Strengthening Urban Resilience for Growth with Equity will improve the economic competitiveness and resilience of secondary cities in the Philippines.

Second-tier cities like Iloilo are expected to become engines of economic growth in the Philippines.

Metro Manila, Cebu, and Davao have long been the largest local economies in the Philippines, but the country’s secondary cities are quickly emerging as the natural and preferred engines of future economic growth. These cities must generate new, globally competitive jobs that are more socially inclusive; more geographically distributed; and less vulnerable to extreme weather events. The challenge is how to best realize the potential of these cities to become more globally competitive and less vulnerable to all types of disruptions.

To help meet this challenge, the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID from the American People) has engaged ICMA to implement the USAID/SURGE project (Strengthening Urban Resilience for Growth with Equity). The five-year project, starting in July 2015, focuses on secondary cities outside of Metro Manila, starting with Batangas City, Puerto Princesa City, Iloilo City, Tagbilaran City, Cagayan de Oro City, Zamboanga City, Legazpi City, and General Santos City. The objectives of USAID/URGE are to

  1. Improve local capacity in inclusive and resilient urban development
  2. Promote low-emission local economic development strategies
  3. Expand economic connectivity and access between urban and rural areas
  4. Strengthen multi-sectoral capacity to ensure inclusive growth.

Among the measures of success are the number of cities with improved urban planning capacity; the number of city regulations and administrative procedures simplified; increases in locally generated revenue sources, private investment, jobs, and new business registrations; overall ranking in sub-national competitiveness indices; number of stakeholders with increased capacity to adapt to the impacts of extreme weather events; improvements in land tenure; reductions in the time and cost of transporting goods between cities and their surrounding areas; and improvements in access to safe drinking water, sanitation facilities, and social services.


ICMA’s approach recognizes that the project’s objectives require more than economic interventions; they also require efficient and equitable governance. The project works within the existing legislation, regulations, and policies of the Government of the Philippines and through existing government agencies and departments with responsibility for local development—and involves stakeholders from each city government, business community, local academic institutions, women’s organizations, and other civil society groups.

Because of the multidimensional scope of the project, ICMA has assembled a team of implementing partners and resource organizations in the United States and the Philippines:

  • The Louis Berger Group, with more than four decades of experience in the Philippines, brings its expertise in private sector strengthening, value chain development, urban development, infrastructure, and catalytic economic investments.
  • Banyan Global, a small, U.S.-based, women-owned firm, contributes expertise in market-tested, private sector–led health, gender, and social inclusion programming.
  • Land and Governance Innovations Consultants supports all USAID/SURGE activities to build local governance capacity.
  • ICLEI Southeast Asia Secretariat brings expertise in climate adaptation and low-emission growth in the Philippines and a track record of innovation and success in converting climate data into effective local initiatives to reduce greenhouse gases.

The League of Cities of the Philippines, an ICMA International Affiliate organization, has been tapped to serve as the key anchor to ensure that the knowledge-building and management activities developed under USAID/SURGE can be replicated and institutionalized after the program ends. The work of the SURGE project is highlighted in the Cities Development Initiative Newsletter and in these articles:

ICMA Volunteers Share Leading Practices for Revenue Generation

Strengthening Local Capacity in the Philippines: Exciting Progress

Check out the story map below to learn more about USAID/SURGE progress and successes!


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