UPDATE (7/13/12): On July 4, 2012, Pres. Benigno Aquino III signed Proclamation No. 418, upgrading Cabanatuan into a highly-urbanized city. According to a tweet by the Philippine Daily Inquirer, it will take effect once its residents ratify the proclamation via a plebiscite on September.
In Nueva Ecija, Cabanatuan City Mayor Julius Cesar Vergara and his allies in the City Council are pushing for the conversion of their city into a highly-urbanized city. Strongly opposing this move is the Governor of Nueva Ecija himself, Aurelio Umali.
Gov. Umali said that the city is “better off working in tandem with the provincial government of Nueva Ecija in a proverbial Big Brother teamup instead of going at it alone.”
Cabanatuan City was previously upgraded into an HUC in 1995, but was rejected by Cabanatueños in a plebiscite, thanks in part to opposition by the Josons.
Once Cabanatuan City becomes an HUC, city ordinances would no longer pass through the Provincial Council for review. It would also stop sharing its tax revenues with the province.
Gov. Umali might also be afraid of losing some precious votes during elections, as the city’s conversion into an HUC would effectively exempt the city from electing their Governor, Vice Governor and Provincial Board Members.
The results of the elections in the province and in Cabanatuan City last May 10 might be a little reprieve for Gov. Umali.
Cabanatuan City voted for Umali, receiving 63% of the total number of votes against Edward Thomas Joson. Third District Rep. Czarina Umali received 66% of the votes in the city, against another Joson, Eduardo IV.
In fact, Umali even won in the other four component cities in Nueva Ecija: Gapan City, Palayan City, San Jose City and the Science City of Muñoz. Only in the towns of Gabaldon, Laur and Quezon did Gov. Umali lose.