WHILE the Philippines has experienced unprecedented levels of growth, much of that growth has been concentrated in just three regions in Luzon.
The need for a more inclusive growth has been cited to ensure that the gains in the economy are shared with the rest of the country.
The United States Agency for International Development (USAID) sees the development of secondary cities as a way to bring more growth to cities and spill over to its surrounding rural areas.
The Cities Development Initiative (CDI) is part of the partnership between the US and Philippines for growth agreement that aims to accelerate a more broad-based inclusive growth in the country.
USAID mission director Gloria Steele said 62 percent of the country’s growth is generated from Metro Manila, the Calabarzon region and Central Luzon. The CDI puts attention to cities surrounded largely by rural areas with hopes of spreading growth to these municipalities.
She said that if these cities are lifted up and become a market for the surrounding rural areas, they can bring the market closer to rural providers of products and services and eventually link these products and services to the region and the rest of the world.
The CDI provides a wide range of technical assistance to help cities put programs in place that would ensure growth that is environmentally sustainable and resilient.
They piloted three cities for the CDI and have reported good results in the cities Cagayan de Oro, Iloilo and Batangas. These include reducing the time to issue business permits by lessening the number of steps and signatures required.
Steele said that the work they have done with these cities have paid off, citing that Cagayan de Oro emerged as the most competitive city in the National Competitiveness Council’s 2013 competitiveness rankings while Iloilo ranked second.
They have noted increases in the number of business registrations, which they expect will mean a better economy for these cities and higher revenue to implement better programs in their cities. For cities to grow, they will also need resources to improve education to strengthen their workforce and health to ensure they are healthy.
Clay Epperson, said they choose cities with an enabling environment for growth, credible government officials who are committed to implement reforms, and have an active private sector and civil society who will cooperate with the initiative.
After these three pilot areas, they are extending the project to the cities of Zamboanga and Tagbilaran. Asked of the security of Zamboanga is a cause of concern, Epperson said they are aware of the security issues the city is facing and admitted that it is going to be a challenge. However, he said they are working with local authorities and that their challenges will be different from the work they had to do in Cagayan de Oro and Batangas.