|Cities and municipalities|
of the Philippines
A city (Filipino: lungsod/siyudad) is one of the units of local government in the Philippines. All Philippine cities are chartered cities (Filipino: nakakartang lungsod), whose existence as corporate and administrative entities is governed by their own specific municipal charters in addition to the Local Government Code of 1991, which specifies their administrative structure and powers. As of July 8, 2023, there are 149 cities.
A city is entitled to at least one representative in the House of Representatives if its population reaches 250,000. Cities are allowed to use a common seal. As corporate entities, cities have the power to take, purchase, receive, hold, lease, convey, and dispose of real and personal property for its general interests, condemn private property for public use (eminent domain), contract and be contracted with, sue and exercise all the powers conferred to it by Congress. Only an Act of Congress can create or amend a city charter, and with this city charter Congress confers on a city certain powers that regular municipalities or even other cities may not have.
Despite the differences in the powers accorded to each city, all cities regardless of status are given a bigger share of the Internal Revenue Allotment (IRA) compared to regular municipalities, as well as being generally more autonomous than regular municipalities.
Main article: Sangguniang Panlungsod
A city's local government is headed by a mayor elected by popular vote. The vice mayor serves as the presiding officer of the Sangguniang Panlungsod (city council), which serves as the city's legislative body. Upon receiving their charters, cities also receive a full complement of executive departments to better serve their constituents. Some departments are established on a case-by-case basis, depending on the needs of the city.
|Office||Head||Mandatory / Optional|
|Vice Mayor as presiding officer||Mandatory|
|Office of the Secretary to the Sanggunian||Secretary to the Sanggunian||Mandatory|
|Accounting and Internal Audit Services||Accountant||Mandatory|
|Budget Office||Budget Officer||Mandatory|
|Planning and Development Office||Planning and Development Coordinator||Mandatory|
|Health Office||Health Officer||Mandatory|
|Office of Civil Registry||Civil Registrar||Mandatory|
|Office of the Administrator||Administrator||Mandatory|
|Office of Legal Services||Legal Officer||Mandatory|
|Office on Social Welfare and Development Services||Social Welfare and Development Officer||Mandatory|
|Office on General Services||General Services Officer||Mandatory|
|Office for Veterinary Services||Veterinarian||Mandatory|
|Office on Architectural Planning and Design||Architect||Optional|
|Office on Public Information||Information Officer||Optional|
|Office for the Development of Cooperatives||Cooperative Officer||Optional|
|Office on Population Development||Population Officer||Optional|
|Office on Environment and Natural Resources||Environment and Natural Resources Office||Optional|
|Office of Agricultural Services||Agriculturist||Optional|
Source: Local Government Code of 1991.
Cities, like municipalities, are composed of barangays (Brgy), which can range from urban neighborhoods (such as Barangay 9, Santa Angela in Laoag), to rural communities (such as Barangay Iwahig in Puerto Princesa). Barangays are sometimes grouped into officially defined administrative (geographical) districts. Examples of such are the cities of Manila (16 districts), Davao (11 districts), Iloilo (seven districts), and Samal (three districts: Babak, Kaputian and Peñaplata). Some cities such as Caloocan, Manila and Pasay even have an intermediate level between the district and barangay levels, called a zone. However, geographic districts and zones are not political units; there are no elected city government officials in these city-specific administrative levels. Rather they only serve to make city planning, statistics-gathering and other administrative tasks easier and more convenient.
Cities are classified according to average annual income of the city based on the previous four calendar years. Effective July 28, 2008, the thresholds for the income classes for cities are:
|Class||Average annual income|
|First||At least 500|
|Second||320+ but < 500|
|Third||240+ but < 320|
|Fourth||160+ but < 240|
|Fifth||80+ but < 160|
The Local Government Code of 1991 (Republic Act No. 7160) classifies all cities into one of three legal categories:
There are 38 independent cities in the Philippines, all of which are classified as either "Highly urbanized" or "Independent component" cities. A city classified as such:
Currently, there are only four independent cities in two classes that can still participate in the election of provincial officials (governor, vice governor, and Sangguniang Panlalawigan members):
Registered voters of the cities of Cotabato, Ormoc, Santiago, as well as all other highly urbanized cities, including those to be converted or created in the future, cannot participate in provincial elections.
In addition to the eligibility of some independent cities to vote in provincial elections, a few other situations become sources of confusion regarding the complete autonomy of independent cities from provinces:
A component city, while enjoying relative autonomy on some matters compared to a regular municipality, is still considered part of a province. However, there are several sources of confusion:
Congress is the lone legislative entity that can incorporate cities. Provincial and municipal councils can pass resolutions indicating a desire to have a certain area (usually an already-existing municipality or a cluster of barangays) declared a city after the requirements for becoming a city are met. As per Republic Act No. 9009, these requirements include:
Republic Act No. 11683 further amended Section 450 of the Local Government Code in 2022, exempting a municipality qualified for cityhood from attaining the land or population threshold if the first requirement above is met.
Members of Congress (usually the involving representative of the congressional district to which the proposed city belongs) then draft the legislation that will convert or create the city. After the bill passes through both the House of Representatives and the Senate and becomes an Act of Congress, the President signs the Act into law. If the Act goes unsigned after 30 days it still becomes law despite the absence of the President's signature.
The creation of cities before 1983 was solely at the discretion of the national legislature; there were no requirements for achieving 'city' status other than an approved city charter. No income, population or land area requirements had to be met to incorporate cities before Batas Pambansa Bilang 337 (Local Government Code of 1983) became law. This is what made it possible for several current cities such as Tangub or Canlaon to be conferred such a status despite their small population and locally generated income, which do not meet current standards. The relatively low income standard between 1992 and 2001 (which was ₱20 million) also allowed several municipalities, such as Sipalay and Muñoz, to become cities despite not being able to meet the current ₱100 million local income standard.
Before 1987, many cities were created without any plebiscites conducted for the residents to ratify the city charter, most notable of which were cities that were incorporated during the early American colonial period (Manila and Baguio), and during the Commonwealth Era (1935–1946) such as Cavite City, Dansalan (now Marawi), Iloilo City, Bacolod, San Pablo and Zamboanga City. Only since 1987 has it been mandated under the Constitution that any change to the legal status of any local government unit requires the ratification by the residents that would be affected by such changes. Therefore, all cities created after 1987 – after meeting the requirements for cityhood as laid out in the Local Government Code of 1991 and Republic Act No. 9009 of 2001 – only acquired their corporate status after the majority of their voting residents approved their respective charters.
Although some early cities were given charters because of their advantageous (Baguio, Tagaytay) or strategic (Angeles City and Olongapo, Cotabato, Zamboanga) locations or to especially establish new government centers in otherwise sparsely populated areas (Palayan, Trece Martires, Quezon City), most Philippine cities were originally incorporated to provide a form of localized civil government to an area that is primarily urban, which, due to its compact nature and different demography and local economy, cannot be necessarily handled more efficiently by more rural-oriented provincial and municipal governments. However, not all cities are purely areas of dense urban settlement. To date there are still cities with huge expanses of rural or wilderness areas and considerable non-urban populations, such as Calbayog, Davao, Puerto Princesa and Zamboanga as they were deliberately incorporated with increased future resource needs and urban expansion, as well as strategic considerations, in mind.
With the enactment of the 1991 Local Government Code, municipalities and cities have both become more empowered to deal with local issues. Regular municipalities now share many of the same powers and responsibilities as chartered cities, but its citizens and/or leaders may feel that it might be to their best interest to get a larger share of internal revenue allotment (IRA) and acquire additional powers by becoming a city, especially if the population has greatly increased and local economy has become more robust. On the other hand, due to the higher property taxes that would be imposed after cityhood, many citizens have become wary of their town's conversion into a city, even if the municipality had already achieved a high degree of urbanization and has an annual income that already exceeds that of many existing lower-income cities. This has been among the cases made against the cityhood bids of many high-income and populous municipalities surrounding Metro Manila, most notably Bacoor and Dasmariñas (which finally became cities in June 2012 and November 2009 respectively), which for many years have been more qualified to become cities than others.
In response to the rapid increase in the number of municipalities being converted into cities since the enactment of the Local Government Code in 1991, Senator Aquilino Pimentel authored what became Republic Act No. 9009 in June 2001 which sought to establish a more appropriate benchmark by which municipalities that wished to become cities were to be measured. The income requirement was increased sharply from ₱20 million to ₱100 million in a bid to curb the spate of conversions into cities of municipalities that were perceived to have not become urbanized or economically developed enough to be able to properly function as a city.
Despite the passage of RA 9009, 16 municipalities not meeting the required locally generated income were converted into cities in 2007 by seeking exemption from the income requirement. This led to vocal opposition from the League of Cities of the Philippines against the cityhood of these municipalities, with the League arguing that by letting these municipalities become cities, Congress will set "a dangerous precedent" that would not prevent others from seeking the same "special treatment". More importantly, the LCP argued that with the recent surge in the conversion of towns that did not meet the requirements set by RA 9009 for becoming cities, the allocation received by existing cities would only drastically decrease because more cities will have to share the amount allotted by the national government, which is equal to 23% of the IRA, which in turn is 40% of all the revenues collected by the Bureau of Internal Revenue. The resulting legal battles resulted in the nullification of the city charters of the 16 municipalities by the Supreme Court in August 2010. (See #"League of 16" and legal battles)
Throughout the years there have been instances of changes to the city's status with regard to eligibility for provincial elections, as a result of the passage of laws, both of general effectivity and specific to a city.
Prior to 1979, all cities were just considered chartered cities, without any official category differentiating them aside from income levels. Though chartered cities were considered autonomous from the provinces from which they were created, the eligibility of their residents to vote for provincial officials was determined by their respective charters.
Regarding participation in provincial affairs, there were three types of city charters:
The 1951 Supreme Court decision on Teves, et al. v. Commission on Elections finally resolved the ambiguity surrounding the third category of cities, by confirming that the residents of cities with such charters (such as Dumaguete and Davao City) are ineligible to participate in provincial elections.
Altering the right of city residents to participate in provincial elections was a power solely determined by the national legislature. Before 1979, this power was exercised in seven cases, affecting a total of six cities:
Batas Pambansa Bilang 51, approved on December 22, 1979, introduced two legal categories of cities: highly urbanized cities (HUCs) and component cities. COMELEC Resolution No. 1421, which was issued to implement the provisions of BP 51 prior to the January 30, 1980, local elections, stated that a total of 20 cities were not allowed to participate in the election of provincial officials: seven of these were "highly urbanized", while the remaining 13 were "component" cities.
Batas Pambansa Bilang 337 (Local Government Code of 1983), approved on February 10, 1983, further refined the criteria by which cities can be classified as highly urbanized cities. Under BP 337 a city that had at least 150,000 inhabitants and an income of at least ₱30 million was to be declared highly urbanized by the Minister of Local Government within thirty days of the city having met the requirement. The cities of Angeles (October 13, 1986), Bacolod (September 27, 1984), Butuan (February 7, 1985), Cagayan de Oro, Iligan (both November 22, 1983), Olongapo (December 7, 1983), and Zamboanga (November 22, 1983) became HUCs in this manner. The residents in most of these cities lost their right to participate in provincial elections for the first time. The two exceptions are: Iloilo City, which had already been deprived of the right to vote for provincial officials in 1959 by virtue of Section 2 of RA 2259, and Zamboanga City, which had been autonomously governed since its creation by virtue of Section 47 of its city charter (Commonwealth Act No. 39).
By virtue of Section 30 of Batas Pambansa Bilang 881 (Omnibus Election Code of the Philippines), approved on December 3, 1985, provided that: "unless their respective charters provide otherwise, the electorate of component cities shall be entitled to vote in the election for provincial officials of the province of which it is a part." This provision therefore overrides the 1951 Supreme Court decision on Teves, et al. v. Commission on Elections by providing voters in component cities whose charters are silent on the matter of electing provincial officials the right to again participate in provincial elections. BP 881 therefore again enfranchised voters in the cities of Bais and Canlaon (Negros Oriental), and Ozamiz (Misamis Occidental). Despite the charter of the city of Cotabato being silent on the matter of electing provincial officials, the city was not legislated to be part of any of the successor provinces of the old undivided Cotabato province. Voters of the city therefore were still not eligible to vote in the provincial elections of either Maguindanao or North Cotabato and therefore remained independent from any province.
The period between ratification of the new Constitution (February 1987) and the effectivity of the Local Government Code of 1991 (January 1992) was one of transition. During this time, BP 51, BP 337 and BP 881 were still in force: the only legal classes of cities during this period were still "highly urbanized" and "component" cities.
Altering the right of city residents to participate in provincial elections was once again exercised by the newly restored Congress in this period. A total of three cities were affected: Republic Acts Nos. 6641 (in 1987), 6726 (in 1989) and 6843 (in 1990), once again allowed the residents of Mandaue, Oroquieta and San Carlos to vote for provincial officials of Cebu, Misamis Occidental and Pangasinan respectively. Since BP 51—which only considered cities as being either "highly urbanized" or "component"—was still in force at the time, the changes were not considered as switching between legal categories, but rather a simple change within the "component city" classification that did not require a plebiscite. The "independent component city" legal classification was only introduced through the Local Government Code in 1992.
Under the same criteria set in BP 337 (Local Government Code of 1983), a total of three cities became highly urbanized: General Santos (September 5, 1988), Lucena (July 1, 1991) and Mandaue (February 15, 1991). Lucena and Mandaue were special cases, in that because their re-classification into HUC status took place after the ratification of the Constitution (February 11, 1987) but before the effectivity of the Local Government Code of 1991 (January 1, 1992), their residents were allowed to continue to participate in the election of provincial officials as per their respective charters (as amended), by virtue of Section 452-c of the LGC. Residents of General Santos were already excluded from voting for provincial officials of South Cotabato since achieving cityhood in 1968; they were therefore unaffected by this exemption.
The Local Government Code of 1991 came into effect on January 1, 1992, and has remained in force ever since, though some amendments have been made. New requirements for creating cities, and upgrading cities to highly urbanized status, were instituted under this Act. The LGC of 1991 was also the first time the independent component city (ICC) category was introduced. These cities are those non-highly urbanized cities whose charters explicitly prohibited city residents to vote in provincial elections. They were finally made completely independent of the province from fiscal, administrative and legal standpoints.
The municipalities of Metro Manila, having been severed from the provinces of Bulacan and Rizal and made independent units in 1975, were converted to highly urbanized cities, beginning in 1994 with Mandaluyong. The most recent, Navotas, became an HUC in 2007. Only Pateros, which does not currently meet the population requirement of 200,000 inhabitants, remains the only independent municipality in Metro Manila.
All that is needed is a congressional amendment to a component city's charter, prohibiting city residents to vote for provincial officials. In the last quarter of 2021, Samar 1st district congressman Edgar Mary Sarmiento proposed to convert the city of Calbayog from being a component city into an independent component city through the virtue of House Bill No. 10483.
Since 1992, once a city reaches a population of 200,000 persons as certified by the Philippine Statistics Authority and an income of ₱50 million (based on 1991 constant prices) as certified by the city treasurer, the city government can submit a request to the President to have their city declared as highly urbanized within 30 days. Upon the President's declaration, a plebiscite will be held within a specific timeframe to ratify this conversion. There are no limits as to the number of times a component city can attempt to become a highly urbanized city, should previous tries be unsuccessful.
Reclassifying an HUC as a component city likely involves not only amending the concerned city's charter, but also the Local Government Code, as currently there is no provision in the LGC that allows this, nor are there any precedents. Some Cebu City politicians have previously indicated that they wish to bring back the city under the province's control, to bring in more votes against the Sugbuak, the proposed partition of Cebu Province.
A congressional amendment to the city charter enabling city residents to vote for provincial officials is required, followed by a plebiscite. Santiago's status as an independent component city was briefly in question after the enactment of Republic Act No. 8528 on February 14, 1998, which sought to make it a regular component city. The Supreme Court on September 16, 1999, however ruled in favor of the city's mayor who contended that such a change in the status of the city required a plebiscite just like any other merger, division, abolition or alteration in boundaries of any political unit. And due to the lack of a plebiscite to affirm such a change, RA 8528 was therefore unconstitutional.
On April 11, 2022, a day after it lapsed into law without the signature of the president, President Rodrigo Duterte signed Republic Act No. 11683, which amended Section 450 of the Local Government Code, making the conversion of municipalities into cities easier. The amendments state that if a municipality generates at least ₱400 million for two consecutive years, it will be exempt from the land and population requirements.
Main article: League of Cities of the Philippines
The League is a non-profit organization and is not a government agency and was founded in 1988. As of July 8, 2023, the league has a membership of 149 cities. The organization was formed to help coordinate efforts to improve governance and local autonomy and to tackle issues such as preserving the environment and improving public works.
Further information: List of cities in the Philippines
As of July 8, 2023[update], there are 149 cities in the Philippines. Carmona in Cavite is the newest city, after the plebiscite held resulted in approval of ratification on July 8, 2023.
For a more comprehensive list, see List of cities and municipalities in the Philippines.
|1||Quezon City||2,960,048||Former capital of the country (1948–1976). Largest city in Metro Manila in population and land area. Hosts the House of Representatives of the Philippines at the Batasang Pambansa Complex and the metropolis' largest source of water, the La Mesa Reservoir.|
|2||Manila||1,846,513||Capital of the country (1571–1948 and 1976–present). Historically centered on the walled city of Intramuros, by the mouth of the Pasig River. Host to the seat of the chief executive, the Malacañang Palace. By far the most densely populated city in the country, as well as the whole world.|
|3||Davao City||1,776,949||The largest city in Mindanao by population Popularity nicknamed "The King City of the South". Historically centered near where the Davao River exits into Davao Gulf, the city also encompasses expanses of wilderness, including part of the Mount Apo Natural Park, making it the largest city in the Philippines by land area. Regional center of the Region XI, and core of the third-largest and last metropolitan area in the country, Metro Davao.|
|4||Caloocan||1,661,584||Historic city where Andrés Bonifacio and the Katipunan held many of its meetings in secrecy. Much of its territory was ceded to form Quezon City, resulting in the formation of two non-contiguous sections under the city's jurisdiction. The city mainly encompasses residential areas, with significant industrial and commercial sections.|
|5||Zamboanga City||977,234||Nicknamed "City of Flowers" and marketed by its city government as "Asia's Latin City" for its substantial Spanish-derived Creole-speaking population. Former capital of the Moro Province and of the undivided province of Zamboanga. Former regional center of the Zamboanga Peninsula administrative region, but remains the largest city in western Mindanao. In 2028, Zamboanga City is projected to become the Metropolitan Center of Zamboanga Peninsula after hitting the 1,200,000 population mark, which will classify the city as a Metropolitan City based on the NEDA's classification system.|
|6||Cebu City||964,169||Popularly nicknamed "The Queen City of the South". Site of the first Spanish settlement in the country. Capital of the province of Cebu and regional center of Region VII. Most populous city in the Visayas and core of the country's second-largest metropolitan area, Metro Cebu.|
|7||Antipolo||887,399||Nicknamed "City in the Sky" for its location on the hills immediately east of Metro Manila. Well-known pilgrimage and tourist center, being host to a Marian shrine and the Hinulugang Taktak National Park. Most populous component city in the country, and comprises more than a quarter of the total population of the province of Rizal and the capital of that province.|
|8||Taguig||886,722[i]||Lying on the western shore of Laguna de Bay, the city encompasses significant industrial, commercial and residential areas, including the disputed area of Fort Bonifacio, a former American military base that has been in development as the country's new premier business district. Was part of Rizal Province until 1975, when it was incorporated into Metro Manila.|
|9||Pasig||803,159||Hosts most of the Ortigas Center, one of Metro Manila's prime business districts. Located where Laguna de Bay empties into the Pasig River. Part of the province of Rizal until 1975, when it was incorporated into Metro Manila. Formerly hosted the capitol and other government buildings of that province.|
|10||Cagayan de Oro||728,402||Nicknamed the "City of Golden Friendship" and formerly known as Cagayan de Misamis. Located at the mouth of the swift-flowing Cagayan de Oro River, which has become a tourist draw. Regional center of Northern Mindanao and capital of the province of Misamis Oriental.|
Main article: List of metropolitan areas in the Philippines
Main article: League of Cities of the Philippines vs. COMELEC
The Supreme Court of the Philippines, by a highly divided vote of 6–5, on November 18, 2008, subsequently upheld with finality on May 6, 2009, declared unconstitutional cityhood laws converting 16 municipalities into cities. The 24-page judgment of Justice Antonio T. Carpio, adjudged that the following cityhood laws violate secs. 6 and 10, Article X of the Constitution of the Philippines:
However, more than a year later, on December 22, 2009, acting on the appeal of the so-called League of 16 Cities (an informal group consisting of the sixteen local government units whose cityhood status had been reversed), the Supreme Court reversed its earlier ruling as it ruled that "at the end of the day, the passage of the amendatory law (regarding the criteria for cityhood as set by Congress) is no different from the enactment of a law, i.e., the cityhood laws specifically exempting a particular political subdivision from the criteria earlier mentioned. Congress, in enacting the exempting law/s, effectively decreased the already codified indicators." As such, the cityhood status of the said 16 LGUs was effectively restored.
On August 24, 2010, in a 16-page resolution, the Supreme Court reinstated its November 18, 2008, decision striking down the cityhood laws, reducing once more the sixteen LGUs to the status of regular municipalities.
The most recent development in the legal battles surrounding the League of 16 came on February 15, 2011. Voting 7–6, the Supreme Court (SC) ruled that 16 towns that became cities in 2007 can stay as cities. This was the fourth time the SC has ruled on the case, and the third reversal. It said the conversion of the 16 towns into cities met all legal requirements.
Note: This section only lists attempts that reached the stage where a Republic Act was enacted for the purpose of achieving cityhood.
For a more comprehensive list, see List of renamed cities and municipalities in the Philippines.
Note: This section only lists name changes made upon or since cityhood.
Main article: List of proposed cities in the Philippines
The city lies along the mid-section of the long island of the Palawan province. It has a land area totalling 253,982.00 hectares stretching to over 106 kilometers and it has the narrowest breadth which is 8.5 kilometers found in the Barangay Bahile.
The number of cities increased to 117 in December 2004 from 116 in September of the same year due to the conversion of the municipality of Taguig in the NCR into a highly urbanized city effective December 8, 2004 pursuant to Republic Act No. 8487 dated April 25, 1998 and COMELEC Resolution on the Election Protest Case (EPC) No. 98-102 which declares and confirms the ratification and approval of the conversion.