By Giulia Parzani


Philippines UR-cover.PNGThe Philippines Urbanization Review: Fostering Competitive, Sustainable and Inclusive Cities was released 29 May 2017, with funding from the World Bank’s Multi Donor Trust Fund for Sustainable Urbanization. Here are the top seven things to know about the Philippines Urbanization Review:


1) It's one of the most comprehensive Urbanization Reviews to date.
Instead of focusing on one or two specific sectors, the Philippines Urbanization Review explores a range of sectors related to urbanization in the country. It focuses on six different aspects, from lack of infrastructure to urban poverty, to city competitiveness, housing policies and land administration. It is very comprehensive and offers a strategic view of how the Philippines could benefit from their urbanization process.


2) It underlines the shortcomings of a long-lasting urbanization process.
Urbanization in the Philippines began in the early 1960s, making the country one of the fastest-growing areas in the region. After almost 70 years, cities today represent 70% of the country’s GDP, 44% of the total population and 58% of the total income. In the case of the Philippines, however, urban density has not necessarily corresponded with economic prosperity. Aside from historical reasons and structural issues, this is largely due to density, distance and division.


3) It identifies three major reasons the Philippines does not benefit from urbanization.

  • Density. Population growth in major urban centers has not been accompanied by investments in functioning public infrastructures, causing expensive and unreliable access to services, high traffic and weak access to international markets.
  • Distance. Far from international markets, Filipino urban centers are barely connected with each other. Scarce connectivity causes low trade, limited mobility of goods and people, and mismatches between the supply of skills and the demands of jobs – resulting in unemployment and underemployment.
  • Division. There is a high rate of under- and unemployment among the urban poor – 29% compared with 14.7% for the urban non-poor. This gap mirrors a society that is strongly fragmented, and urban areas characterized by high levels of economic, social, and spatial exclusion.


5) It exposes the issue of resilience of cities.
A consequence of spatial exclusion and a lack of affordable accommodations is the creation of informal settlements. More than 5% of the urban Filipino population lives in informal settlements, which are more susceptible to climate change effects and natural disasters. The also enhance economic vulnerability and are exposed to floods, water pollution, and fire. Environmental sustainability and resilience are top concerns for urbanization in the Philippines. The review offers five priority areas of action for this issue.


6) It proposes recommendations in two key areas: Urban density and city competitiveness.
Of the five recommendations included in the Philippines Urbanization Review, two are critical with major concerns for a broader impact in the country. First, the Philippines should manage the existing urban density and prepare for further concentration through land planning, affordable housing policies, infrastructure development, and service delivery. Second, city competitiveness should be improved to generate local economic development and foster job creation. To do so, the government is encouraged to simplify business registrations and tax regimes, improve access to land and markets, and strengthen the innovation and research system.


7) Additional recommendations include inclusive growth, a National Urban Policy, and strengthened land systems.
In addition to the two key recommendations above, the Urbanization Review identifies three additional priorities. They are:

  • Promoting inclusive growth by creating opportunities for the urban poor, enhancing livelihood and resiliency of local communities, improving job prospects and education, strengthening institution, and promoting economic, social and spatial inclusion of the urban poor;
  • Strengthening institutions and metropolitan governance for better delivery of infrastructure, services, and resilient urban planning through the adoption of a National Urban Policy; and
  • Strengthening the land administration and management system to promote city competitiveness and sustainable urbanization.


About Urbanization Reviews
The World Bank's Urbanization Reviews offer a framework for city leaders to make tough decisions on development in their cities by providing diagnostic tools to identify policy distortions and analyze investment priorities. They help answer critical questions related to urbanization and seek to build a body of knowledge on urbanization challenges and public policy implications in a variety of country settings.