Your Crème de la Crème in Terms of Economy, Governance, Infrastructure, and Resilience
Ah, the Philippines. A lush, tropical land with over 7,100 islands, 1,489 municipalities, 81 provinces, and 145 cities—all great options for finding a place to live in. After all, what makes a place livable may vary from one person to another. One may prefer big cities over small towns for accessibility, or remote islands over metropolitan areas for peace and quiet—and the Philippines has all that and more.
But there will always be some that outrank the others. And in this article, we list the cities that stand out in terms of competitiveness. This means that these areas use resources efficiently enough propped by sound governance that it improves the standard of living—making it more livable for its residents.
But how exactly do you determine competitiveness? The National Competitiveness Council in the Philippines (NCC) measures it in four ways: a city’s economy (the capacity for business expansion and job creation), government efficiency (the quality and reliability of government services and support), infrastructure (physical building blocks that help sustain the city), and resiliency (the capacity to perform despite problems or stressors that may come up).
These make up the Cities and Municipalities Competitiveness Index, a national framework that’s used as a guide for assessing an area’s development, choosing business locations, creating reforms, picking vacation spots—and in this case, determining the best places to live in the Philippines.
Let’s look at the top 8 most competitive—and most livable—highly urbanized cities in the Philippines, as determined by the NCC.
1. Quezon City
You would think that the most populous and largest city in Metro Manila would be far from livable, but Quezon City is a bustling urban center that has a lot to offer its more than 3 million residents. In fact, the World Bank considers it to be “one of the richest and cleanest in the Philippines”. In a survey conducted by AsiaBiz Strategy, it was listed as one of “10 Asian Cities of the Future”. And in the NCC’s report, the city ranked first overall and first in infrastructure.
And rightfully so; for many of the people living and working there, the city offers just the right amount of conveniences. Quezon City is a shopping haven, with more than 28 shopping centers complexes scattered around the city. It has the second densest concentration of IT parks and buildings in the country, is home to main broadcasts stations of the country’s biggest media conglomerates, and is part of major thoroughfares and transportation systems in the area. It’s also considered the country’s largest service economy, with more than 58,000 registered retail and wholesale businesses.
And yet, the city is still in constant development. It has a number of road improvement and flood management projects in development. To improve the efficiency of its public transportation network, aBus Rapid Transit line spanning 12.3 kilometers from Quezon Memorial Circle to Manila City Hall and a 9.77-kilometer rail project along Quezon Avenueare in the works.
On the other side of the metropolitan area is the capital of the Philippines, Manila. It’s where the seat of the Philippine government is located so it’s no surprise that it was ranked first in government efficiency by the NCC. It also ranked second overall.
With sixteen districts and more than 800 barangays, the city is touted as the hub of the country’s economic, political, social, and cultural activity. It’s a bustling, dynamic area with an urban landscape and the world’s oldest Chinatown, with shopping mall after shopping mall and museums and theaters. Historical landmarks dot the city, offering a lens into the country’s culture, heritage, and history.
The city also offers numerous business opportunities. As the nation’s international port of entry, it has industries in shipping, trucking, hauling, warehouses, and manufacturing. Numerous retail and service company are also found across the city: hotels, computer shops, appliance centers, food chains, and more.
And while Manila has a lot of nostalgic, time-tested structures, there are still a lot of exciting development plans for the city. A flood management project that involves rehabilitation of pumping stations is underway and the city is part of some major public transportation projects that are in development, including the Manila-Quezon Bus Rapid Transit line, a number of railway lines, and the Mega Manila Subway project. There are also plans for a new big reclamation project in Manila bay: the construction of three islands for a P100-billion, 419-hectare commercial district that will create a new skyline for the metropolis and develop the waterfront to international standards.
For the next one of the list, let’s head down south, to the coastal city of Davao in Mindanao. As the largest city in the Philippines in terms of land area, it is home to more than a million residents from different ethnic groups. It has also proven to be a hardy and prepared city, ranking first in resiliency and third overall in the NCC’s report. It excels primarily in its land use plan, disaster risk reduction plan, annual disaster drill, early warning system, and local risk assessments. In 2014, the city received an ASEAN certificate of recognition for its environmentally sustainable practices in the category of Clean Land for Big Cities.
Not only is the city home to the highest peak in the Philippines—Mt. Apo—it is also considered the premier agricultural and trade center and one of the financial hubs in Mindanao.A good portion of the area’s land is used for timberland and forest, agriculture, and producing bananas, coffee, coconut, and pineapple. Davao is also the Durian capital of the country and houses the Durian Dome, celebrating the spiky fruit that is abundant in Mindanao.
The residents of Davao have seen numerous developments in recent years, but there’s still a lot more in store for this city. There’s the City Bypass project, which involves a road section of 37.17 kilometers, a tunnel section of 2.28 kilometers, and bridge sections with 5.13 kilometers. There are plans to modernize the Davao Sasa Port to complement the growing export-related manufacturing industry in the city, and there are also development and maintenance projects for the airport. A Light Rail Transit system that will serve the coastal areas of the city is also in the works.
Let’s go back up to Metro Manila—to the city of Makati, a major cultural and entertainment district.It’s where people go to work, shop, and do business. Skyscrapers, major banks, department stores, and shopping malls dot the city’s landscape, and it also offers much in terms of culture and art. As the country’s financial hub and premier business district, it’s no wonder that it was ranked first in economic dynamism by the NCC, and fourth most livable city overall.
The city has the largest concentration of commercial activities in the Philippines: it has 2.75 million square meters of prime office space, a sprawling business district, more than 60,000 business establishments, 58 hotels, and 4.5 square meters of prime office space inventory. It’s also the Philippines’ primary link to international finance and the global economy and is home to 50 foreign embassies, 43 consulates, and 17 international organizations.
A number of projects are in development for this highly urbanized city, including a flood management project and several railways.
Adjacent to the capital city is the city of Pasay, known for its entertainment district and tourist belt. The NCC ranked it first in availability of basic utilities under Infrastructure, and fifth overall.
As home to the Ninoy Aquino International Airport (NAIA) and the Villamor air base, Pasay is a facilitator of trade among the local government units in Metro Manila. It’s also an international gateway. On top of that,its prime location has opened up numerous business opportunities for utilities, residential areas, public terminals, and commercial activity, plus several industries such as financial services, medical services, retail and general merchandising, and light manufacturing—adding up to a total of more than 8,000 registered enterprises in the city.
The city has several projects underway, mostly around the airport. In development is a four-lane elevated expressway that will provide better access to Terminal 1, 2, and 3 and reduce traffic congestion. Pasay also has a flood management project in the works, and is part of several planned railway systems.
Let’s head over to Pasig. Before Metro Manila was formed, this city was the provincial capital of Rizal. Now it is a part of the urban landscape of the metropolitan jungle that is the National Capital Region. The city has been named an outstanding culture friendly local government unit by UNESCO and the National Commission for Culture and Arts, and was ranked sixth most competitive city overall by the NCC. And until 2005, the city also held the Guinesss World Record for the largest secondary school in the world for Rizal High School in Caniogan, with a population of around 20,000 students.
For the longest time, Pasig was primarily a residential area but has become increasingly commercial in recent years. It is home to the Ortigas Center, which is one of the top business districts in the country. The headquarters of the Philippine Stock Exchange and the main office of the Department of Education are also in the city. Several factories, warehouses, and various establishments and commercial facilities help form the city’s economic landscape.
Pasig is an ever-growing city and plans for its development are aplenty: it’s part of a flood management project in Metro Manila and several road link projects to other business districts in the capital. There are also measures to address traffic congestion in the area through roadwork and transportation alternatives.
Below Pasay lies the city of Paranaque, also considered to be competitive and livable by the NCC. This city has gone a long way from its rural routes, with major industriesfarming, fishing, and livestock. There are still small fishing villages around the area plus a seaside market but now its strategic location makes it an important center for trade and business in Metro Manila too.
The city is also aiming to be the country’s top tourist and entertainment destination. In fact, in recent years, the city has seen the rise of several world-class hotel resorts and leisure establishments, earning the nicknames The City of Lights and The Bay City. Several shopping centers can be found in the area too, not to mention the flea market in Baclaran. As for business registrations, there has been a substantial uptick compared to previous years.
Paranaque has gone through major developments recently, but it’s not stopping there. It has several roadwork projects in the works, including the 7.7-kilometer Cavite Expressway C5 South Link project, which will help the traffic situation and link the city to major business districts in Makati and Taguig. The city is also part of the Bay City Development project and the Mega Manila subway.
8. Cagayan de Oro
Lastly, we head back down south to the city of Cagayan de Oro, the city of golden friendship and the gateway to Northern Mindanao.
The NCC listed it as the eighth most competitive city, and it’s easy to see why. Aside from being the regional center and business hub of Northern Mindanao, Cagayan de Oro has seen a surge in population in recent years. People from neighboring cities and all over the country are coming to the city for more opportunities, so much so that the city is poised to become the newest metropolitan center in the country.
There’s no other way to go than up for Cagayan de Oro, and its upcoming projects are a testament to that. The city has a flood risk management project in the works, and its airport and portwill alsoundergo major development and modernization work. It has also been selected as one of the pilot areas for the national government’s sewerage project.