HOW do we measure a city’s success? Cebu’s newest cities—Bogo, Carcar and Naga—are in a good position to face this question squarely, before they have to bear the problems that older and larger cities now face, including floods and heavy traffic.
One measurement favored by some local officials is revenue, which tends to increase after a town becomes a city. In his State of the City Address last Monday, Mayor Valdemar Chiong reported that the City of Naga’s revenues grew by P414 million between 2007 and 2013.
Bogo and Carcar, which also became cities in 2007, can also report higher revenues since the change. From 2007 to 2012, Bogo’s revenues increased by P178 million, while those of Carcar grew by P215.5 million, according to the audit commission.
But sound financial statements aren’t the only measure of a city’s health. Mayor Chiong acknowledged as much, when he said that the City needs to create an Environmental Management Office to take charge of conservation, pollution prevention and the safety of the city’s water supply.
There is a need to rethink the way we assess our cities, and this assessment must incorporate how well each city works with surrounding communities in solving problems that respect no boundaries.
Consider public transportation. Imagine the opportunities and benefits that could be unleashed, if residents of Cebu’s far-flung towns had a more efficient means of reaching Metro’s Cebu’s workplaces and schools. This is something that Cebu’s cities and towns can make a united push for, as this is something no single community can solve on its own.
The island’s smaller cities can learn what to do (and what not to do) from the challenges that now confront the older, busier cities of Cebu, Mandaue and Lapu-Lapu.
For example, deliberate growth boundaries, like greenbelts and mangrove forests, may not be popular. These may drive up the cost of housing, by limiting the amount of land that can be developed. But such planned zones have also been shown to save lives, such as by providing a buffer against tsunamis or storm surges.
While there’s still time, Cebu’s younger cities will need to plan for the challenges that growth will bring. Defining what a successful, sustainable city is would be a good place to start.