Page last updated at 05:21 Asia/Manila, Monday, 07 October 2013 PH
A new World Bank Report entitled "Planning, Connecting, and Financing Cities--Now: Priorities for City Leaders" has just been published on time for the leaders of Cagayan de Oro City to meet the challenge in the next ten years or so to build a productive, inclusive and sustainable metropolis. An article in the World Bank Research Digest (Volume, Number 2, Winter 2013) summarizes a framework that will be very useful to Mayor Oscar Moreno and his municipal board, in cooperation with the Cagayan de Oro Chamber of Commerce and Industry Foundation and other NGOs in this city of some 600,000. CDO fits very well the prototype of a city contemplated in this study of seven countries (Brazil, China, Colombia, India, Indonesia, Korea, and Vietnam) where detailed urbanization reviews were carried out. In these countries, surging populations are placing intense pressure on basic services and urban infrastructure at a time when cities still lack the resources and institutions to provide all new arrivals with access to jobs, housing, and basic services. And so migrants often settle in slums and areas vulnerable to the effects of climate change to be close to jobs and opportunities. The tragic case of the typhoon Sendong that caused the loss of lives and the more recent courageous move of the CDO municipal government to remove sidewalk vendors from a busy street in CDO have posed a serious challenge to the new leaders to prepare a realistic plan for the orderly and peaceful urbanization of CDO .
The main dimensions of the framework that can guide the work of the policy makers are as follows:
--Planning--Top priority should be assigned to land management. CDO has a total land area of some 57 million hectares, divided into District 1 (43 million) and District 2 (14 million) District 1 has 24 political subdivisions while District 2 has 16. As of 2010, agricultural lands accounted for 36 per cent; open spaces 30 per cent and residential 12 percent. The rest were divided into commercial (0.44 per cent), industrial (0.24 per cent); exempt properties (7 per cent) and other properties (14 per cent). So that private investments can be attracted to locate in the city, policy makers must strengthen land use planning and coordinate it with infrastructure, transport, and natural hazard risk.
--Connecting--Cities need to connect people with jobs and schools, and businesses with markets. The appropriate infrastructure will be determined by the speed and magnitude of urban growth. There must be a careful study of the short- and medium-term priorities. Such an analysis has to be coordinated with the land use policy that will be promulgated by the City Government. In the case of CDO, which is still partly rural, there must be a clear delineation of areas that can still be planted to high value crops like vegetables and fruits; commercial zones where BPO/KPO offices can be constructed; and industrial zones for manufacturing enterprises that can be attracted to the City and its environs from such countries as Japan and South Korea. The 12 percent of the land area devoted to residential construction must be further expanded to include socialized housing projects to meet the need of the informal settlers to be relocated from areas that are at risk from natural calamities. I strongly suggest that socialized housing must be located as close as possible to work opportunities, even if market values of land are to be partly disregarded.
--Financing--As more BPO, tourism and manufacturing investors are attracted to locate in the CDO area, bigger and more reliable sources of tax revenues for the City government will become available. The City Government must be creative in leveraging land markets in the commercial and industrial zones, as well as the residential districts for high-priced housing, so that it can approach local-currency debt markets. LGUs can issue municipal bonds, especially in today's favorable condition of excess liquidity in the domestic financial markets.
The World Bank report contains examples from the seven countries where it carried out detailed urbanization reviews. For example, coordinating public and private finance is recommended but requires clear rules. Ghana encouraged public-private partnerships in the urban water sector starting in 2002, but lack of transparency and accusation of corruption very quickly led to their failure. In this regard, the new Administration of CDO must do its best to recover the confidence of its constituents that was lost because of perceived lack of transparency of previous administrations. Land use policies must be aligned with infrastructure plans, such as for public transit. The CDO Government may want to watch closely what Mayor Joseph Estrada and his municipal council are doing in the City of Manila to alleviate the maddening traffic situation.
In Tunisia, the national upgrading program reduced slum housing from 23 per cent of the housing stock in 1975 to only 2 per cent in 1995. This feat is not beyond the capability of the CDO government as long as it fully utilizes the close cooperation of civil society, such as the Gawad Kalinga movement, Habitat, the efforts of the Catholic church and academe, the proactive role of real estate developers willing to incorporate into their housing strategy certain socialized housing components. Among the progressive real estate developers that have already implemented effective inner city socialized housing strategies in Quezon City is PHINMA Properties, a subsidiary of the PHINMA group that owns one of the leading educational institutions in CDO. Indeed, despite the difficult challenges it faces, the CDO Government has never been in a better position to realize the goal of a "peaceful, orderly, livable city with a modern trading and services center where there are equal opportunities for its disciplined citizens to develop and prosper in a clean and healthy environment" (Vision for CDO). For comments, my email address is email@example.com.