Cities Development Initiative Newsletter

USAID Philippines celebrates World Wildlife Day 2018

In time for World Wildlife Day on March 3, 2018, United States Agency for International Development (USAID) Mission Director to the Philippines Lawrence Hardy II, during his first official visit to Palawan in Southern Luzon, had a glimpse of the fruitful collaboration between USAID’s Protect Wildlife project and partners to conserve biodiversity and natural habitats, and fight illegal wildlife trade in the province. Mission Director Hardy toured the Palawan Wildlife Rescue and Conservation Center, a partner of Protect Wildlife in teaching wildlife law enforcement officers how to properly identify and handle various wild fauna. He also witnessed a puppet show performance by indigenous children, as part of USAID’s support in conservation campaigns for communities in Palawan. 

During his visit, Mission Director Hardy and partners launched the first population study on the Philippine pangolin. The research will build upon existing knowledge and guide evidence-based policies and actions for protecting one of the least-studied species of pangolin. The Philippine pangolin or Palawan pangolin (Manis culionensis) is a pangolin species endemic to the Palawan province.

“USAID believes that responsible stewardship of our natural resources, including wildlife, is critical in pursuing a sustainable path to development that enriches natural capital instead of depleting it,” said Hardy.

Mission Director Hardy started his visit to Palawan on February 28 to March 2 with a courtesy call to Palawan Governor Jose Chavez Alvarez.

In Puerto Princesa City, he attended the first Palawan Seaweed Industry Summit, organized by the Puerto Princesa-Palawan Seaweed Network, the city government of Puerto Princesa and USAID through its Strengthening Urban Resilience for Growth with Equity (SURGE) Project. The forum served as a venue to discuss challenges faced by the local seaweed industry, and formulate strategic action plans to ensure the industry’s long-term sustainability, profitability and competitiveness.

The two-day forum was participated in by more than 200 local seaweed stakeholders, and representatives from various agencies and industry players. With the theme “Creating Possibilities through Sustainable Partnership in the Seaweed Industry”, the highlight of the forum was the signing of partnership agreements between the network and various agencies and universities to support the growth of the local seaweed industry in the entire province. An online price information Facebook page was launched on the first day, which features an updated price listing of seaweed buyers in Cebu, Manila, Mindoro and other provinces. USAID/SURGE has been supporting the network and the city government in strengthening the seaweed industry in Puerto Princesa City and Palawan Province.

“Today’s summit is an important endeavor in pursuing the sustainable development and growth of the local seaweed industry. The industry helps coastal communities by generating more income for farmers, thus helping them to become more self-reliant,” said Hardy.

Palawan is known to have the most pristine waters in the Philippines and is the biggest producer of seaweed in the country. Last year, it produced more than 324,000 metric tons of seaweed, generating income valued at US$159 million (PhP8.3 billion).

USAID Philippines Mission Director Lawrence Hardy II receives a book about Palawan from Governor Jose Chavez Alvarez.

Mission Director Hardy meets Puerto Princesa City Mayor Lucilo Bayron.

Mission Director Hardy also participated in the commissioning of the Electric Grid Monitoring System for Puerto Princesa City. The system monitors and analyzes power distribution, so that energy producers stay connected to consumers, even when extreme weather events occur.

“Around the world, and here in the Philippines, USAID invests in energy systems that can power inclusive economic and social development,” said Hardy.

The Philippine Department of Energy, USAID and the U.S. Pacific Command teamed up with American private sector partners to introduce an innovative approach to help ensure reliable power supply in the Philippines.

Overall, USAID is working with Palawan and Puerto Princesa City local governments and private sectors in the areas of environment protection, investment promotion, tourism development, energy, education, health and governance.

U.S. Ambassador reiterates strong US-PH cooperation in Bohol

On March 27, 2018, U.S. Ambassador to the Philippines Sung Kim visited Bohol in Central Visayas and paid a courtesy call to Bohol Governor Edgardo Chatto. Governor Chatto expressed his gratitude to the U.S. government for helping boost the local economy and resilience of Bohol.

“This is one of the strongest partnerships the U.S. has in the Philippines. We are deeply proud of our partnership, and we intend to continue our partnership for decades to come," said Ambassador Kim.

For the past two decades, USAID, through various projects, made an impact in the province in education, health, governance, environment and urban development. During a heritage tour with local government officials of Tagbilaran City, Ambassador Kim learned about the city’s rich culture and history by visiting several heritage sites. Councilor Joseph Bompat expressed the city’s deep appreciation for the technical assistance provided by USAID's SURGE Project in developing the city’s first Tourism Development Plan, and for assisting the city with its water system operations and septage management program.

Indigenous people of Cagayan de Oro City receive land titles

“I am grateful to finally receive the title for the land where I was born, raised, and now where I live with my own family,” said Fernando Abungan, 34, from Barangay Tumpagon, Cagayan de Oro City.

Abungan and his wife are among the indigenous people who received land titles on February 5, 2018. Tumpagon is home to the Higaonon tribe, a rural village about 40 kilometers from the center of Cagayan de Oro City in Misamis Oriental, Northern Mindanao.

About 40 other residents of Baragay Tumpagon, and 21 informal settlers from Barangay Mambuaya also received land titles during the distribution ceremony at the Cagayan de Oro City Hall. In his dialect, Abungan recalled the difficulty he encountered to acquire a land title. Abungan, however, did not give up hope. He learned about the new project helping the city government with the land titling process.

The land title distribution is a success for the city government’s land titling program, which aims to improve land tenure strategies and property rights recognition to address challenges in ownership, land use, and spatial development. USAID’s SURGE Project introduced policy reforms in land administration in the city, and facilitated the creation of inter-agency Land Management Council and the Land and Asset Management Office, to support the land titling program and formalize land tenure in the untitled parcels in the city.

“USAID’s technical assistance greatly contributed in the initiation, implementation and continued progress of the city’s land titling program,” said Reuben Bonaoy, Project Coordinator of the Land Asset Management Office.

Facilitated by USAID/SURGE, the  partnership between the city government and the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) enables the efficient exchange of records and data including maps and survey records, joint conduct of land-titling activities, and training of city government officials to perform duties related to land administration and management processes.

As of end of March 2018, the city government awarded 189 land titles for residents of barangays Tumpagon, Mambuaya and Balulang. Cagayan de Oro City Mayor Oscar Moreno led the turn over of land titles with members of the council from the DENR, Department of Agrarian Reform, Bureau of Internal Revenue, National Commission on Indigenous Peoples, Land Registration Authority, and USAID/SURGE. Community-Based Forest Management certificates were also distributed to 68 farmers in Barangay Dansolihon. The city’s land titling program targets to award about 6,000 land titles this year.

Small-scale farmers to benefit from cost-efficient irrigation alternative

Small-scale farmers in Barangay Cabacanan in Alimodian, Iloilo in Central Visayas consider themselves lucky if they can complete two cropping seasons in a year without incurring financial losses from irrigation. Although there’s a river in the area that could irrigate the farms, the farmers do not have cost-efficient means to utilize the river aside from co-renting diesel-powered pumps that eat more than 10 percent of operating expenses. This situation pushed the farmers to plant corn or vegetables instead of rice during the dry season to avoid having no income at all.

In order to address the farmers’ problem with irrigation, Engr. Salvador Senorio of the Iloilo Science and Technology University (ISATU) led a study that eventually resulted in the fabrication of an S-turbine prototype. Senorio’s prototype builds on the qualities of expensive turbines in the market at a much affordable cost. The prototype is designed to collect water from the river, which is pumped into a reservoir that can be connected to nearby farmlands. Aside from helping with irrigation, the S-turbine can also be connected to a generator to use the water from the river to generate electricity.

“This will definitely benefit us, the small farmers, especially during summer. We no longer have to wait for the rain to start planting, and we can continue planting crops and vegetables that have higher value in the market,” said Danny Calambro, Cabacanan’s barangay captain.

The development of the S-turbine prototype was funded by USAID through the Science, Technology, Research and Innovation for Development (STRIDE) Prototype Research and Innovation Grants.

During the launch of Engr. Senorio’s “Design, Fabrication, and Evaluation of a Water-Driven S-Turbine Pump” project on March 28, 2018, the local government officials of Alimodian and Cabacanan, officials from ISATU, and leaders of the local farmers’ association signed a Memorandum of Understanding to continue their collaboration. With the MOU, the group aims to establish co-ownership of the S-turbine between ISATU and the farmers’ association, ensure the sustainability of the irrigation project, and improve the farmers’ crop production.

Engr. Senorio is thankful for the grant provided by USAID not only because he was able to help in finding a solution to the problem of a community but also because the grant, worth US$16,400 (Php857,850), provided him with the opportunity to put his idea into practice.

“Someone asked me why I’m wasting my time on an untested technology compared to those already available in the market,” Senorio narrated. “I took that comment as a challenge to develop a technology at a much lower cost but can compete in terms of output. I studied different turbines out there, and this S-turbine is the result.”

USAID/STRIDE supports collaborative research between industry and academe, as well as between Philippine and U.S. universities. It provides capacity building training for Philippine researchers to be more effective and successful collaborators. The project also provides scholarships for the best and brightest Filipino scientific minds to pursue Professional Science Master’s degrees, PhD dissertation research, or post-doctoral research.

Rosalina Taneo of Barangay Manga, Tagabilaran City receives her first computer-generated water billing statement.

Rosalina Taneo of Barangay Manga, Tagabilaran City receives her first computer-generated water billing statement.

Mechanisms in place for efficient water services in Tagbilaran City

The Tagbilaran City Waterworks System (TCWS) in Tagbilaran City, Bohol, Central Visayas, issued its first batch of computer-generated billing statements in March 2018. The issuance of computer-generated billing statements is part of the enhanced water billing and collection system of the city with the support of USAID’s SURGEProject.

The new system was conceptualized after the Maynilad Water Services Inc., through the Maynilad Water Academy, conducted a series of trainings and mentoring in partnership with USAID/SURGE, to improve delivery of water services in the city.

“The TCWS billing and collection system is now more  transparent,  accountable and efficient,” said Tagbilaran City Administrator Leonides Borja.

The TCWS established a client database with complete client profiles matching water meter serial numbers, updated accounts receivables, produced statement of accounts to be issued to water concessionaires, and closely worked with the City Treasurer’s Office to monitor collection efficiency and delinquencies. The TCWS previously issued billing statements manually based on on-site meter readings, which was inefficient and prone to errors.

USAID/SURGE introduced the reforms in the accounting, recording and reporting of the operations of the TCWS in December 2016. Water collections in 2017 increased by 34 percent, from US$231,000 (PhP12 million) in 2016 to US$308,000 (PhP16 million) in 2017. The city plans to use the revenue generated from the enhanced system to upgrade the waterworks facilities and minimize non-revenue water.

"This technical assistance is a big leap for us in ensuring efficient services to our constituents. We thank Maynilad and USAID/SURGE for coming here and helping us,” said Tagbilaran City Mayor John Geesnell Yap II.

USAID/SURGE and Maynilad also provided technical assistance in improving the operations of water facilities and assessing water systems operations to reduce non-revenue water in Batangas City in Batangas, Southern Luzon and in General Santos City in SOCCSKSARGEN, Southern Mindanao.

USAID and Maynilad commemorate World Water Day

The local government of General Santos City signed two agreements to improve water and sanitation services in the city in time for the celebration of World Water Day on March 23, 2018.

The Memorandum of Agreement between the local government and the General Santos City Water District was inked for the construction of a Septage Management and Sanitation facility, while a Memorandum of Understanding was signed by the local government and the Maynilad Water Services Inc. for a twinning arrangement program.

“In order for a city to be progressive, ample clean water supply should be sustained through watershed conservation activities and the establishment of local water treatment facilities,” said Dr. Pedcris Orencio, Component Team Leader of USAID’s SURGE Project.

According to a 2014 United Nations study, due to rapid population growth, water withdrawals have tripled over the last 50 years. A person now uses 1,000 glasses of fresh water daily.

Engr. Rodelio Serrano of Maynilad Water Services Inc. said that poor water distribution to homes leads to contamination and is therefore a health hazard to all users. "A diagnostic assessment recently conducted by our team for two Rural Water Sanitations Associations (RWSA) in the city showed the insufficient facilities and low standards of equipment used in distributing water to the end users," he said. 

Director Rodora Gamboa, Executive Director of Maynilad Academy explained the twinning arrangement is a mentoring program for the development of water resource programs of the city, which will help in providing knowledge on the professional practices about water.

Meanwhile, Manuel Yaphuckon, chairman to the Board of Trustees of the water district, said the MOA on the establishment of septage and water treatment facilities will ensure the city of a safe and quality water supply for the years to come. The signing activity was facilitated by the City Integrated Barangay Affairs in collaboration with USAID’s SURGE Project. (CPIO/Sulit/RSC)

On March 21 to 23, USAID through the SURGE Project and Maynilad Water Academy trained engineers of the Batangas City government and representatives of six RWSAs from Batangas City on effective non-revenue water management. USAID/SURGE and Maynilad also shared sustainable and nature-based solutions to address water issues, in commemoration of the World Water Day theme, “Nature for Water”. One of the major challenges facing water utilities, including RWSAs, is the high level of water loss or non-revenue water in distribution networks. Around the world, non-revenue water accounts for 25 to 50 percent of the total water supply.

Through the years, Maynilad was able to reduce its non-revenue water from 66 percent to around 35 percent. Maynilad’s non-revenue water team shared its best practices on management and control of physical and commercial losses and water meter and pressure management.

“USAID is grateful that our partner in development, Maynilad, is sharing its expertise on non-revenue water management and reduction approaches. With this training, we focus on the importance of water—how we can meet the water needs of a growing population, contribute to the creation of a circular economy, and help protect the environment and reduce pollution,” said USAID Urban Planning Specialist Marian Cruz-Navata.

NAMRIA and USAID turn over maps to aid cities’ resilient urban development

In January 2018, the National Mapping and Resource Information Authority (NAMRIA) and USAID’s SURGE Project turned over digital orthoimages, terrain and surface models, and maps the eight CDI partner cities. The cities of Batangas, Cagayan de Oro, General Santos, Iloilo, Legazpi, Tagbilaran and Zamboanga, represented by the mayors and city administrators, signed Memoranda of Understanding (MOU) with NAMRIA, represented by its Administrator Undersecretary Peter Tiangco. USAID and NAMRIA turned over maps and images to Puerto Princesa City during a separate ceremony in the city.

The geospatial data, estimated to cost about PhP1 million ($19,200) for each city, were given by NAMRIA at no cost as part of the MOU. The MOU also included a NAMRIA orientation on the proper use of the maps and samples applications. The orthoimages are geometrically corrected aerial photographs and images that allow for accurate measurement of distance. The terrain model is the elevation surface representing bare earth, while the surface model captures the natural and built features on the Earth’s surface.

These will be used by the city governments to develop accurate maps that show hazards and risks in their cities, aiding in science-based and disaster-resilient urban planning.

CDI cities gain skills in natural resource management for urban forests

On March 7 to 8, 2018, the U.S. Forest Service, USAID's SURGE Project and the local government of Puerto Princesa City organized a training to help planners understand their urban forest resource and the ecosystem services.

Al Zelaya from the Davey Institute, a U.S. Forest Service partner, introduced two i-Tree tools, the i-Tree Canopy and the i-Tree Eco, while Dr. Erika Svendsen and Dr. Michelle Johnson introduced the Stewardship Mapping tool.

Fifty-eight (58) planners and officers from the local governments of Cities Development Initiative (CDI) partner cities of Cagayan de Oro, General Santos, Iloilo, Puerto Princesa, Tagbilaran and Zamboanga gained knowledge and skills on how to measure the level of oxygen emitted by trees that contribute to the environment’s overall health and air quality, and survey an area for carbon sequestration.

With the Stewardship Mapping tool, the participants learned how to create an online stewardship database or map of civic groups that have a major role in managing, conserving and protecting urban forest initiatives as well as educating the public about the environment. The free tools support effective natural resource management by providing information for advocacy, planning, informed decision-making, and standardization for monitoring, and promote investments in stewardship, operations, and maintenance.

Puerto Princesa City will use these tools to measure the value of trees in all of its parks and mangrove areas, such as the Balayong Park in Sta. Monica, and the Montible Critical Habitat area at the Iwahig Prison and Penal Farm.

USAID receives Mayor's Award in Puerto Princesa City

USAID’s SURGE Project received the Mayor’s Award during the Foundation Day celebration of Puerto Princesa City on March 5, 2018. The Mayor’s Award is an achievement award given to individuals and organizations for their exemplary contribution and commitment to improving the livability of Puerto Princesa City.

The city government acknowledged more than 100 individuals and organizations in the categories of arts and culture, good governance and public service, education, sports, environmental protection, health, and entrepreneurship, among others. This year, the city government added a special citation to recognize development partners.

USAID/SURGE was recognized for supporting the city’s economic development efforts, particularly in developing the Tourism Development Plan, strengthening investment promotions, and creating the seaweed network. Other organizations with special citations are Pilipinas Shell Foundation, Puerto Princesa Underground River Management, Department of Social Welfare and Development, Department of Agrarian Reform, Department of Budget and Management, and Department of Health.

Tagbilaran City reaps 30% increase in local economy

The local economy of Tagbilaran City was infused with almost US$96 million (PhP5 billion) in 2017. New businesses went up from 602 to 1,035, which amounted to US$23 million (PhP1.2 billion) worth of capitalization from new businesses, following the annual business registration period in January 2018. This sets the record to a 165 percent increase from 2016, while business renewals also went up from 4,231 to 4,724—which posted gross receipts to about US$65.3 million (PhP3.4 billion). This however does not mean entirely “new” businesses. It is possible that existing unregistered businesses, with stricter rules and regulations set by the city’s Joint Inspection Team, have finally acquired business permits.

“The transactions generated by these economic activities would not only mean a vibrant economy and additional income for the city government, but would also mean more jobs for our constituents,” said Tagbilaran City Mayor John Geesnell Yap II. (PNA/Tagbilaran City LGU)

USAID's SURGE Project has been working to improve ease of doing business in the CDI cities by simplifying business registration and construction permitting processes, and enhancing the skills of inspection teams in enforcing business establishment standards compliance.

Business owners fill up registration forms for business permits at the Tagbilaran City Hall.

USAID CDI partner cities in the Philippines.

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 with 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. USAID has eight CDI partner cities: Batangas, Cagayan de Oro, General Santos, Iloilo, Legazpi, Puerto Princesa, Tagbilaran and Zamboanga.

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

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