Cities Development Initiative Newsletter

(L-R) Albay Governor Al Francis Bichara, USAID Mission Director Dr. Susan Brems, and Mayor Noel Rosal sign the Memorandum of Understanding to officially launch the Cities Development Initiative in Legazpi City.

U.S. Government and Legazpi City enter into partnership to promote inclusive and resilient urban growth

U.S. Embassy in the Philippines’ United States Agency for International Development (USAID) Mission Director Dr. Susan Brems and Legazpi City Mayor Noel Rosal signed a Memorandum of Understanding on May 17, 2017, making Legazpi the seventh city in the Philippines to join USAID’s Cities Development Initiative (CDI).

Through this initiative, USAID works closely with city governments outside Metro Manila to fulfill their potential as engines of inclusive, environmentally sustainable, and resilient growth. In Legazpi City, which is located in Southern Luzon, USAID will provide a range of technical assistance in economic growth, health, environment, governance, and education.

“Legazpi City is a key driver of growth in the Bicol region, with tremendous potential to pursue inclusive development in surrounding localities in Albay and beyond,” says Dr. Brems.

USAID and its CDI city partners, including local government and the private sector, work together to develop and implement city action plans to address economic growth, education, environmental resiliency, and health challenges. “[Legazpi] City will be able to enhance its competitiveness and acquire the knowledge and skills to address disaster risks. These [projects] will help sustain our city’s development,” says Mayor Rosal.

Other USAID CDI partner cities currently include Batangas, Cagayan de Oro, Iloilo, Puerto Princesa, Tagbilaran, and Zamboanga.

During her May 16 to 19 visit to Legazpi City, Dr. Brems met with local officials to discuss good practices of their Climate-Adaptive and Disaster-Resilient program that has successfully prevented casualties during major disasters. Dr. Brems also toured the USAID-supported Taysan Health Center, and met with representatives of the Department of Environment and Natural Resources Region 5, the Community Environment and Natural Resources Office, local government, and civil society on the USAID-developed Lawin Forest and Biodiversity Protection System.

Dr. Brems capped her visit with a trip to the rice fields of Polangui. USAID, in partnership with the Department of Agriculture Regional Field Office 5 and local governments of Polangui, Albay and Buhi and Nabua, Camarines Sur, has increased 600 upland Bicol farmers’ resilience to extreme weather by introducing farming advisories and technology such as small-scale irrigation systems.

Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte at the official opening of the new Davao-General Santos-Bitung (DGB) RORO route in Davao City on April 30, 2017.

Philippines launches RORO route for Asia

“When I visited Indonesia in September last year, one of the most important commitments that I forged with President Widodo was the opening of the ASEAN Roll-On, Roll-Off (RORO) route between the Philippines and Indonesia,” says Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte at the official opening of the new Davao-General Santos-Bitung (DGB) RORO route in Davao City on April 30, 2017.

RORO ferries serve a vital function in archipelagic Philippines: they enhance passenger mobility; reduce transport costs, especially for cargo; and promote faster transit time versus cargoes placed on large ships. If the benefits of RORO shipping can be transposed to the rest of ASEAN, an ASEAN RORO Project can potentially generate closer business and tourist ties within the region.

The ASEAN RORO Project is a flagship project under the 2010 Master Plan on ASEAN Connectivity (2010 MPAC) and a Philippine legacy project for the ASEAN, which is why the launch was symbolically held on the tail-end of the 2017 ASEAN Summit in April. The ASEAN RORO Project also complements the potential single ASEAN Single Shipping Market put forward in the ASEAN Framework Agreement on Services, which calls for the elimination of market access restrictions and preferential treatment.

USAID provided technical and policy assistance on the push for the establishment of the ASEAN RORO project, and the potential network of ASEAN trade routes. The USAID Economic Growth Hubs (EGH) Project extended technical assistance to the Philippine delegation to the ASEAN High Level Task Force (AHLTF) as it crafted the 2010 MPAC. After the EGH Project ended, the Advancing Philippine Competitiveness (COMPETE) Project continued providing assistance to the Philippine Government on the implementation of the ASEAN RORO initiative.

Opening maritime trade routes is a long process of reconciling policy in both the Philippines and Indonesia, and gaining the cooperation of both national and local government agencies and private stakeholders, such as port and RORO operators, traders, and manufacturers. COMPETE participated in various high-level discussions with both governments and the ASEAN business community, culminating with the September 2016 presentation of the ASEAN RORO Network to President Duterte by COMPETE Chief of Party Dr. Enrico Basilio. In January 2017, COMPETE was part of the Philippine ASEAN RORO Task Force’s delegation to Jakarta, Manado, and Bitung in Indonesia to prepare for the launch of the DGB route.

On policy, COMPETE provided technical inputs to the Mindanao Development Authority (MinDA) as it advocated for the Chassis-RORO (ChaRO) Policy, which originally required shipping containers to be detached from their chassis prior to boarding the ROROs, making the process of loading and unloading RORO cargo unnecessarily time-consuming. To this end, President Benigno Aquino III issued Executive Order (EO) 204 in March 2016, expanding the definition and coverage of RORO to include the ChaRO service, making the loading of goods on RORO ferries faster and more efficient. More importantly, it also standardizes RORO service between the Philippines and Indonesia, which requires ChaRO service for its RORO ferries.

For its part, the Philippine Department of Trade and Industry (DTI) successfully negotiated with the Indonesian government to lift restrictions on three Philippine commodities entering Bitung Port – electronic products, garments, and food and beverages. Indonesia also permitted the importation of Philippine beauty products, fertilizer, construction materials, fresh and processed fruit, agricultural inputs, tinned food, and packaging material. In return, the North Sulawesi-Mindanao trip may now bring in Indonesian coconut, lumber, fish and furniture to be traded in the Philippines.

At the launch of the DGB Route, President Duterte hailed the event as “a reminder that our relationship is not just between trade partners, but between friends that are tied together by a bond that transcends borders.”

Children perform a puppet show for their schoolmates in Brooke's Point, Palawan.

Campaign for conservation launches in the Philippines

Thanks to USAID support, the Philippines’ first Campaigning for Conservation (C4C)—a hands-on workshop on conservation behavior change designed by environmental organization Rare for local campaigners—was launched in Palawan, Western Visayas, in April 2017.

The immersive ten-day workshop aimed to support conservation initiatives in the Mount Mantalingahan Protected Landscape (MMPL), a priority site for USAID’s Protect Wildlife Project.

Twenty-six (26) C4C participants from the five municipalities under the MMPL, representatives from the Department of Environment and Natural Resources and Palawan-based NGOs, converged in Brooke’s Point to learn behavior change theory, social marketing research, and campaign messaging and design. To apply concepts into practice, participants worked on a model campaign for Brooke’s Point to engage indigenous communities to participate in ongoing forest land use planning for MMPL.

After the workshop, the participants produced a suite of campaign materials—including a puppet show, billboard, discussion board, campaign song, posters, radio drama and sermon sheets—for Brooke’s Point’s model campaign. The participants will now apply for support from USAID's Protect Wildlife to help mount their own behavior change campaigns in their respective municipalities.

A teenage girl takes note of the SMS hotline poster displayed at an adolescent health activity organized in her school. (Photo by MSalud/Batangas Provincial Health Office)

Hotline encourages at-risk teens to seek counseling

Teenage pregnancies in the province of Batangas, Southern Luzon, rose by 27 percent from 4,500 in 2013 to almost 6,000 in 2014. The alarming trend of rising teen pregnancies prompted Dr. Mercedita Salud of Batangas Provincial Health Office to launch an SMS (text messaging) hotline program to provide teenagers with information about reproductive health and family planning. Dr. Salud designed the campaign as part of her participation in the Communicators for Communication (C4C) training program funded by USAID and the Department of Health.

The C4C, implemented by USAID’s Communication for Health Advancement through Networking and Governance Enhancement or CHANGE Project, was a six-month training course which enabled over 100 health officers and health communication officers like Salud, to design and run information and communication programs. Dr. Salud’s program, “Trending Now: Spreading Knowledge on Adolescent Health”, posited that communicating with the target group via a method where they are most comfortable will be key to its success. Hence to promote the hotline, Dr. Salud designed posters and flyers and disseminated them across the province via teen forums and kiosks, as well as in public and private high schools and hospitals. She also used local radio to promote the hotline.

The hotline’s text messaging feature provided teens anonymity and allowed them to share their views and feelings more freely. Teenagers were encouraged to make positive health and lifestyle decisions, such as delaying sexual debut and avoiding sexually transmitted infections and other health risks. The hotline also encouraged the youth to visit the Provincial Health Office for further counseling. Within the first three months of the program, the hotline received over 100 youth-related messages. During that period, in-person consultations with the Batangas Provincial Health Office’s counselor rose from 25 to 64 individuals, and also helped identify several HIV-positive cases.

The CHANGE Project contributes to the reduction of maternal and child deaths, increase in contraceptive prevalence rate, reduction in Tuberculosis prevalence, and prevention of HIV/AIDS in the Philippines.

USAID links Tagbilaran and Maynilad to upgrade water and sanitation services

On April 27, 2017, Tagbilaran City Mayor John Geesnell Yap and Maynilad Water Academy Executive Director Rodora Gamboa signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) that establishes a collaborative partnership toward enhancing the efficiency of the city’s local water utility.

With the MOU, the City Government and Maynilad Water Services, through its Maynilad Water Academy, will develop and implement a one-year joint work plan that will improve the efficiency and effectiveness of the Tagbilaran City Waterworks System (TCWS) in Tagbilaran City, Bohol, Central Visayas.

The TCWS will benefit from the exchange of good practices, expertise and technology in water supply operation and non-revenue water management through joint data gathering and consultation, remote coaching and mentoring, study visits and on-the-job training.

Tagbilaran City Mayor John Geesnell Yap and Maynilad Water Academy Executive Director Rodora sign the MOU, with USAID\/Philippines representative John Avila as witness to the ceremony.

Tagbilaran City Mayor John Geesnell Yap and Maynilad Water Academy Executive Director Rodora sign the MOU, with USAID/Philippines representative John Avila as witness to the ceremony.

USAID's Strengthening Urban Resilience for Growth with Equity (SURGE) Project facilitated the partnership, and has been working with the TCWS to improve its water and sanitation delivery services since late last year. Currently, the TCWS only produces 68 percent of its concessionaires’ maximum daily water demand and provides water services for only 8 to 18 hours a day. USAID/Philippines representative John Avila witnessed the signing ceremony, affirming, “USAID promotes sustainable water and sanitation services that are essential to achieve resilient and livable urban areas.”

USAID-mentored environmental planners pass licensure exam

Twenty-five (25) city government personnel involved in city planning and urban development from USAID’s eight CDI partner cities passed the June 2017 environmental planner licensure exam. These officials from the cities of Batangas, Cagayan de Oro, General Santos, Iloilo, Legazpi, Puerto Princesa, Tagbilaran and Zamboanga received coaching through training and review sessions, and reference materials from USAID’s SURGE Project to help them prepare for the annual exam.

Mr. Jojo Sicat, City Planning and Development Officer of Zamboanga City in Western Mindanao, remarked that the SURGE workshop for city planners held in June 2016 and succeeding review sessions helped him understand better concepts in environmental planning and its legal and administrative aspects. He is one of eight officials in Zamboanga City who passed the exam.

The SURGE Project estimates that about 80 percent of government planners in its CDI partner cities are unlicensed, and the Philippine Environmental Planning Act of 2013 requires all government planners to have a license to practice environmental planning. USAID/SURGE is strengthening local capacity in urban development in CDI cities by enhancing the technical competence of city personnel to develop and implement climate resilient and socially inclusive plans as required by Philippine laws and on par with international practices.

Cagayan de Oro City unlocks potential of land

Cagayan de Oro City Mayor Oscar Moreno and Department of Natural and Natural Resources (DENR) Regional Director for Northern Mindanao Edwin Andot signed a Memorandum of Partnership Agreement (MOPA) on May 12, 2017, which will pave way for land administration and management reforms in the city. The partnership enables the exchange of records and data including maps and survey records, joint conduct of land-titling activities, and learning opportunities for city government officials to perform duties related to land administration and management processes.

Considered the growth hub of Northern Mindanao, the city is poised to be the metropolitan center for nearby provinces of Misamis Oriental and Bukidnon.

Currently, the city is already facing urban land constraints with 90 percent of its population occupying only 20 percent of its 57,850-hectare land area. It has to unlock its agricultural lands if more lands are required for horizontal expansion of residential and commercial areas.

USAID’s SURGE Project is assisting the city government and DENR achieve its goal of establishing a land titling program as part of its work in improving land tenure security in the city. The project facilitated the partnership, and the creation of an inter-agency council to lead land administration and management initiatives in the city.

The Land Management Council, comprised of representatives from the Cagayan de Oro City Government, DENR, Department of Agrarian Reform, Land Registration Authority, Bureau of Internal Revenue, National Commission on Indigenous Peoples, and Cagayan de Oro Chamber of Commerce and Industry will provide the unified policy direction and support to the land titling program in the city. The council is committed to streamline land titling procedures that will provide patents for at least 140,000 untitled parcels in Cagayan de Oro.

Additionally, the city appointed a Systematic Adjudication Team (SAT) to help DENR address problems on untitled lands. Based on SURGE assessment studies conducted in 2016, 30 percent of Cagayan de Oro’s land parcels remain untitled.

Lulu Lumagsao, officer of the City Housing and Urban Development and a member of the SAT, attended a training held recently in Cagayan de Oro.

“The training for the SAT helped us gain a deeper understanding of the land registration process. We learned a lot about the processes on investigation, inspection and verification of titles, which are important to effectively undertake the job,” explained Lumagsao.

The SURGE Project is working with national government agencies, local government units, and other partners to unlock the potential of land to stimulate investments and inclusive growth by helping establish a well-functioning land market.

USAID transforms lives with grants for research

Technology research is at the forefront of innovation and inclusive economic growth as local scientists make headway in translating discoveries into sustainable livelihood for communities in the country.

To date, USAID's Science, Technology, Research and Innovation for Development (STRIDE) Program awarded 65 grants to universities amounting to a total of PhP259,354,400 (approximately US$5,475,062). These grants created strong partnerships among Philippine academic institutions, industries, and various collaborators through STRIDE’s grant mechanisms.

The grants help scientists, entrepreneurs and inventors pursue research to help them transform discoveries into products and companies. STRIDE focuses on disciplines that contribute to high-growth sectors such as electronics, chemical industries, alternative energy, translational medicine, agri-business, information communication technology, and mobile computing, with cross-cutting themes of manufacturing and new product development.

In Iloilo City, STRIDE research grantees from the Iloilo Science and Technology University lent a hand to fisherfolk still reeling from the aftermath of Typhoon Yolanda (international name Haiyan)—the deadliest storm to hit the Philippines in 2013.

USAID/STRIDE awarded PhP10,990,000 (US$233,832) to scientist Dr. Bernadeth Ticar, an expert in medicinal chemistry, chemical biology and biochemistry, to research with an industry partner on the health and economic benefits of hyaluronic acid (HA) found in the native asuhos (silver-banded whiting fish) in Iloilo. Watch this video to learn more.

In Cagayan de Oro City, USAID/STRIDE research grantees from Xavier University transformed perishables into new products to give small farmers an alternative market. A grant amounting to PhP9,693,000 (US$206,000) was awarded to Dr. Ma. Rosario Mosqueda to work with an industry partner to research on viable solutions that will ensure sustainability of vegetable supply chains. Dr. Mosqueda and her team developed a laboratory-scale heat pump drying system for vegetables using locally available resources. Watch this video to learn more.

Local partners commit to sustain better fisheries management practices

USAID’s Ecosystems Improved for Sustainable Fisheries (ECOFISH) Project held culminating activities in two of its project sites—Bohol and Batangas, to highlight the successful partnerships for sustainable fisheries in the last five years.

In Bohol, USAID/ECOFISH turned over the Integrated Fisheries Management (IFRM) Plan developed under the project to partner local government units (LGU). This addresses the critical fisheries problems and issues in the Marine Key Biodiversity Area (MKBA) and prescribes inter-LGU and MKBA-wide management actions related to enforcement, fishing effort restriction, marine protected area establishment and conservation enterprises, to name a few. In Danajon Bank, USAID/ECOFISH focused on reversing the impact of overfishing in coastal communities around the reef, which is the only double barrier reef in the Philippines.

In Batangas, the impact of the annual seasonal closure in Balayan Bay, the first inter-LGU fishing ban initiative in the Philippines, was highlighted. Batangas Governor Hermilando Mandanas, in his keynote message,underscored the successful implementation of this initiative that was supported by USAID/ECOFISH, and highlighted that this will be implemented every year until 2020.

Bolstering SMEs through an inclusive financial system for all

USAID/COMPETE Project’s mission towards a more inclusive financial system reached a milestone in April, with the start of the Credit Information System Beta Test Phase on April 28, 2017.

The Credit Information System, or CIS, is an important step in fostering financial inclusion in the Philippines. According to the
National Baseline Survey on Financial Inclusion of the Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas, 72 percent of credit comes from informal sources, like loans from friends or family members or money-lenders from the community. Formal financial institutions are constrained from lending to consumers and micro and small medium enterprises (MSMEs) for lack of information about their credit behavior.

Republic Act 9510, or the Credit Information System Act (CISA) of 2008 sought to fill that gap by establishing a CIS that can collect and provide accurate information on borrower transactions. Credit transactions with cooperative and rural financial institutions are also included in the CISA data-gathering processes. An SME with a good credit score can thus avail of financial products – especially loans – relatively quickly, and at better terms, with the credit score serving as proof of the company’s ability to pay debts, among other things.

To operationalize CIS, the CISA mandated the creation of the Credit Information Corporation (CIC) which is tasked to receive and consolidate basic credit data, to act as central repository of credit information, and to provide access to reliable and standardized credit information to lending institutions, private credit bureaus, consumers and enterprises. The COMPETE Project provided CIC with technical and material assistance in organizing roundtable discussions and credit information roadshows with an aim to help the financial institutions comply with the CIC’s data requirements, and inform the public about the benefits of having an efficiently functioning credit information system.

With COMPETE Project, CIC increased the participation of data-submitting entities. As of September 2016, 21 universal banks, 19 commercial banks, 56 thrift banks, 758 rural banks, 333 financing companies, 16 credit card companies and 116 credit cooperatives have registered with CIC. By April 2017, a total of 3.6 million unique data subjects and 13.8 million unique contracts were uploaded in the CIS, with nine million more data subjects pending. Having accumulated enough data, CIC organized a public launch of the CIS Beta Test Phase on April 28, 2017. The beta test phase is set to run for nine months to work out usage and security issues. During the Beta Test Phase, fully compliant submitting entities will be allowed to access to CIC data.

USAID sees the CIS rollout as a significant step towards financial inclusion. “All of COMPETE’s efforts have brought us here today: the launch of a Philippine credit information system that has more robust, comprehensive, and highly reliable credit data,” said Jeffrey Lehrer, Chief of the USAID Office of Economic Development. “(This) can significantly contribute to the country’s promotion of greater financial inclusion, and inclusive growth.”

Making space for all the unbanked Filipinos who depend on unregulated, informal lending is on top of CIC’s agenda, says its president Jaime Garchitorena. “Our goal for the next year is to improve the quality of the data available to the CIC with the help of all the submitting entities. We want cooperatives and microfinance institutions to lend more. For people who have never borrowed before because they’ve never been considered a good risk by banks, they can get a credit score if they are active members of credit cooperatives. For banks, CIC is committed to help you lend more safely. This is the promise of the CIS – inclusive growth, and prosperity for all.”

USAID supports cities gain greater access to resilience funding

City government representatives from USAID’s CDI partner cities enhanced their knowledge and skills on adaptation project preparation and how to access sources of financing during a five-day intensive learning event in Manila on June 19 to 23, 2017.

The training was co-organized by USAID’s Climate Change Adaptation Project Preparation Facility for Asia and the Pacific (Adapt Asia-Pacific) and the SURGE projects. More than 25 representatives from the city governments of Batangas, Cagayan de Oro, General Santos, Iloilo, Legazpi, Puerto Princesa, Tagbilaran and Zamboanga learned to package urban resilience proposals aligned within international and national adaptation strategic frameworks.

Going through the process of project proposal development, participants outlined adaptation initiatives that can address climate impacts. Other participants joined the training through the online sessions simultaneously broadcast over the Internet. The training proved to be a success, in particular the peer learning approach gave the cities the opportunity to learn from each other's experiences and practices.

The cities will prepare adaptation proposals that integrate gender and social inclusiveness, resilient planning, and the legal and institutional frameworks to access international and local sources such as the Philippine Climate Change Commission’s People’s Survival Fund.

To watch video testimonials of the cities, click here.

New Puerto Princesa Airport opens

The new Puerto Princesa Airport was unveiled on May 3, 2017 in Puerto Princesa City, Palawan, Western Visayas, to help boost tourism and trade in one of the country's top tourist destinations.

The PhP4 billion (US$79 million) facility has a floor area of 13,000 square meters and a seating capacity of 1,500, and a 2,600-meter runway that can accommodate bigger aircraft like an Airbus A330, with six parking bays. The new control tower and other navigational equipment boast of a modern air navigation system compliant with international standards.

It is considered the country's 'greenest' airport, with its unique design of transparent roofing, and a program that encourages reduction of carbon footprint. About 20 flights are operating daily in the new airport.

Cities Development Initiative

USAID is working to strengthen the economic competitiveness and resilience of secondary cities outside of Metro Manila through its Cities Development Initiative (CDI). The CDI seeks to advance the development of secondary cities as agents of growth that is inclusive, environmentally sustainable and resilient. Depending on the most urgent needs of the city, USAID provides a range of technical assistance, drawing from resources in economic growth, health, energy, environment, governance, and education to assist the cities achieve resilience and inclusive growth.

The CDI is a crucial component of the broader Partnership for Growth and Equity, a White House initiated “whole-of-government” partnership between the U.S. Government and the Government of the Republic of the Philippines. The partnership aims to shift the Philippines to a sustained and more inclusive growth trajectory on par with other high‐performing emerging economies. Currently, USAID has seven CDI partner cities: Batangas, Cagayan de Oro, Iloilo, Legazpi, Puerto Princesa, Tagbilaran and Zamboanga. General Santos City in South Cotabato, Southern Mindanao is an upcoming partner city.

For more information on USAID's projects in the Philippines, click here.

Contact Us

9/F Salcedo Towers
169 H.V. Dela Costa Street
Salcedo Village, Makati City
Philippines 1227
Tel. +63 2 8878743


CDI Newsletter Archive : March 2016   |   April 2016   |   May 2016   |   June 2016  |   July 2016  |   August 2016  |   September 2016   |   October to December 2016   |   January 2017   |   February 2017   |   March 2017