World Bank urges inclusive-growth focus all over PH, not just in urban areas
MANILA, Philippines – The huge number of Filipinos flocking to more developed cities to seek greener pastures has made Philippine urban areas, specifically Metro Manila, the second most densely populated in East Asia, according to study released by the World Bank on Monday.
World Bank economists told a videoconference that given the segmentation of Metro Manila and surrounding urban areas into a number of local government units (LGUs), the national government must come up with a governance model that would promote inclusive growth across the country.
“The urban landscape of the Philippines is polarized, with one megacity urban area, Manila, and a number of much smaller urban areas. There is a “missing middle,” an absence of medium-sized competitors to the capital,” according to the World Bank report titled “East Asia’s Changing Urban Landscape: Measuring a Decade of Spatial Growth.”
The World Bank has noted that “Manila” as an urban area is not limited to the capital city but could as well refer to the expanse of 85 cities and municipalities in seven provinces that are closely “involved in its governance.”
Data as of 2010 showed that the Philippines had the fifth biggest urban population in East Asia, which jumped from 17 million people in 2000 to 23 million five years ago.
“The average population density of urban areas in the Philippines, 10,300 people per square kilometer in 2010, was the second highest in the region,” just lower than that of South Korea’s, the World Bank said.
But unlike South Korea’s stable urban population density, the Philippines has seen its average population density in urban areas rise from just 9,500 people per square kilometer 15 years ago.
Manila, in particular, is the “undisputed primate city” in the country with 16.5 million residents in 2010, hence making it among the region’s megacities with a population of 10 million or more.
The Manila urban area is also one of the densest in the Philippines… [and] is becoming even denser. Its population density increased from 11,900 people per square kilometer to almost 13,000 between 2000 and 2010,” according to the World Bank.
While a vast urban center, the report noted that Metro Manila, since comprised of 17 LGUs having different leaders and set of local laws, has shown “metropolitan fragmentation.”
Abhas Jha, sector manager for transport, urban and disaster risk management at World Bank East Asia and Pacific, said that one challenge for Metro Manila would be to determine a good model for leaders to govern such a politically segmented area.
Given that urbanization has been happening very fast in Metro Manila, risks from climate change as well as natural calamities and disasters must also be addressed by putting in place better infrastructure, Jha said.
“If you have rapid urbanization without proper infrastructure, you may end up in an optimal situation during disasters,” he warned.
For Axel van Trotsenburg, World Bank’s vice president for the East Asia and Pacific region, while urbanization would not necessarily be a bad thing, Filipinos in the countryside should as well be provided with job and livelihood opportunities so that they would not have to go to the capital city.
“We would like to see inclusive growth as a national concept in the Philippines, not just a capital-centric concept,” van Trotsenburg said.
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