Cities Development Initiative Newsletter

(l-r) Philippines Department of Finance Secretary Carlos Dominguez III, U.S. Ambassador to the Philippines Sung Kim and USAID Mission Director Dr. Susan Brems share a light moment during the conference.

USAID leads conference on sustainable land governance

More than 350 experts and delegates gathered in Manila to exchange best practices and new approaches in land reform during the Conference on Sustainable Land Governance on February 8 to 9, 2017. The conference was organized by the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) through its Strengthening Urban Resilience for Growth with Equity (SURGE) Project, in partnership with the United Nations Human Settlements Programme (UN-Habitat) and the World Bank. It served as the most recent platform that elevated the discussion of sustainable land management and administration at the national level in the Philippines.

The two-day event featured a range of panel discussions on policy frameworks, urban land constraints, assets management for local government units, commercial pressures on land markets, technology solutions, resilient land management, and gender and social inclusion in property rights.

U.S. Ambassador to the Philippines Sung Kim, Philippines Department of Finance Secretary Carlos Dominguez III and USAID Mission Director Dr. Susan Brems graced the event.

“We are presented with a remarkable opportunity to work together towards sustainable land governance. Secure access to land is key to promoting broad-based, inclusive and sustainable growth of the Philippines,” said U.S. Ambassador to the Philippines Sung Kim.

The country continues to tackle challenges in land governance brought about by overlapping land management and administration policies, high incidence of fake double titles or rights recognition and outdated land use plans.

Nearly half of the Philippines’ 24.2 million land parcels remain untitled, according to the 2004 Land Administration and Management Project funded by Australian aid partnership with the World Bank. Among these untitled land parcels, the Asian Development Bank found that families and communities live on as many as 7.8 million residential parcels without secure land rights.

"As our population increased rapidly over the last few decades with our land policies hardly keeping pace, the phenomenon of landlessness has become more severe," said Secretary Dominguez during his speech.

"Many of our settlements are vulnerable, our cities are congested, our forested areas have been stripped to make way for human habitation. We are truly facing a land governance crisis and must respond decisively on this," he added.

Click here to watch the full speech of U.S. Ambassador Kim, and here to watch video insights of conference delegates.

Sustainable Urban Land Coalition advocates for reforms, government supports move

The Conference on Sustainable Land Governance also hosted the launch of the Sustainable Urban Land Coalition, which called on the government to improve and make more accessible programs and services to fast track the development and adoption of land policy and institutional reforms.

The coalition, made up of more than 20 key representatives from national and local governments, business, international development and civil groups, announced their ten-point call to action on the last day of the event. The group emphasized to rationalize the mandates of land related agencies, prioritize the implementation of a massive national titling program, expedite resolution of land-related cases, and strictly enforce compliance of local government units on property valuation regulations, among others.

The SURGE Project facilitated the creation of the coalition, as part of USAID's work in improving local land tenure security and land information management in USAID's Cities Development Initiative (CDI) partner cities in the country.

The Sustainable Urban Land Coalition calls on the government to fast track the development and adoption of land policy and procedural reforms during the last day of the conference.

In response, Office of the Cabinet Secretary Deputy Executive Director Jonas George Soriano, during closing remarks, said the call to action is timely as the new government is moving towards all the points raised in the adoption of a sustainable land governance to address the country’s land sector concerns.

“We are appealing to our friends from the local government units to push for changes in the government. If you want change, the President is asking the mayors and the governors to lead the way,” he said.

Meanwhile, National Economic and Development Authority (NEDA) Undersecretary Adoracion Navarro stressed that there is a need to strictly implement existing rules for effective land administration such as timely titling of lands and taxing idle lands sufficiently so that owners will put these lands to appropriate uses, which until now remains a big challenge.

“Institutional challenges on the other hand, also remains a challenge, such as multiple administration agencies, multiple laws, multiple land processes and multiple standards in land valuation,” she added.

“We hope the next steps of this conference will be guided by the policy directions of the Philippine Development Plan. The conference provided solution-oriented sessions, and we need to take advantage of technologies to improve management and access to land information, and on how computer-assisted disaster risk models can assist in land use management decisions at the local levels,” said Navarro.

The Philippine Development Plan (PDP) 2017-2022 was approved by the NEDA Board on February 20, 2017. According to NEDA, the PDP is the first medium-term plan to be anchored on a national long-term vision, the AmBisyon 2040, which represents the collective vision and aspirations of Filipinos. To set the direction for future growth, the PDP is adopting a national spatial strategy recognizing that population, geography and cities are engines of economic growth. It aims to decongest Metro Manila, connect rural areas to key growth areas and to improve linkages between settlements for higher resilience against disasters (NEDA, 21 February 2017).

Palawan tourist attraction adopts revised tourism code to conserve marine resources

The Sangguniang Bayan of Linapacan in the Calamian Group of Islands in Palawan, Southern Luzon recently approved a revised tourism code that requires tourists to pay an environmental fee.

Linapacan is one of Palawan's tourist attractions, known for its clear aquamarine waters, powdery white sand and diverse aquatic life. It is dubbed as one of the “35 Clearest Waters in the World to Swim in Before You Die” by American news site Daily News Dig.

The revenue from the environmental fee will be used to protect, conserve and manage the town's natural environment. It will fund projects such as rehabilitation of marine and upland resources, effective environmental law enforcement, and solid waste management.

The imposition of environmental fee from tourists was adopted by the municipality based on the results of a willingness-to-pay study conducted by USAID through its Ecosystems Improved for Sustainable Fisheries (ECOFISH) Project.

ECOFISH is conserving marine biodiversity, enhancing ecosystem productivity and improving fisheries and related livelihoods in eight marine key biodiversity areas in the Philippines using an ecosystem-based approach to fisheries management (EAFM) to achieve social, economic and ecological sustainability.

Business owners enjoy faster business registration as cities become more competitive

“It used to take us three to five days to get a business permit and there were no clear systems or steps,” shared Arsenia Seydandiego, who runs a pension house in Puerto Princesa City in Southern Luzon. Seydandiego is one of more than 130 travel-related micro and small entrepreneurs in Puerto Princesa City. Every year in the month of January, business owners all over the country flock city halls to apply for business permits.

“The renewal process was much easier this year. I hope that the city will keep improving its processes,” said Seydandiego.

Fatima Lyn Catingub, who operates a photo services and studio business, shared a similar feedback. “I was able to get my permit in less than a day. Everything is more organized and systematic.”

About 7,470 business permits were issued during the business registration period in January, an increase to last year’s 6,794, generating more than Php116 million worth of revenue for the Puerto Princesa City Government.

The faster business registration was made possible through the collaboration of the Puerto Princesa City Government with USAID’s SURGE Project. The project re-designed the city’s business registration procedures to reduce the processing time and number of steps.

Puerto Princesa’s improved business permits and licensing system supports the goal of the national government to make more efficient the delivery of government services and eliminate corruption. In August 2016, the Departments of Trade and Industry, Interior and Local Government, and the Information and Communication Technology signed a Joint Memorandum Circular (JMC) to further streamline the business permits and licensing system in the country.

USAID has been supporting the streamlining of the business registration process of its Cities Development Initiative (CDI) partner cities since 2012. Zamboanga City in Western Mindanao also reaped the benefits of streamlining its business registration with the help of SURGE. More than 10,000 business permits were issued during the 29-day operation of its newly-established Business One-Stop-Shop (BOSS) in January this year—a 400 percent increase compared to the same period in 2016. The City Government credits this increase to the efficient BOSS and streamlining of the previous 18 steps for new businesses and 20 steps for renewal to just two steps each.

For restaurant manager Aimee Lim, Tagbilaran City's improved business registration process can attract more investments and create more jobs for Boholanos.

In Tagbilaran City, Bohol, Central Visayas, business owners received their permits in three hours, compared to waiting for a week during the previous year, after the City Government with assistance from SURGE cut the number of steps from 14 to three and launched its online business permit application form. This resulted in processing more than 4,000 business permits in the first month of 2017 alone, nearly reaching the total number of permits issued for the entire year of 2016.

By improving ease of doing business that benefits business owners and local governments, USAID contributes to promoting a business-friendly environment and investment climate that can boost the competitiveness of second-tier cities.

Cagayan de Oro introduces online system for assessing and paying taxes

Taxpayers in Cagayan de Oro City, Misamis Oriental, Northern Mindanao, can now pay property taxes and other government fees online by accessing the online tax payment and billing system on the City Government’s official website.

This newest innovation allows taxpayers with any Visa branded card to pay property taxes, building fees, traffic violation fees, and market stall rental, wherever internet connection is available.

“We want our constituents and taxpayers to find it easy to conduct business and pay taxes. With this new online system, they can have their taxes assessed remotely and pay for them even from the comfort of their homes or workplaces,” said Leonil Mistula, Chief of Computer Division of Cagayan de Oro City Treasurer’s Office.

Aside from paying online, taxpayers can also view and print their tax billing as the system is capable of processing real time online tax assessment. New business permit applications and renewals can also be processed using the system. Soon, Mastercard branded cards and most Bancnet-affiliated ATM cards may also be used similarly. Globe and TM mobile subscribers can continue using their GCash to know their assessed amounts and to pay their taxes and fees from anywhere.

This innovative system is part of the City Government's move to expand its electronic payment offering for Cagayan de Oro taxpayers. It first introduced mobile payments for real property and business taxes in 2014.

Since it was launched, more and more taxpayers are using the online and mobile systems because of the convenience and cost savings that these innovations offer.

Shayryl Mae Ramos, a business owner, tried the online system to renew her business permit and found it easy to use. “With this facility, I can pay my taxes and fees quickly and save time in the process.”

USAID's E-PESO Activity supported the local government in developing its program to provide electronic payment options to constituents. E-PESO helped conceptualize the online payment system, forged partnerships between the City Government and appropriate payment service providers, and facilitated smooth project management, implementation and collaboration during the development phase. E-PESO Activity is working with national government agencies, local government units, and the private sector to increase adoption of e-payments and achieve inclusive economic growth.

Cagayan de Oro and Iloilo delegates to join global forum on urban resilience

Delegates from the cities of Cagayan de Oro and Iloilo will join more than 300 leaders and experts from around the globe to participate in the 8th Global Forum on Urban Resilience and Adaptation on May 4 to 7, 2017 in Bonn, Germany.

Organized by ICLEI, the forum will focus on urban resilience and adaptation to climate change challenges through sessions on localizing global frameworks, disaster risk reduction planning and policy, financing resilience, risk transfer and insurance, and mechanisms for measuring, reporting and accelerating action for resilience building, among others.

Iloilo City Mayor Jed Patrick Mabilog and Mary Ann Gumban, Dean of the College of Management of the University of the Philippines Visayas, will represent Iloilo City, while Eileen San Juan, Local Economic and Investments Promotion Officer of the Cagayan de Oro City Government, and Atty. Dionel Albina, Director of Innovation and Technology Solutions of the University of Science and Technology of Southern Philippines, will represent Cagayan de Oro City. The delegates were able to avail of fully-funded scholarships for the trip.

The forum is part of the Resilient Cities congress series. It was first launched in 2010 in Bonn with the goal of forging partnerships between local government leaders and climate change adaptation experts to pursue solutions for adaptation challenges in urban environments.

The Cagayan de Oro and Iloilo delegates will also join a pre-conference training on the Educational Partnerships for Innovation in Communities (EPIC) framework in conjunction with the Resilient Cities 2017 on May 3, 2017 in Bonn. The EPIC framework, previously known as the “Oregon Model”, was pioneered by the University of Oregon in the United States in 2009. The framework is known for its scalability and replicability across cities and universities, by matching city needs with university capacity—overcoming the gap between knowledge and practice—to come up with innovative solutions to local quality of life issues.

The city-university delegates are expected to replicate the EPIC model in their cities with the urban development learning centers that will be established by the SURGE Project. The knowledge hubs are envisioned to foster urban development, climate-resilient land use and infrastructure planning, and sustainable water and sanitation services.

An out-of-school youth completer in Zamboanga City (2nd from left) alongside USAID, TESDA and ZABIDA officials.

Zamboanga City out-of-school transform into 'outstanding youth'

A batch of 185 youth completers in Zamboanga City received their certificates from USAID's Mindanao Youth for Development (MYDev) Program and the Philippines' Technical Education and Skills Development Authority (TESDA), after completing various livelihood skills trainings that will help improve their employment options.

“The past weeks and months have shown everyone that you are ready to transform your own lives. You have invested a lot of time and effort to get to where you are now, from being out-of-school youth to now being ‘outstanding youth’,” said USAID Office of Education Director Brian Levey as he addressed the youth completers in Zamboanga City.

Out-of-school youth completers in Zamboanga City happily pose for a group photo during the graduation ceremony.

Out-of-school youth completers in Zamboanga City happily pose for a group photo during the graduation ceremony.

“Each of you has the power to promote peace in your communities and advance growth for all. I urge you to take advantage of the opportunities that await,” Levey added.

USAID, through its MYDev Program, partners with the TESDA and local service providers such as the Zamboanga-Basilan Integrated Development Alliance, Inc. (ZABIDA) to enable Mindanaoan out-of-school youth to have equitable access to relevant livelihood skills training and basic education through the Department of Education’s Alternative Learning System (DepED-ALS).

To date, MYDev has engaged more than 13,000 out-of-school youth in workforce and community development activities to gain skills and competencies and become productive members of their communities.

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 six CDI partner cities: Batangas, Cagayan de Oro, Iloilo, Puerto Princesa, Tagbilaran and Zamboanga. Legazpi City in Albay, Southern Luzon and General Santos City in South Cotabato, Southern Mindanao are the two upcoming CDI cities.

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

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