Manila, Cebu rank low in APEC city study

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Manila and Cebu have ranked low in a PricewaterhouseCoopers (PwC) review that measured the livability, sustainability and competitiveness of 28 Asia-Pacific cities.

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The global consulting firm, in its “Building Better Cities” report released on Tuesday, ranked Manila 22nd and Cebu 26th. Toronto, Vancouver and Singapore emerged as the top three cities.

PwC said it chose the 28 cities in a bid to have at least one from each of the 21 countries belonging to the Asia Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) forum, which is currently holding its annual leaders’ summit in Manila.

“All of the chosen cities are vital geographic and economic gateways to their respective markets, as well as to the wider APEC region,” it said. “The metropolises were then analyzed according to 39 different indicators grouped into five categories which we believe begin to inscribe urban health.

The five broad categories are culture and social health, connectivity, health and welfare, environmental sustainability and economics.

With 28 being the highest score, Manila was given a 15 in terms of culture and social health, 9 in connectivity, 2 in health and welfare, 3 in environmental sustainability and 7 in economics.

Cebu, meanwhile, got a 12 in culture and social health, 2 in connectivity, 3 in health and welfare, 6 in environmental sustainability and 6 in economics.

Both cities’ culture and social health scores were classified as medium.

PwC said the review aimed to provide city leaders a view of where they were now, adding that it hopes to inspire cities within APEC to collaborate and seek advice to solve tenacious problems.

The study focused on the role urban centers play in the context of APEC’s economic and social growth, and also looked at the cities’ growing influence outside their borders through three lenses: how they fare in basic city development, what differentiates them and the hindrances they face to growth.

“This dialogue is critical because cities of APEC member countries will likely form ties to other cities, and in some cases even to other national economies,” said Bob Mortiz, PwC chairman and senior partner.

Among others, the study said there was a strong link between an educated citizenry and open government and a more tolerant and well-informed society.

“Some educational initiatives are long-standing, such as Filipino cities’ century-old tradition of an English-based school curriculum. Manila and Cebu, for example, are now two of the biggest markets globally in the business process outsourcing sector. Online education, too, is expanding to fortify bricks-and-mortar education,” the study said in detailing the culture and social health rankings.

With regard to middle class growth, it noted that Manila had added “about 670,000 to its middle-class ranks since 2013.” The metropolis, along with Cebu, was said to be reaping the rewards of business process outsourcing investments.

Manila’s low connectivity ranking was traced to its public transport systems, although the report noted that a new Mass Transit Loop was being planned.

Guillermo Luz, chief operating officer of the APEC 2015 CEO Summit and co-chair of National Competitiveness Council of the Philippines, emphasized the need for city-to-city collaboration as well.

“This study provides a set of metrics and a diagnostic tool for mayors and urban planners to see how they can improve their communities to build better cities. We hope mayors use this information to see how they can evolve their cities into more livable, sustainable, and competitive places,” he said.

Ayala Corp. Chairman and Chief Executive Officer Jaime Augusto Zobel de Ayala, who serves as co-chairman of the Sustainable Development Working Group for the APEC Business Advisory Council, said the study should trigger sustained action.

“I hope it helps build the momentum towards designing, building, and redeveloping competitive cities in APEC through research and action-oriented programs,” he said.

“When people think of where to live, work, invest, and visit, they don’t think countries, they think cities. Density and diversity make cities more imaginative, so long as that density and diversity are well-managed. That’s why public-and-public collaboration is needed to keep cities competitive,” he added.

PwC said data for the study was collected during the second and third quarters of 2015 using three main sources: global multilateral development organizations such as the World Bank and the United Nations, national statistics organizations and municipal administrations, and commercial data providers.

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