Cities Development Initiative Newsletter

USAID and COMPETE Program team during the Partners' Forum in Makati City.

USAID's COMPETE Program shares milestones at Partners' Forum

“I am proud to say that our partnerships with the national and local government units, and the private sector have yielded significant achievements. Together, we have established better infrastructure, advanced the competitiveness of key sectors and improved access to credit,” said USAID Deputy Mission Director Clay Epperson during the culminating event of the U.S. Agency for International Dvelopment's (USAID) Advancing Philippine Competitiveness (COMPETE) Project in Makati City on September 22, 2017.

Some of USAID/COMPETE’s milestones that were achieved in a span of five years include 1) approximately 3,800 kilometers of high priority tourism roads constructed across the country which doubled tourism revenues and also connected rural communities reducing the time and cost of transporting goods significantly; 2) further enhancement of the business environment most especially in Mindanao with the opening of the Roll-on/Roll-off (RORO) link; 3) cheaper electricity in four regions with USAID’s facilitation of US$3.3 billion (PhP168.6 billion) in aggregate power supply agreements for electric cooperatives; 4) strengthening Palawan’s seaweed industry which helped coastal communities generate more income; and the 5) Development Credit Authority - Loan Portfolio Guarantee (DCA-LPG) partner financial institutions disbursement of US$37 million (PhP1.9 billion) in loans for business opportunities for more than 120 small and medium enterprises.

COMPETE is a USAID/Philippines project under the Partnership for Growth with Equity (PFG), a bilateral initiative through which the U.S. Government and the Government of the Philippines work together to improve economic growth and development in the Philippines.

Zamboanga City ranks most improved competitive highly urbanized city

Zamboanga City in Western Mindanao was recognized as the most improved highly urbanized city (HUC) in terms of overall competitiveness during the 5th Regional Competitiveness Summit and Awards Ceremony held on August 16, 2017 in Manila.

The National Competitiveness Council (NCC), in partnership with the Department of Trade and Industry (DTI) and Globe, organized the ceremony to award the most competitive local governments from all over the Philippines based on the 2017 results of the Cities and Municipalities Competitiveness Index (CMCI). Also in the HUC category, Zamboanga City ranked as the 16th most competitive, 16 notches higher than its ranking in 2016. The city ranked 4th in the same category for resilience, the CMCI’s new pillar, and 19th for infrastructure.

Zamboanga City Mayor Maria Isabelle Climaco (center) and representatives of the Zambaonga City Government received the plaque recognizing the city as the most improved highly urbanized city in terms of overall competitiveness.

In 2014, Zamboanga City became the fourth city to join USAID's Cities Development Initiative (CDI), which supports partner secondary cities fulfill their potential as engines of inclusive, environmentally sustainable, and resilient economic growth. USAID, through its Strengthening Urban Resilience for Growth with Equity (SURGE) Project, assisted Zamboanga in mainstreaming urban resilience and gender considerations into its development plans and policies, streamlining its business permits and licensing system, and strengthening its local cassava industry through new market linkages. USAID/SURGE also helped the city establish and maintain a data management system to measure the city’s progress in developing into the region’s growth center.

With the streamlined business registration process, Zamboanga City experienced a 95.5 percent increase of processed new business applications and renewed permits, and 20.7 percent increase of revenue generated from business registration fees in the first quarter of 2017, compared to the same period last year.

Developed by NCC with the assistance of USAID, the CMCI measures the overall local competitiveness of local governments based on their performance on the four pillars of economic dynamism, government efficiency, infrastructure and resilience. Since the index was introduced in 2013, the CMCI now covers nearly all or 91 percent of 1,487 cities and municipalities.

This year’s competiveness summit emphasized the pivotal role of automation and technology in improving competitiveness and transforming the country as a business-friendly destination.

New market triples income of Zamboanga City cassava growers

Cassava is a traditional crop in Southern Philippines, a predominantly rice growing nation. The hilly terrain of Barangay Dita, a small village in Zamboanga City, has the perfect conditions for cassava. Most locals in this quiet, far-flung rural community are cassava farmers.

Samat Nasa, 49, has been farming cassava on rented land for the past thirty years. He makes a living from the soil and sea as he is also farms copra (dried coconut meat or kernel) and seaweed. He is proud of his produce for being able to feed his family and send his two daughters to college.

Nasa works with the Lubigan Multi-Purpose Cooperative, one of the biggest cassava producers in the city with about 50 farmer-members. The cooperative has more than 150 hectares of land dedicated to cassava in Barangay Lubigan, an adjacent community. He and his fellow cassava growers have been selling their cassava harvest to traders in nearby towns for the production of panggi, a customary staple food in the Zamboanga Peninsula and Sulu Archipelago. Panggi is raw grated cassava, as a less expensive substitute for rice or corn.

The price of panggi fluctuates in the Sulu Archipelago during periods of conflict. The average price of one package of panggi, which requires at least 23 kilograms of raw cassava, is US$1 (PhP50). This amount doubles when the supply of cassava decreases due to conflict in the islands.

The annual average yield of Nasa’s 1.5 hectares is 90 metric tons of raw cassava. When cassava is grown for panggi production, Nasa only harvests two sacks of cassava at a time because of the three-day shelf life of the grated root crop. On average, Nasa makes nearly US$3,921 (PhP200,000) a year if he sells his harvest for grated cassava.

“I am able to put a little money away when the demand for panggi is high, but I’m forced to use those savings when the price falls. I have come to accept that we cassava farmers have no choice because our harvest has no other market,” explains Nasa.

But Nasa has something better to look forward to. “Thanks to the city government and USAID, I am now able to sell my produce to a larger market at a more stable price.”

In February 2017, the Zamboanga City Government, with support from USAID's SURGE Project, organized the members of the Lubigan Multi-Purpose Cooperative and cassava assemblers and traders into a city-wide association to access new market opportunities.

“Small-scale farmers in remote areas are limited to selling their produce to nearby markets. Organizing these farmers, assemblers and traders into a city-wide cassava association gives them the opportunity to consolidate their produce and explore bigger and more lucrative markets,” says Ludwig Look, Cassava Coordinator of the Office of the City Agriculture.

In addition to serving as a food source, cassava production in Mindanao is increasingly driven by its use as a raw material for feed milling to support the island’s growing livestock and poultry industries. The SURGE Project is improving economic access between urban and rural areas in cities outside Manila by strengthening supply chain linkages. In Zamboanga City, cassava is one of the priority climate-resilient commodities that supports other strategic value chains across the Western Mindanao region.

San Miguel Foods Incorporated (SMFI), one of the country’s leading food companies, purchases about 650 metric tons of cassava granules monthly from local suppliers for the production of its feed mill in the city. This has partly encouraged the expansion of cassava growing in the region. The feed mill sources cassava chips for granulation from provinces almost 200 kilometers away.

The Zamboanga City Government and USAID/SURGE saw great opportunity in pursuing a market linkage between SMFI and the newly-formed cassava association. Nasa led the farmers from Dita and Lubigan in manually chipping and consolidating their raw cassava to meet the demand of SMFI. Instead of leaving the chips to dry on concrete roads or grass fields, the farmers used an elevated drying structure introduced by the SURGE Project. The ultraviolet plastic roofing and enclosure of the drier ensured that the cassava chips would meet the company's stringent product quality requirements.

Successfully delivering 20 metric tons of cassava chips to SMFI in July 2017, the farmers of the two communities earned a total of US$3,427 (PhP175,000) from their processed cassava chips. The amount is at least three times their usual earnings from selling the same volume of fresh cassava tubers made into panggi.

“In my thirty years as a cassava farmer, this is the first time that I am earning thrice as much in one harvest,” says Nasa. “Now, I can definitely save money and have enough for our usual daily expenses.”

SMFI looks forward to receiving the next batch of deliveries from the Lubigan farmers. “We intend to regularly buy cassava chips from the farmers in Dita and Lubigan. It is difficult for farmers to cultivate crops without a market. This way, we are able to provide them with options to earn higher income,” says Noel Delos Santos, Regional Manager of SMFI.

The Siete Pecados Marine Park in Coron, Palawan.

Marine park's income increases to 200% with improved management

The Siete Pecados Marine Park, a marine protected area located in Coron, Palawan in Southern Luzon that was supported by the recently completed USAID's Ecosystems Improved for Sustainable Fisheries (ECOFISH) Project, reported an annual income close to US$83,000 (PhP4.2 million). This is a 200 percent increase from their earning from user fees in 2016.

In the annual report submitted this month to the Office of the Mayor, the marine park's manager, Jojo Mazo, said the increase from US$27,327 (PhP1.4 million) earning to US$81,981 (PhP4.2 million) covering the period August 2016 to August 2017 was primarily due to the new schedule of fees that was implemented. The new resource use rates were developed as a result of a Willingness to Pay survey conducted by USAID/ECOFISH for the marine park in 2015.

In the survey, respondents indicated their willingness to increase payment for mooring, diving, snorkeling and other activities in the marine park's multi-use zone due to the demonstrable evidence of sound environmental management and good quality of marine resources.

The Siete Pecados Marine Park has a total of 52 hectares of rich marine waters with seven islets. It is located in Barangay Tagumpay in the Municipality of Coron. Its coral reefs host a diverse assemblage of colorful fish, hard and soft corals, and other rarely seen invertebrates. It is a favorite destination of local and international tourists. In 2015, it landed as a finalist to the coveted Galing Pook Award for marine conservation in the Philippines.

Cagayan de Oro launches kiosk to promote transparent and inclusive land information management

The City Government of Cagayan de Oro in Northern Mindanao launched a model prototype version of a Land Information System Kiosk during the 26th Mindanao Business Conference on September 7, 2017 in the city.

Nearly 30 percent of the city’s 57,850-hectare land area remains untitled. Access to updated and accurate land information remains a challenge due to overlapping land management and administration policies, high incidence of more than one title on the same parcel, rights recognition and outdated land records.

The kiosk is the first integrated land information platform in the country that makes available electronic land data such as building footprint, parcel shape, land use, titling status, hazard area, and open street map data in a single system. The platform was developed by USAID through its SURGE Project. The open system increases public access to accurate and updated parcel information that can contribute to transparent land information management and participatory titling initiatives in the city.

The local government has been working with USAID to improve local land tenure security since November 2016. The SURGE Project facilitated the creation of an inter-agency Land Management Council comprised of the regional and city government and local business community, to lead land governance reforms. The city government established a Land and Asset Management Office to provide land administration and management related services in the city.

The soft launch of the user-friendly and touch-screen kiosk attracted the attention of businessmen, investors and government officials during the conference.

“I first came to Cagayan de Oro in 1984 and I can really see the development in this city. It's good to see this manifested through this technology, which would also make it easier for me to relay information back to London,” said Mr. Charles Hardie of CS Hardie, a consulting agency based in London, United Kingdom.

Representatives from cities and municipalities expressed interest in developing similar platforms. Cagayan de Oro will set-up several Land Information System Kiosks for public testing and feedback in the city hall.

Puerto Princesa City launches Tourism Master Plan and new tourism brand

On September 28, 2017, the City Government of Puerto Princesa, with the City Tourism Council and USAID turned over the city’s ten-year (2018-2027) Tourism Master Plan to the Department of Tourism (DOT) during the Puerto Princesa City Tourism Summit.
Since April 2017, USAID's SURGE Project has been assisting the city in formulating a plan that will chart an environmentally responsible and socially inclusive tourism development to quadruple visitor arrivals from 850,000 in 2016 to 4 million in ten years, and to establish the city as a leading destination for business travel and regional events.

“USAID is pleased to have been a partner in supporting Puerto Princesa City to formulate a comprehensive tourism development plan that will help transform the city into the (Asia Pacific) region’s ecotourism hub,” said Jenna Diallo, USAID/Philippines Deputy Director of the Office for Economic Development and Growth.

In her message, DOT Assistant Secretary Eden David emphasized the importance of everyone’s contribution to the industry, “Tourism is everybody’s business, including the front-liners, tricycle drivers, tour guides, and even government officials.”

Puerto Princesa City's new tourism brand.

Puerto Princesa City's new tourism brand.

In line with the new plan, the City Government also unveiled the new tourism logo and tagline, “Puerto Princesa: Where nature begins and never ends”. Stakeholders will pursue the development and inclusive management of community-based sustainable tourism sites, such as the Firefly Watching at the Iwahig River and the Batak Cultural Village.

Bicol recognizes USAID for achievements in natural resource management in the region

On August 17, Jeremy Gustafson, USAID Philippines Director of Environment Office, accepted a plaque of appreciation from the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) for USAID’s Biodiversity and Watersheds Improved for Stronger Economy and Ecosystem Resilience (B+WISER) Program achievements in the Bicol Region in Southern Luzon.

Engineer Bobby D. Sheen, Assistant Regional Director, handed over the award with more than 40 representatives from six local government units (LGU), DENR offices in Region 5 and a Division Chief of the Forest Management Bureau participated in the event.

“A lot can be achieved if we work together,” said Mr. Gustafson, praising the broad participation of different stakeholders to improve natural resource management in the Quinali Watershed, one of B+WISER’s original program sites. USAID/B+WISER has been implemented in the region since December 2012 and introduced science-based conservation strategies improving natural resource management in the watershed.

The Quinali watershed is a lifeline for the Bicol region, where 70 percent of the region’s rice is produced, making its protection a high priority to improve community resilience. Along those lines, USAID/B+WISER successfully incorporated results of climate-related vulnerability assessments in local resource management plans. The program trained LGUs located in the watershed to effectively monitor the condition of riverbanks and stabilize them to improve the resilience of farming communities and the urban population.

To better protect the 7,000 hectares of remaining natural forest in the uplands of the watershed delivering important ecosystem services, management plans of two protected areas were improved by incorporating forest-specific conservation targets and protection objectives. Measurable conservation targets are main elements of the Lawin Forest and Biodiversity Protection System which, since the DENR adopted the system as part of its national forest protection strategy in March 2016, is now protecting 209,000 hectares of forest in the entire Bicol Region beyond the watershed. During the ceremony, Maria Teresa Atas, representative of Albay Governor Alfrancis Bichara, stated that the provincial government will sustain the initiatives that have been started by the project.

USAID hosts session on sustainable land resources at the 3rd ASEAN Mayors Forum 2017

On July 27, 2017, USAID’s SURGE Project hosted a session at the 3rd ASEAN Mayors Forum 2017 in Taguig, Manila. Good practices and effective partnerships on sustainable land governance were the highlights of the panel discussion ‘Making Sustainable Land Resources Work for Cities’.

Ian Lloyd of Land and Governance Innovations Consultants Inc. talked about land governance practices in ASEAN countries, and John Meadows of the Swiss Agency for Development and Cooperation described their project’s success in land governance in the Mekong Region. Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) Undersecretary Analiza Teh underscored the role of the government in land governance reforms, and Legazpi City Mayor Noel Rosal shared his city’s good governance practices. John Avila of USAID Philippines talked about USAID’s land tenure work across the globe and in the Philippines.

The ASEAN Mayors Forum, held every two years, ended with the mayors agreeing to implement the Taguig Action Agenda: Local Governments for a Stronger ASEAN. The agenda describes action points leading to the realization of the ASEAN Vision for 2025, citing the important role of local governments for ensuring people-centeredness in its growth agenda. The two-day forum, organized by the League of Cities of the Philippines, City Government of Taguig and the United Cities and Local Governments – Asia and Pacific, drew 500 local government leaders from Brunei Darussalam, Cambodia, Indonesia, Laos, Malaysia, Myanmar, Philippines, Singapore, Thailand and Vietnam.

USAID supports DOE in hosting the Asia Cooperation Dialogue 2017 in Bohol

USAID’s Building Low Emission Alternatives to Develop Economic Resilience and Sustainability Project (B-LEADERS) supported the Philippine Department of Energy (DOE) in the Asia Cooperation Dialogue (ACD) held on August 7 to 11, 2017 in Panglao, Bohol in Central Visayas.

The event gathered policy makers and implementers from Asia to discuss partnerships and strategies for energy security, sustainability and resilience. Seventy-seven representatives from 18 member states and 3 development partners comprising of energy ministers, chief executives, and other participants from various countries such as Indonesia, Thailand, Bangladesh, India, United Arab Emirates (UAE), Iran, Qatar, China, the United States, and the Philippines graced the ACD. They were joined by around 30 representatives from different offices and companies from the Philippines.

The sessions covered topics ranging from renewable energy to the renewed role of nuclear energy. The speakers and participants discussed the challenges of balancing fuel mix and policy incentives, and explored prospective areas of partnerships. Member countries of the ACD Energy Working Group concluded the conference with a planning session wherein key agreements on increased coordination and information sharing were formulated. The ACD is expected to become stronger and more active as various regional cooperation events get finalized.

Palawan conference highlights local and national research on conservation and sustainable development

In July 2017, the Palawan Council for Sustainable Development Staff (PCSDS), with support from USAID's Protect Wildlife Project, hosted the 3rd National Conference on Sustainable Development and 4th Palawan Research Symposium in Puerto Princesa City. The double event brought together advocates, academics and thought leaders from all over the Philippines to showcase researches and projects pushing for science-based, inclusive-focused and resilient biodiversity conservation and sustainable development.

Plenary discussions at the event highlighted the need for conserving biodiversity, managing natural resources and pursuing climate-smart solutions to meet sustainable development goals at the global, national and local levels. USAID/Protect Wildlife highlighted the need for governance-based conservation and development, and delivered presentations on wildlife law enforcement analysis and approaches in Palawan, geospatial analysis for land and resource use planning in the Mount Mantalingahan Protected Landscape, and the potential of Tongkat Ali (Eurycoma longifolia Jack), a flowering herb, as a sustainable enterprise for Southern Palawan.

USAID links two CDI cities with Baliwag Water District to improve sanitation services

In July 2017, USAID through the SURGE Project facilitated two partnerships to improve the sanitation services in Puerto Princesa City and Tagbilaran City.

On July 6, Puerto Princesa City Water District (PPCWD) General Manager Antonio Jesus Romasanta signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) with Baliwag Water District (BWD) General Manager Artemio Baylosis. Meanwhile on July 14, Tagbilaran City Mayor John Geesnell Yap II signed a similar MOU with BWD General Manager Baylosis.

The BWD will support Puerto Princesa and Tagbilaran in implementing a joint work plan that will finalize both cities' feasibility study, program of work, and terms of reference for a septage management program. Known as one of the pioneers in septage management, BWD mentors other water utilities toward improving their sanitation services after receiving similar assistance from USAID.

Both cities will benefit from the exchange of good practices, expertise and technology in establishing and managing a septage management facility through workshops, remote coaching and mentoring, study visits and on-the-job training.

USAID/Philippines Urban Planning Specialist Marian Cruz-Navata during the Tagbilaran City and BWD signing event affirmed, “USAID will continue to provide technical assistance to the city government to help achieve its goal of providing clean, potable, adequate, sustainable and resilient water services by 2030.”

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. 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

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

Email: comm@surge.org.ph


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