For many years since he first became mayor here in 1995, Marino Morales has been lobbying to upgrade this town’s status into a component city in pursuit of a dream.
To Morales, the only local politician who was able to serve as chief executive for 17 straight years, this town’s conversion into a component city is a long-time dream.
His efforts initially produced a glimmer of hope in March 2005 when the Department of Finance officially certified that Mabalacat, where most parts of the Clark Freeport is located, had met the annual average income of P100 million as one of the requirements to become a city.
The next step was for Morales and the municipal council to ask the provincial board to endorse this town’s cityhood bid to Congress. But some board members refused, citing the town’s failure to remit several millions of pesos in accumulated real property taxes over the years.
It took the board about three years to pass a resolution of endorsement to Congress.
Even the League of Cities of the Philippines, which had vigorously campaigned against the conversion of 16 towns in various parts of the country into component cities, did not object to Mabalacat’s bid.
Mayor Oscar Rodriguez of the City of San Fernando, Pampanga, LCP president, earlier said Mabalacat had surpassed the requirements to become a component city, which include a locally generated average income of P100 million yearly for the past two consecutive years, a contiguous territory of at least 100 square kilometers, and a population of not less than 150,000.
Only Tarlac officials are opposed to the conversion due to a pending boundary dispute between Mabalacat and Bamban town in Tarlac.
In September 2007, Pampanga Rep. Carmelo Lazatin introduced House Bill No. 2350 (Mabalacat Cityhood Bill) in the House of Representatives. The bill, however, did not become a law until the 14th Congress adjourned in 2010.
Under the 15th Congress, it was an entirely different story.
On February 7, the Senate passed on third and final reading HB 4736 that seeks to convert this town into a component city. It was an echo of the House action on June 6 last year when 241 representatives approved Lazatin’s measure.
HB 4736 was sponsored by Senators Ferdinand Marcos Jr. and Miriam Defensor-Santiago in the Senate after considering Senator Manuel Lapid’s Senate Bill No. 2926, which also seeks to convert Mabalacat into a component city. Lapid served as governor of Pampanga before he was elected senator.
In his sponsorship speech, Marcos noted Mabalacat’s rise “to become one of the most progressive municipalities in Pampanga.”
Local officials expect the town’s current P500-million income, including Internal Revenue Allotment shares, to increase to around P800 million once it becomes a component city.
“After 300 years, Mabalacat will be a component city, complete with an international airport, a freeport zone and modern expressways,” Morales said.
Once the cityhood measure is signed by President Aquino, a plebiscite will be held within a month to allow Mabalacat residents to vote on it.
Land area: 83.18 sq km
Population: 203,307 (as of 2007 census)
Registered voters: 90,872 (as of 2010)
Income classification: 1st class
Source: NSCB, DBM