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Philippines Table of Contents




Figure 9. Regions and Provinces, 1990

Source: Based on information from Manila Times, October 13, 1990, 3.

The 1987 Constitution retains the three-tiered structure of local government. There were seventy-three provinces in 1991 (see fig. 9). The province was the largest local administrative unit, headed by the elected governor and aided by a vice governor, also elected. Other officials were appointed to head offices concerned with finance, tax collection, audit, public works, agricultural services, health, and schools. These functionaries were technically subordinate to the governor but also answered to their respective central government ministries. Lower ranking functionaries, appointed by the governor, were on the provincial payroll.

Chartered cities stood on their own, were not part of any province, did not elect provincial officials, and were not subject to any provincial taxation, but they did have the power to levy their own taxes. As of 1991, there were sixty-one chartered cities headed by a mayor and a vice mayor. The mayor had some discretionary power of local appointment.

Municipalities were subordinate to the provinces. In 1991 there were approximately 1,500 municipalities. At the lowest level, with the least autonomy, were barangays, rural villages and urban neighborhoods that were called barrios until 1973. In 1991 there were about 42,000 barangays.

Various reorganization schemes have been undertaken to invigorate local government. One of the most far-reaching and effective was the creation of a Metro Manila (see Glossary) government in the mid-1970s to bring the four cities and thirteen municipalities of the capital region under a single umbrella. Metro Manila is an example of what geographers call the Southeast Asian primate city, a single very large city that is the center of industry, government, education, culture, trade, the media, and finance (see Urban Social Patterns , ch. 2). No other Philippine city rivaled Manila; all others were in a distinctly lesser league. Continued rapid population growth meant that the boundaries of Metro Manila were expected to expand in the 1990s.

During martial law, the provinces were grouped into twelve regions, and that arrangement was continued in the Apportionment Ordinance appended to the 1987 Constitution. Because these regions did not have taxing powers or elected officials of their own, however, they were more an administrative convenience for the departments of the national government than a unit of genuine local importance. In 1991 approximately 90 percent of government services were provided by the national government. Attempts by Aquino to decentralize delivery of some services were resisted by members of Congress because such moves deprived them of patronage.

The single biggest problem for local government has been inadequate funds. Article 10 of the Constitution grants each local government unit the power to create its own sources of revenue and to levy taxes, but this power is "subject to such guidelines and limitations as the Congress may provide." In practice, taxes were very hard to collect, particularly at the local level where officials, who must run for reelection every three years, were concerned about alienating voters. Most local government funding came from Manila. There is a contradiction in the Constitution between local autonomy and accountability to Manila. The Constitution mandates that the state "shall ensure the autonomy of local governments," but it also says that the president "shall exercise general supervision over local governments." The contradiction was usually resolved in favor of the center.

Data as of June 1991