The place of General Santos City in relation to its neighbors in Mindanao is somewhat complex. Geographically, GenSan is part of the province of South Cotabato (itself currently part of Region XII – SOCCSKSARGEN). Politically it comes in two flavors; LGU-wise GenSan is an independent highly urbanized city while national-wise it is part of the 1st Legislative District, one of two such, comprising South Cotabato. There have been motions however to separate GenSan from the First and make it its own lone legislative district. One such action finally came to fruition last week, according GenSan its own lone representative to Congress.
INQUIRER.net reports that General Santos City has been spun off from the 1st Legislative District of South Cotabato into its own, lone congressional district. This reapportioning was made effective through Republic Act 11243, which was signed into law by President Rodrigo Duterte two weeks ago on March 11. The RA was then publicized to the media last week on Wednesday, March 20. It states thus: “The First Legislative District of the Province of South Cotabato is hereby reapportioned in order to create the Lone Legislative District of General Santos City to commence in the next national and local elections after the effectivity of this Act.”
In effect, the new lone district of GenSan will be numbered Third of the now-three legislative districts for the province of South Cotabato. With the city now removed from 1st District, only the municipalities of Polomolok, Tampakan and Tupi remain in it. Unchanged is 2nd District comprised of SOCCSKSARGEN’s regional political center Koronadal City, plus the municipalities of Banga, Lake Sebu, Norala, Santo Niño, Surallah, Tantangan, and T’Boli. GenSan of course remains in essence the trade and industrial heart of the region, and strengthened further by its new congressional spot.
RA 11243 further states that until new representatives have been “duly elected and qualified” the incumbent Congressional representatives of 1st and 2nd Districts will retain their offices. The Commission of Elections (COMELEC) must “issue the necessary rules and regulations to implement this Act within thirty (30) days after its effectivity.”
With the departure of Cotabato City following its ratification of the Bangsamoro Organic Law, GenSan remains the sole independent city in SOCCSKSARGEN. It is also the southernmost city in the Philippines, with the 15th largest recorded population, recorded as of the 2015 Philippine Information Agency census to be 594,446 residents.
Image courtesy of Rappler