Which is the Philippines' best-planned city?

By Jeo Angelo Chico Elamparo, ABS-CBNnews.com

Posted at Mar 11 2014 08:31 PM | Updated as of Mar 12 2014 07:43 AM

MANILA – In an effort to encourage sustainable and equitable city planning in the Philippines, the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) will sponsor building the best-planned city in the country.

During the Second Annual Pacific Cities Sustainability Initiative (PCSI)'s Forum held at the Manila Golf Club in Makati City, USAID, in partnership with several other organizations, announced that it will sponsor the First Livable Cities Design Challenge.

The competition aims to encourage city planners to design cities "that offer safety, convenience, livelihood, lifestyle and sustainability that attract people to live, work, and play."

The participating cities come up with a strategic vision and plan that will reflect the contest's criteria.The winning plan will receive funding from USAID to bring the vision to reality.

The total number of cities invited to participate in the event was narrowed down to 21.

They are: Angeles, Bacolod, Baguio, Baybay (Leyte), Butuan, Cebu, Cagayan de Oro, Davao, Iloilo, San Fernando (La Union), Legazpi, Marikina, Ormoc, Olongapo, Pasay, Pasig, Roxas, Surigao, Tacloban, Valenzuela, and Zamboanga.

USAID representative Gloria Steele said that aside from promoting inclusive growth to rural areas, her organization wants to replicate the success it achieved when it helped several Philippine cities in the past years.

“When the idea of spreading inclusive growth in different places geographically and hoping to create growth areas outside of that concentration of growth came to us, we piloted three cities: Iloilo City, Cagayan de Oro and Batangas City and working with them, providing them technical assistance, to be competitive, to try to grow, I’m very pleased to say that last year, Cagayan de Oro ranked number one in the most competitive cities in the Philippines, of the 50 cities that were looked at. And Ilo-ilo City was number two. And so there was something to it.”

By launching the competition, USAID hopes to foster among the participating cities a global response at the local level, empower their strategic regional coordination, urge them to conserve natural resources by using their lands wisely, create mixed-income livable communities in their respective areas, and cultivate their leadership, invention, and entrepreneurship consciousness.

"We want to be able to promote inclusive growth but we want that to be sustainable. And in order to be sustainable, the cities need to be resilient, need to be prepared to mitigate the impacts of global climate change. So we had been planning this, we had been planning to expand from three cities to more cities. And then the idea of this competition came. I thought that this was going to be a very good stepping stone," said Steele.

She said that aside from the technical assistance, the winning city will be given other privileges such as business loans to attract more investors, educational and academic assistance, and other aid.

“The cities that would win, that may qualify for our project will become the next Cagayan de Oro, the next Ilo-ilo City, the next Batangas, that will receive a convergence of all the programs that we have here in the Philippines. That would mean education, health, economic growth and of course, support for the environment and energy.”

The competition consists of three phases that will take place during the next 6 months. The judging period and selection of winner, meanwhile, is set in August this year.