METRO Cebu still has 12,485 hectares of land that can be developed, a study of the Japan International Cooperation Agency (Jica) said.

But while land is available, the Jica Study Team (JST) noted that development will not be able to cope with the steady increase of the population in Metro Cebu, estimated at 60,000 people every year.

“The annual expansion of total new residential area is not enough to accommodate such an increase but can only accommodate about 30,000 persons. The rest of the additional population is accommodated in the existing urbanized area, including informal settlers,” the team said in its findings.

The JST was commissioned by the Metro Cebu Development and Coordination Board (MCDCB) to make a roadmap study for sustainable urban development in Metro Cebu.

The study, completed last December, will be the basis for the programs and projects that the MCDCB will lobby to realize the Mega Cebu 2050 Vision 2050.

The realization of the vision involves, among others, the coordinated planning and management of land, other natural resources, traffic and garbage in the 14 local government units (LGUs) in Metro Cebu.

The last census in 2010 showed that Metro Cebu has a population of 2.5 million, which is expected to balloon to 3.8 million in 15 years.

“Continuous population increase will translate to high density in the existing urbanized area, cause environmental deterioration and exacerbate urbanization pressure,” the JST said.

But there is a large development potential in Metro Cebu, it said. Carcar City alone still has 3,327 hectares of land that can be developed.

To develop some of these idle lands, the City Government wants to take out a loan from the Development Bank of the Philippines to build a P600-million Carcar City Center in Barangay Poblacion III.

Phase one would cover a new city hall, a public transport terminal and a public market.

The City’s loan application is pending before the Provincial Board for review.

Carcar’s population in the last census was around 107,000, which is expected to increase to 190,000 in 2030.

Mandaue City has the smallest area available for development among the 13 towns and cities in Metro Cebu with just 157 hectares even when it is the third most populated area.

Cebu City is the most populous city with a population of over 850,000 in 2010, which could increase to over a million in 2030. It also has the second smallest area available for development.

Lapu-Lapu City is the second most populous city but it also has the second largest land area available for development with 2,069 hectares, followed by Danao City with 1,429 hectares of land available for infrastructure projects.

In the south, the Provincial Development Council has endorsed a 550-hectare economic zone, which will cover Naga, Minglanilla and Talisay City.

The three LGUs have a total of 1,835 hectares of land available for development.