resume on May 2.
HB 5162 mainly provides for the separation of the city from the first legislative district of South Cotabato to constitute a lone legislative district.
It substituted HB 4678, which was filed by Acharon on Dec. 13 last year and immediately referred by the House committee on rules to the committee on local government.
The bill was endorsed by the committee on local government, which is chaired by Acharon, on Feb. 28 and was approved at the House plenary on second reading on March 8.
“It’s now lined up for final approval at the (House) plenary,” Acharon told reporters.
Once transmitted to the Senate, he said Senator Juan Edgardo Angara has signified to sponsor and facilitate the passage of its counterpart measure.
Acharon, who is a former city mayor, noted that the separation of the city as a lone congressional district is “long overdue.”
He said the city had long been qualified to have its own district and seat in the House of Representatives.
Being an independent chartered city, he said the local government had not been reporting to the governor (of South Cotabato) but directly to the President
“Just like the city’s independent status, it should stand alone as a congressional district,” he said.
Vice Mayor Shirlyn Bañas-Nograles reiterated her support for the passage of HB 5162.
Nograles, City Councilor Franklin Gacal Jr. and Sangguniang Panglunsod Secretary Atty. Rosendo Roque had represented the city in the committee hearings.
“For over 21 years, the city council has passed numerous resolutions requesting Congress to pass a law for the creation of a lone district for the city,” she said.
Based on the 2015 Census on Population and Housing, the city had a population of around 594,000 and posted an annual average population growth rate of 1.91 percent since 2010.
With the creation of a lone district for the city, Acharon said the present composition of South Cotabato’s first congressional district would be reconfigured.
The first district presently comprises this city and the municipalities of Tupi, Tampakan and Polomolok in South Cotabato.
If this city will become a legislative district, Acharon said the three remaining towns will comprise the first district. A bill was earlier filed seeking the conversion of Polomolok into a component city of South Cotabato.
In the 15th Congress, Acharon filed HB 6038 or “an act reapportioning the composition of the first and second legislative districts in the province of South Cotabato and thereby creating a new legislative district from such reapportionment.”
But the measure failed to get past the preliminary discussions at the committee level until the congressional recess for the May 2013 elections. (PNA)