Cities Development Initiative

Under the Partnership for Growth with Equity, USAID is strengthening the economic competitiveness and resilience of secondary cities outside of Metro Manila through the Cities Development Initiative (CDI). CDI seeks to advance the development of these cities as engines of growth that is inclusive, environmentally sustainable and resilient. Depending on the most urgent needs of the city, USAID provides a range of technical assistance, drawing from resources in economic growth, health, energy, environment, governance and education, to help cities achieve inclusive and resilient growth.

Cities as Engines for Growth

In general, growth trajectories of nations are closely linked to the urban environment, where cities act as engines of growth. If urban growth is well planned, cities can accelerate regional economic growth, innovation and prosperity. While megacities like Metro Manila command much more economic and political attention, smaller cities (fewer than one million inhabitants) are the locus of urban growth and urban population concentration. Important contributors to national wealth and productivity, these secondary and tertiary cities are a vital focus for development programming and growth in the Philippines.

Following the selection of the first three pilot cities, USAID, in partnership with the cities, conducted a constraints analysis to determine their priority sectors and projects needed to accelerate growth. Based on these analyses, city action plans were developed to address economic growth, education, environmental resilience, and health challenges. USAID and its city partners, including local government and the private sector, work together, with mutual commitment and responsibility, to finalize and implement the action plans. To date, five more cities have been selected as CDI partner cities—Legazpi, Zamboanga, Tagbilaran, Puerto Princesa and General Santos.

CDI Approach: Expected Impact in the Philippines

CDI fosters more vibrant and livable cities for balanced urban growth. By uniting in partnership, USAID and the target cities expect to contribute to more economically thriving growth centers outside of Metro Manila. CDI provides an opportunity for USAID to strengthen its programming by being more strategic and focused in pursuit of shared objectives across its portfolio in the areas of economic development and governance, education, health and environment.


  • The first three pilot cities—Batangas, Iloilo and Cagayan de Oro—under the CDI partnership have significantly reduced the time, steps, and costs of registering and renewing business licenses. From as long as 17-19 days and 27 steps, registering a new business was streamlined to less than an hour in processing time that requires only 2-4 steps.
  • Steps and time to renew a business permit were cut down to 2-3 steps from as high as 17 steps, and a processing time of less than an hour from 3 days.
  • Cagayan de Oro and Iloilo were ranked numbers 1 and 2 respectively in a 2013 competitiveness ranking of 122 Philippine cities.

Last updated: October 27, 2017

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