After garnering the highest points in all categories, Davao City and Agoo town in La Union were adjudged as the country’s top model city and municipality, respectively, at The Manila Times Philippine Model Cities Forum and Awards held at the Conrad Manila in Pasay City on Tuesday.

Themed “Making Cities More Inclusive,” this year’s forum recognized the top model cities and municipalities of the Philippines and also gave awards on various areas of excellence such as peace and order, social services, livelihood and employment.

The forum also recognized the country’s best-governed cities and municipalities as models of efficient delivery of services, such as mobility, infrastructure, housing, health, security and peace and order, tourism and livelihood.

TOP CITIES The Manila Times President and CEO Dante “Klink” Ang 2nd (extreme right), poses with representatives of the winning model cities and municipalities. With them, from extreme left are The Manila Times Chief Operating Officer Blanca Calilung Mercado, co-presentors Gilles Hage, Lamudi VP for Commercial Strategy,  Loren Sales; Phirst Park Homes VP for Customer Management Group; and lawyer Eleanor Roque (8th from right), P&A Grant Thornton Tax Advisory and Compliance Division principal and head during the presentation of awards at the Conrad Hotel in Pasay City on June 19, 2018. PHOTO BY ANDREA DE LA CRUZ

“The award came as a surprise to us,” Zuleika Lopez, Davao City administrator, jokingly said as she read a prepared speech from Mayor Sara Duterte.

Lopez thankd The Manila Times for the award as the most livable urban center in the Philippines, saying such prestigious recognition “inspires them to continue achieving their vision for all Davao City.”

“We take each compliment with humility and enthusiasm in giving our citizens and our guests the comfort and security that they deserve,” she said.

Lopez also thanked Davaoeños and private sector partners in working together to bring Davao City to the height of progress.

“Challenges in the past will only spur us to stand tall, united and resilient,” she said.

Meanwhile, the cities of Bacolod and Laoag were adjudged as the second and third top model cities, respectively.

Bacolod City was the overall winner last year.

The winners for each category were Davao City for Safe Haven award (peace and security – crime rate), Santa Rosa, Laguna and San Jose del Monte, Bulacan for Environment Friendly (clean and green – reforestation projects and public spaces, such as parks and sports facilities), San Fernando, Pampanga for Tourism Hub (business and leisure tourism spots and facilities), Bacolod City for Business Friendly (ease of doing business) and Tagaytay for Retirement Haven (facilities for local and foreign retirees).

Winners for other categories included Zamboanga for Education Hub (public scholarship, city-funded schools and educational facilities), Lipa, Batangas and Bacoor, Cavite for Social Service-Oriented (public services, programs on health, nutrition, senior citizens, etc.), Mandaluyong City for Wealth Center (investment friendly and improved tax collection), Parañaque City for Livelihood and Employment Haven (jobs and programs for self-sufficiency of residents) and Laoag for Emergency/Disaster Management (improved emergency response and rescue).

Agoo, La Union, was awarded as the most livable municipality, followed by Pulilan and Guiguinto in Bulacan.

Guiguinto also bagged the Safe Haven category, while Agoo won Tourism Hub award, and Pulilan, Bulacan was named the Education Hub.

Nunungan town in Lanao del Norte bagged the Social Service-Oriented award, and Balabagan, Lanao del Sur took home the Emergency/Disaster Management trophy.

The panel of judges was composed of Architect Felino Palafox Jr., Lea Roque of P&A Grant Thornton, Loren Sales of Phirst Park Homes and Rosemarie Bosch-Ong of Wilcon Depot.