Chapter 5. Cebu, Philippines

Chapter 5 describes the natural disaster risks facing Cebu (Metro Cebu). The chapter begins by examining the threat of natural disasters in Cebu, and how the metropolitan area can build greater resilience systematically and comprehensively through a variety of means.

This chapter is divided into three sections: 1) the natural hazards that pose the greatest risk to Cebu are identified; 2) the current state of DRM policy in Cebu is assessed; and 3) governance issues of vertical and horizontal co-ordination are discussed.

This chapter draws on the key findings of the OECD study “Green Growth in Cebu, Philippines” (OECD, 2017). It also benefitted from discussions held during the fifth Knowledge-Sharing Workshop, ‘Creating a Sustainable and Resilient Cebu’, that took place in Cebu (8-9 December, 2015).

Main Points
  • Metro Cebu is located on an acutely high risk area which is consistently ranked among the most vulnerable countries in the world. Its undulating topography in combination with heavy precipitation exposes it to severe flooding in low lying areas and landslides in steeply sloping zones. Cebu is also subjected to occasional typhoons. Longer-term, “slow-onset” climate change impacts include heat waves, sea level rise, water and food security issues, and saltwater intrusion into coastal aquifers and water wells. The metropolitan area also lies in close proximity to three fault lines and earthquakes are a major concern.

  • All the 13 local government units (LGUs) in Cebu have taken steps to identify hazards and their potential impact as part of LGU’s Disaster Management Plans, mandated by the Philippine government’s Disaster Risk Reduction Management Act. In addition, Metro Cebu’s Roadmap Study for Sustainable Urban Development has undertaken detailed studies to identify physical and environmental features which make it vulnerable to natural disasters and pose a risk to the metropolitan population, and developed a comprehensive set of hazard assessment maps. It could be complimented by a detailed vulnerability and risk assessment identifying a number of non-physical parameters, such as socio-economic and demographic variables, including at risk population. Such a framework is yet to be mainstreamed and integrated into urban development policies of Cebu province and of the 13 LGUs.

  • Investing in Metro Cebu’s critical urban infrastructure, in particular in the water supply in the face of growing climate change and natural disaster threats is critical to the enhancement of DRM. In addition, contamination from the inadequate construction and maintenance of residential septic systems and dumping of solid wastes into local water bodies threatens the potable water supply and exacerbates flooding risks. Critical urban infrastructure projects that achieve “co-benefits” across different sectors should be prioritised to ensure best value for taxpayers’ money.

  • Even though the Philippine Development Plan 2011-2016 prioritises LGUs’ capacity building to improve their ability to deliver public services and accountability, the LGUs in Cebu still face great difficulties in undertaking infrastructure development that could enhance DRM. In particular, there is still a significant gap between LGU responsibilities on DRM mandated by the central government and their budget and capacity. The Metro Cebu Development Coordinating Board (MCDCB) and Mega Cebu Development Authority (MCDA) are an opportunity to enhance metropolitan DRM planning and horizontal governance in Metro Cebu.

Natural disaster risks

The Metropolitan Area of Cebu (Metro Cebu) is located on the central-eastern flank of Cebu Island and covers an area of 1 163 m² (Figure 5.1). It extends along a narrow 70-kilometre coastal strip of territory between mountain ranges that traverse the island’s north-south spine and the Strait of Cebu. The City of Cebu lies at the centre of this metropolitan area and is the capital of the Province of Cebu, which is largely focused on the Island of Cebu, and covers an area of 4 944 km². In 2015, Metro Cebu was home to a growing population of 2.8 million people and is the second largest metropolitan area in the Philippines. By 2050, this population is expected to double (JICA, 2015).

Figure 5.1. Map of Metro Cebu by local government unit

Source: Global Administrative Boundaries (2016), available at:

Metro Cebu has persisted in the regional planning of the Central Visayas Administrative Region (Region VII) since the early 1980s (Mercado, 1998). Prior to the formation of the MCDCB in 2011, there was no formal basis for metropolitan planning and development. Today, seven city and six municipal LGUs form Metro Cebu. In economic terms, Metro Cebu is a regionally prominent and growing centre of commerce, trade, education and industry. During the last 20 years, Metro Cebu has transformed into a global hub for furniture-making, tourism, business processing services and industry. It is also the location of the Philippines’ second largest airport and a regionally significant port.

The Island of Cebu lies in the centre of the Philippine archipelago. It is characterised by limestone plateaus, hills and mountain ranges reaching 900 metres above sea level. The island is equally characterised by long and narrow coastal plains (it is 196 km long, 32 km across at its widest point and covers an area of 4 500 km2). In the City of Cebu, these low lying areas extend a few kilometres inland from the coast and represent about 8% or 25 km2 of the total land area. Despite the small area, this land hosts approximately two-thirds of the city’s population (Cebu City, 2010). This pattern appears to be repeated across the breadth of Metro Cebu’s 12 other LGUs. Cebu is surrounded by a further 170 islands, the largest being Mactan Island which is located in close proximity to the east of Cebu City and connected via two large bridges (construction of a third bridge is anticipated in the near-term to alleviate peak-hour traffic congestion).

The Philippines is situated in an acutely high risk area and is consistently ranked among the three most vulnerable countries in the world according to the World Risk Report (UNU, 2015). For example, between 1995 and 2015, 274 disasters afflicted the country, the fourth highest total globally after the United States (472), China (441) and India (288) (UNISDR, 2015). Moreover, the financial impact these natural hazards impose is significant. Metro Cebu is afflicted by geophysical and climate-related natural hazards, and is characterized by a tropical climate of dry and monsoonal seasons. It regularly experiences severe flooding, especially after heavy precipitation during the wet season from June to November and seasonal tropical storms. On the one hand, Metro Cebu’s topography is undulating and mountainous with heights reaching 900 metres above sea level. On the other hand, as already mentioned, low lying coastal land extending a few kilometres inland hosts a large proportion of the population. The challenge the local geography imposes, in combination with heavy precipitation, leads to severe flooding in low lying areas and landslides in steeply sloping zones as well, such as at the ‘foot’ of the Mananga Watershed (Marvette, 2014). Moreover, it should be noted that Cebu faces longer-term, ‘slow-onset’ climate change impacts including heat waves, sea level rise, water and food security issues, and saltwater intrusion into coastal aquifers and water wells.

Cebu is also subjected to occasional typhoons. In November 2013, Super Typhoon Haiyan (Yolanda) became a Category 5 typhoon, the strongest ever recorded at the time, with wind gusts in excess of 300 kilometres per hour and an associated storm surge that reached as high as 3.5 metres along some coastlines with more vulnerable coastal bathometric profiles (NDRRMC, 2013a). In Cebu, it made landfall twice in the north of Cebu Island with as many as 1 million people evacuated beforehand (UNISDR, 2016). As a country, more than 1.1 million houses were damaged, half of which were completely destroyed. It also killed over 6 300 people, left more than two million homeless, and affected over 13 million people in the Philippines (NDRRMC, 2013a). In total, over USD 12-15 billion in damages were recorded, which is small in comparison to other recent disasters in more developed countries due to the higher asset values. Nonetheless, the Typhoon Haiyan damage bill represented about 5% of the Philippines’ total GDP in 2013 (Bloomberg, 2013). An equivalent level of damage to the United States of America’s economy would amount to USD 850-900 billion. In terms of insured damages, an analysis by Kinetic Analysis Corporation estimated that only about 10-15% of the total losses in the Philippines were insured compared with about 50% for Superstorm Sandy (United States), which led to around $50 billion in economic damages (Bloomberg, 2013).

The metropolitan area also lies in close proximity to three fault lines including the North Bohol Fault which in addition to soft soil composition in certain quarters, exacerbate the metropolitan area’s vulnerability to disaster that would otherwise be reduced if one of these two factors were not present (Silva, 2015). In 2013, Cebu experienced a magnitude 7.2 Bohol earthquake. Although the metropolitan area was not at its epicentre, it caused USD 2 billion in damages and affected 870 000 people (NDRRMC, 2013b). In the broader region of Cebu, the earthquake also damaged nearly 1 000 houses, in addition to local infrastructure and community facilities.

Assessment of DRM policies

Land-use policies

Cebu’s DRM policy frameworks stand out as a model from which other Southeast Asian cities can learn, partly due to the strong legislative DRM measures the Government of the Philippines has promulgated in recent years. In 2009, the Philippines legislature introduced the Climate Change Act, followed by the 2010 Disaster Risk Reduction Management (DRRM), and the adoption of a Strategic National Action Plan for DRR (Executive Order No. 888). These legislative measures have led to the development of a DRRM framework focused on three core areas: i) strengthening the institutional capacity for DRM efforts; ii) mainstreaming and integrating disaster risk reduction measures into national, sectoral, regional and local development policies, plans and budgets; and iii) better management of the government's fiscal exposure to natural disaster impacts (World Bank, 2015a). As part of this national mandate, all the LGUs are required to develop their own Disaster Management Plans (DMPs) as a means to provide an organisational framework and clarify the roles and responsibilities of various local government agencies in the event of a natural disaster.

Despite such a well-articulated planning framework for DRM, it appears that LGUs in Cebu still have much to do. A major issue is to integrate DRM into their land use plans. In the Philippines, urban development is regulated by comprehensive land use plans (CLUPs) and legally binding zoning ordinances. While the development of CLUPs is a responsibility of Metro Cebu’s 13 LGUs, there is a lack of capacity and political will to carry out such a task. As a result, many CLUPs and zoning ordinances in Metro Cebu have not been updated for a long time, thus not yet reflecting DRM approaches. At present, only a few LGU, including Lapu Lapu and Mandaue in Cebu Province, have submitted updated CLUPs to Cebu’s Provincial Planning and Development Office (PPDO), which were forwarded to the National Economic Development Agency (NEDA) for final approval.

International communities have been supporting Cebu in this regard. In 2012, the Metro Cebu Development and Coordinating Board (MCDCB), along with the Japanese International Cooperation Agency (JICA) and the City of Yokohama (Japan), initiated the “Metro Cebu Vision 2050” and “Roadmap Study for Sustainable Urban Development in Metro Cebu”. The primary focus of the initiative was the production of a blueprint to guide the city’s sustainable development, and one of its main axes was to make it more resilient to natural disasters For example, the Roadmap proposes “urban limits” that will restrict land use in zones at risk of flooding or landslide. An important next step for the 13 LGUs in Metro Cebu is to reflect the proposed land use in the Roadmap into their CLUPs.

The Global Initiative on Disaster Risk Management (GIDRM) has supported a “risk-informed” land-use planning tool which incorporated GIS mapping capabilities in the LGUs of Abuyog and Leyte in the Eastern Visayas, and is currently being applied in Metro Cebu as well. This disaster risk assessment tool demonstrated its utility and added value by influencing Abuyog’s Comprehensive Land-Use Plan (CLUP) which incorporated risk-based geo-hazard mapping into its final design. The elements of the proposed 20-year CLUP included disaster risk-informed locations for public transportation corridors and transit hubs, diversionary periphery roads, as well as essential public infrastructure, schools and hospitals. It also considered public open space and buffer zones for rainwater drainage, sea level rise, and land-use zoning designations for different industrial, commercial, retail, and residential uses. This demonstrates the influence that such risk-informed mapping could have in terms of strengthening DRM efforts on the CLUP process more generally in Metro Cebu.

Further assistance from international communities would help gain political support among all 13 LGUs to design and implement a coherent and comprehensive spatial land-use plan taking DRM into account. The MCDCB would be the most logical location to house a GIS mapping/CLUP support unit to work with and serve the LGUs in the most cost-efficient and professional manner. This would also contribute to LGU capacity building. In addition to those physical attributes analysed and mapped by the GIDRM tool, Metro Cebu could also consider incorporating a number of non-physical parameters, such as socio-economic and demographic variables, including concentrations of highly vulnerable populations, as well as the location of insured vis-a-vis uninsured assets.

Water infrastructure

This study has found that investing in Metro Cebu’s critical urban infrastructure, particularly ensuring water supply in the face of growing climate change and natural disasters threats, is critical to the enhancement of DRM. The provincial government has long been aware of the “quiet” crisis threatening its limited freshwater resources. However, these concerns have grown more acute in recent years as sea levels rise and groundwater over-extraction continues, compromising freshwater supplies. In addition, contamination from the inadequate construction and maintenance of residents’ septic systems and from improper dumping of solid and liquid wastes into local water bodies has further threatened potable water supplies. This combined threat has resulted in freshwater being more susceptible to both natural disasters like storms and flooding as well as to long-term, slow-onset climate change, such as continued sea level rise and changes in precipitation patterns (longer droughts and more powerful deluges of rain).

In 1999, Cebu’s University of San Carlos the Water Resources Centre requested assistance from the Royal Netherlands Embassy, which resulted in a joint project called the Water Remind Project (2003-2008). One of the main policies that emerged from that partnership was the Water Resources Management Action Plan for Central Cebu (2005-2030). Almost every critical issue raised in the WRMA Plan remains relevant today, and has been confirmed by the Metro Cebu Water District and JICA’s more recent assessments of Cebu’s water supply and sanitation systems in terms of supply and demand, and the investment projects needed to bring them back into balance. Among the more salient findings common to these assessments were the following issues:

  • Degradation and contamination of both surface water and ground water supplies continues largely unabated. There is a growing gap or imbalance or over-drafting of over 150 000 cubic metres per day (m3/day) or roughly 2/3 more than the current supply of potable water for the area’s residents, businesses, and farmers.

  • Fragmented water providers and lack of effective co-operation, collaboration and co-ordination between cities and municipalities in the province, which continues to be a critical obstacle to comprehensively addressing the challenges posed by growing water demand and climate change threats.

  • Inadequate demand-side management measures have not significantly slowed down growing demand for potable water driven largely by rapid population growth in the province. These measures include: reducing water delivery system losses; installing household rainwater collection systems and other water-saving devices like faucets, showerheads and toilets; or marginal cost pricing schedules and not charging hook-up fees for new connections.

  • Protection of critical watersheds and water resources in critical recharge areas is still lacking. There is little credible enforcement of existing land-use regulations and unregulated water abstractions from groundwater wells in these areas.

Since 2012, the MCDCB has consistently promoted the preparation of a master plan for flood control and drainage by region VII of the Department of Public Works and Highways as one of its top priorities. In 2015, the MCDCB presented a study on the “Impacts of Groundwater Extraction” and commissioned a further study to analyse the water tariff structure and existing institutional structures as the basis for policy recommendations moving forward. Likewise, JICA’s three studies focused on a number of short-, medium- and long-term projects to address the future water needs of Cebu from the combined impacts of continued population growth, climate change and natural disasters:

  • The Sub-Roadmap for Water Supply: this sub-roadmap called for the construction of new surface water impoundment dams and reservoirs, development of new, regulated upland groundwater wells, and use of recycled water and reductions in non-revenue water losses.

  • The Sub-Roadmap for Storm Water Management: this sub-roadmap reiterated the MCDCB’s request for an integrated flood control and drainage system master plan, the cleaning of rivers, creeks and drainage canals running through populated areas, and the construction of large water storage facilities.

  • The Sub-Roadmap for Wastewater Management: this sub-roadmap called for the construction of seven septage treatment facilities stretching from Danao City in the north all the way to Carcar City at the southern end of Mega Cebu region. These treatment plants will handle the septic sludge collected from household septic tanks by vacuum trucks. JICA built the first demonstration plant in Cebu City and was trying to “turn over” the management of the plant to the Metro Cebu Water District over the past year, but there have been problems in consistently operating it properly.

In the long run, it is envisioned that Cebu (at least more populated areas) will construct and operate a centralized sewage treatment system over the next 15-35 years. However, the phased approach of building a cluster of septage treatment facilities over the next few years may be a more cost-effective, pragmatic and politically viable interim course of action for Cebu to take.

Disaster risk financing

Cebu lacks the adequate financial resources to meet the scale of the challenges posed by natural disasters, similarly to the other case study cities. Cebu relies heavily on tax revenue transfers from the central government and international donors to supplement internal budget allocations for green growth and DRM investments. Dedicated climate change funds, such as the Green Climate Fund and Adaptation Fund, are difficult and time-consuming to access with no track record of “direct funding” to subnational entities.

Pre-arranged contingency lines-of-credit from multi-lateral development banks have been deployed in the Philippines at the national level, and such instruments are fundamental to prepare for, and recover from, large-scale natural disasters in Cebu. In late 2011, the Government of the Philippines negotiated a USD 500 million Catastrophe Deferred Drawdown Option (CAT-DDO) loan with the World Bank that it could access in the immediate aftermath of a large-scale natural disaster (World Bank, 2015b). It was released following the devastating tropical storm Washi (known locally as Sendong). A second contingency funding agreement spread over a three-year drawdown period and renewable for up to 15 years was signed in late 2015.

The Government of the Philippines has almost tripled its DRRM Fund from about PHP 2.7 billion (USD 54 million) in 2006 to PHP 7.5 billion by 2013 (World Bank, 2015b). Moreover, the government has begun implementation of the Disaster Risk Financing and Insurance Strategy to establish more risk financial mechanisms, such as the USD 500 million contingent lines-of-credit, signed with the Japan International Cooperation Agency (JICA) in 2014, which was modelled on the CAT-DDO loan. The Philippines’ Department of Finance (DoF) is also working to establish a subnational insurance pool to provide LGUs with immediate liquidity following large-scale natural disasters, and to design a property catastrophe risk insurance pool for homeowners and businesses. These are intended to deal with smaller and more frequent natural disasters and will complement the CAT-DDOs which are reserved for large-scale emergencies. The DoF is also setting up a social safety net system of emergency income and recovery assistance support to the poor, who are most vulnerable to natural disasters.

At the local level, the Disaster Risk Reduction Management (DRRM) Act in 2010 requires LGUs to establish a DRM contingency fund of at least 5% based on recurring sources of revenue. This fund is expected to complement national funds and be used for local-scale emergencies. However there is still a significant gap between LGU responsibilities and their capacity. In order to address the capacity gap for LGUs in Cebu, collaboration between the DoF and Cebu province should be pursued to create a metropolitan scale contingency fund. A VRA will be required to ensure effective co-ordination among all levels of government.

Microinsurance may also be a key element at the local level, especially for the poorest populations. In the Philippines, the industry is growing, reporting 31.1 million microinsurance beneficiaries in 2014, up from 19.8 million in 2012 and 2.9 million in 2009 (GIZ RFPI, 2015). The insurance providers responded effectively after Supertyphoon Yolanda (also known as Haiyan) in November 2013, paying out more than 100 000 microinsurance claims within the first three months, amounting to approximately half-a-billion PHP. The average amount per claim paid was PHP 4 777. What started only as a corporate social responsibility program by some insurance providers has proven it could also generate some profit for the companies. This microinsurance framework could be a source of inspiration for other countries and for the other case study cities.

Strategies to unlock finance for DRM are critical. The budget of the 13 LGUs in Metro Cebu is PHP 3.4 billion in total in 2014, of which only 31% account for local own revenue on average. There are opportunities to raise and diversify local revenues, in particular tariffs and user charges that can simultaneously promote green growth and DRM objectives. In addition, the national government’s transfers should be better aligned with DRM objectives as necessary contributions towards urban resilience. Attracting private investment should also be emphasised: FDI inflows have been lower in the Philippines than in all other countries of the Southeast Asian region, in particular because of the strong restrictions imposed by the government, which could be loosened at the subnational level to encourage green growth and DRM related investments.

It is not known precisely what percentage of Cebu’s climate-resilient infrastructure investments are being made with local sources of private finance or through domestic capital markets. However, it is clear that Cebu’s political and community leadership understands the importance of forming public-private partnerships, and is actively embracing collaborative actions and building coalitions between the private and public sectors with full civil society engagement for that purpose, as evidenced by the continuous dialogue taking place among local stakeholders in the government, private sector and civil society represented on the MCDCB. The MCDCB can function as a catalyst to increase the banking and investment communities’ awareness of the role they can play in supporting climate-resilient investments and initiatives.

Assessment of DRM governance structure

Metro Cebu’s cross-cutting approach brings together central and local government, as well as civil society and private stakeholders, as part of its green growth agenda which incorporates a broad plan to build DRM. The Roadmap Study for Sustainable Urban Development in Metro Cebu sets out concrete and comprehensive measures to enhance DRM, and has been supported by international partners. Cebu’s highly collaborative working relationships between the public and private sectors, CSOs and NGOs, allow it to respond in a more holistic and integrated manner to prepare for and respond to the expected and unexpected impacts of natural disasters.

The Philippines’ cities and municipalities serve as the primary planning and implementing unit of government policies, plans, programmes, and activities. The 1991 Local Government Code delegated to LGUs the responsibility for delivery of basic services that previously had been the responsibility of the national government, as well as considerable discretion over local taxes. It granted LGUs regulatory powers and increased available financial resources. In terms of DRM, LGUs are also acknowledged as first responders. Efforts to enhance governance and LGUs capacities are continuing: the National Economic Development Agency’s Philippine Development Plan 2011-2016 has an entire chapter dedicated to good governance and the rule of law. It prioritises empowering LGUs via capacity building to improve their ability to deliver public services and promote public accountability.

In practice however, the governance system is plagued with problems and LGUs in Cebu have faced great difficulties in undertaking sustainable growth and infrastructure development that could foster urban green growth and DRM. There is a significant gap, in particular, between LGUs’ responsibilities, their budget and capacity, and legal authority still largely held by the national government in key green growth opportunity areas.

Vertical and horizontal co-ordination

The Philippines has made a concerted effort to align national and local planning through the Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Council (DRRMC). The DRRMC oversees national and local government efforts to build DRM against natural disaster and was born out of an international partnership between the World Bank and the Government of the Philippines. It is a working group of various government departments and non-government organisations administered by the Office of Civil Defense. The Council’s organisation is divided along the four aspects of DRRM: i) disaster preparedness, ii) (immediate) response, iii) prevention and mitigation, and iv) rehabilitation and recovery. The council has adopted the UN’s community-based “Cluster Approach” within its DRRM framework focused on three key objectives to: (a) strengthen the institutional capacity for DRRM efforts; (b) mainstream and integrate DRRM measures into national, sectoral, regional and local development policies, plans and budgets; and (c) better manage the government's fiscal exposure to the impacts of natural disasters.

At the same time, more than 80 provincial Offices for Disaster Risk Reduction and Emergency Management complement these local and national efforts to mitigate the potential effects of the various natural hazards and vulnerabilities that might affect the province by: assisting the implementation of measures to preserve life and property and further minimise casualties and damage; responding and managing the needs of affected populations and local jurisdictions during emergencies; providing a recovery system aimed to return the province to “normal” as early as feasibly possible after a natural disaster.

The DRRMC assists and co-ordinates with local government DRRM offices at the municipal, city and barangay level. In the City of Cebu, the Cebu City Disaster Risk Reduction Management Office (CCDRRMO) co-ordinates its activities and plans with the MCDCB through the Research, Program & Organizational Development (RPOD) unit within the Ramon Arboitiz Foundation Inc. (RAFI), which organizes and convenes meetings of appropriate sub-committees, “focus area-based committees,” and the full executive committee. Both the MCDCB and RAFI/RPOD have institutionalised disaster risk reduction/management and climate change adaptation as core focus areas in recent years. These initiatives to enhance DRM governance through the MCDCB and RAFI/RPOD in tandem with local DRRM offices are a positive development, although in this nascent form, it is too early to assess the results achieved from this initiative. The recognition of the on-the-ground role of local government as first-responders in the event of disaster has led to the establishment of equivalent DRM offices in nearly 1 500 LGUs across the country. Moreover, the initiative has allocated specific financial budgets and staff resources. The central task of this local office is to prepare a local DRM plan as part of efforts to mainstream disaster planning, prevention and response efforts (Government of the Philippines, 2011).

LGUs in Cebu have faced great difficulties in undertaking sustainable growth and infrastructure development that could foster urban green growth and enhance DRM. There is a significant gap, in particular, between national policy objectives and concrete action taken by LGUs on the ground. There is a lack of sectoral national policy frameworks, resulting in an absence of explanation of the role to be played by LGUs as well as the resources to do so. In parallel, the translation of existing national legislation and policy frameworks at the local level is relatively inefficient, characterised by an over-reliance on regulatory approaches rather than outreach, collaboration, and capacity building.

Strengthening the legislative mandate of the regional metropolitan body

There is a lack of horizontal policy co-operation and co-ordination between Metro Cebu’s 13 LGUs. Metro Cebu’s rapid expansion has exacerbated and highlighted several challenges associated with the provision of critical urban services, environmental management and DRM. There appears to be no easy conduit to horizontal integration and information sharing between existing LGU planners which would better co-ordinate CLUPs across LGU boundaries. This has resulted in many isolated initiatives and policies in critical green growth sectors that have not addressed the metropolitan scale of Metro Cebu’s growth, and also led to incoherent policies across jurisdictions.

The challenges associated with horizontal co-operation among LGUs seem to have been a major driver in the formation of the Metro Cebu Development and Coordinating Board (MCDCB), a consortium of the 13 LGUs of Metro Cebu, regional line agencies of the national government, private sector representatives and civil society organisations (Box 5.1). The MCDCB has been successful in developing a strong and coherent regional vision – synthesised in the JICA Mega Cebu Roadmap study – and serving as a strong advocate to the national government as regards capital funding, policy implementation, and LGU capacity building. While it is still early to assess the extent of the MCDCB’s collaborative planning and trust amongst LGUs, the MCDCB continues to actively demonstrate success in collaborative dialogue and advancing plans and projects in a way that co-ordinates, but does not prejudice the autonomy of affected LGUs.

Box 5.1. The Metro Cebu Development Coordinating Board (MCDCB)

The Metro Cebu Development Coordinating Board (MCDCB) is a co-ordinating body for metro-wide planning and development that was created on April 1, 2011 through a Memorandum of Agreement (MOA). It is a consortium of the 13 LGUs composing Metro Cebu (7 cities -Cebu, Danao, Mandaue, Lapu-Lapu, Naga, and Carcar and 6 municipalities - Compostella, Liloan, Consolacion, Cordova, Minglanilla, and San Fernando), regional line agencies of the national government, private sector representatives and civil society organisations. The key objectives of the MCDCB are to:

  • Act as a co-ordinating body and platform for inter-jurisdictional challenges and responsibilities;

  • Be a platform for inter-jurisdictional co-ordination between the public and private sectors and local and national governments;

  • Be a launch pad for collective action and impact (recognising the importance of collaboration in developing policy and priority coherence, improving capacity, etc.); and

  • Be a vehicle for regional, national and international co-operation.

The MCDCB model is unique in its explicit engagement with, and leadership from, the private sector and civil society. This model of including both the private sector and civil society at the board-level of a regional organisation can be seen as a means to institutionalise innovation, accountability and transparency. The private sector offers resources and is a main driver of economic growth and in bringing in technology and innovation.

Having the private sector and the civil society at the table as a co-chair sends a clear message in terms of integration and in providing an environment conducive to business, investment and community. The fact that the idea for co-ordination stems from the private sector also facilitates broad local government engagement in that project ownership is seeded more broadly, rather than with one or two local governments or officials. The MCDCB has also undertaken a strong branding and outreach programme, with brochures, videos and other tools. However, there are some questions as to the role of the private sector and civil society in establishing public policy where elected officials must be responsible for implementation (e.g. zoning, parking restrictions, etc.).

Source: OECD (2017), Green Growth in Cebu, Philippines, OECD Green Growth Studies, OECD Publishing, Paris,

Currently missing is a metropolitan policy-making entity to co-ordinate the efforts and resources of the myriad stakeholders in Metro Cebu with the legal mandate and authority to compel the 13 LGUs and regional or national public agencies into compliance. That co-ordination needs to occur at a metropolitan area scale for a number of reasons, including the limited resources and capabilities of most LGUs individually, and the geographic scale, severity, and long-term impacts and costs associated with climate change and natural disasters.

However, the financial resources and power of MCDCB are limited and prevent further benefits emerging from this promising governance initiative. Currently, operations of the MCDCB are supported through non-specific financial contributions from the member LGUs as well as through grants, donations, national government appropriation, and other sources. In addition, LGUs are still the units in charge of adopting the CLUP, and MCDCB only pushes them to follow through. There is only a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) between MCDCB and LGUs, but not a regulatory relationship. Because LGUs cannot afford a planning department staffed by professional planners, and therefore cannot fulfil the obligations to complete a CLUP, the impact of the support of MCDCB to prepare CLUPs has been limited so far.

In 2015, the MCDCB prepared and submitted a bill to create the Mega Cebu Development Authority (MCDA). As of November 2018, the bill has been revised several times and is still under discussion in the national Congress. The bill is informed by the Metropolitan Manila Development Authority created in 1975 and influenced by the regional district model created through British Columbia’s Local Government Act (Parts 6, 8 and 13). The main purposes of the creation of MCDA are: i) to recognise a more institutional approach to metropolitan and integrated development planning; ii) to foster co-operative relations between and among metropolitan and surrounding cities and towns; iii) to ensure active participation by the private, business, and civil society sector; and iv) to implement a national government-approved Metropolitan Cebu Roadmap and other subsequent and related metro-wide roadmaps and plans. If the bill is enacted, MCDA would administer the affairs of MCDCB.

The draft Mega Cebu Development Act will enable the MCDA to assume the planning function primarily for the area of Metro Cebu through the development of a dedicated office in charge of technical research, development and planning. This co-ordinated planning function will enhance planning capacity and allow the Mega Cebu 2050 Vision priorities to be identified and advanced. The MCDA would be governed by the Mega Cebu Development Board. The Chair of the Board would be elected among the Governor and Metro Cebu mayors on an annual basis.

The bill is structured to ensure there is no loss of autonomy for local government units. A similar approach was undertaken in British Columbia, where the legislation guiding the role and authority of regional districts around regional planning clearly speaks to a collaborative relationship, but authority over land use planning at the local level. The “soft” relationship is both successful in terms of partnership and collaboration and shared vision, but challenged by an inability to require the vision to be implemented. If the MCDA approach is not efficient, alternative options could be explored to improve implementation of metropolitan policies. In Iskandar, service level agreements have been set up by the Iskandar Regional Development Authority (IRDA) to encourage collective action into concrete projects on the ground (see Section 0).

While MCDA will surely be a powerful tool to enhance horizontal governance in Metro Cebu, the drafting and development process of MCDA should also be an opportunity to tackle vertical and financial governance issues. The draft legislation still reflects a disconnect between a required relationship with the national government in terms of the dependencies on that level of government to implement LGU priorities (e.g. approvals, inclusion of Mega Cebu development plans and investment programmes in the Philippines Development Plan and Public Investment Programme) and the level of authority granted to national level officials in the proposed MCDA administrative structure (i.e. a Director of the Regional Office sits on the Board “as may be necessary to pursue the mandate and scope of services of MCDA” with one vote). It is not clear where the value proposition is for national government buy-in to the MCDA as proposed in the bill.

Stakeholder engagement

There is room for improvement for engaging NGOs, local citizens and businesses for DRM. While NGOs and urban communities in the Philippines are quite active in general, there are very few measures and training initiatives which cover topics related to DRM. This is leading to a lack of public awareness about available assets and procedures to follow during an emergency.

Main policy recommendations
  • Develop a comprehensive VRA and asset inventory to incorporate non-physical parameters, such as socio-economic and demographic variables, including concentrations of highly vulnerable populations, as well as the location of insured vis-a-vis uninsured assets.

  • Assist the 13 LGUs to reflect risk-informed or geo-hazard mapping commissioned by initiatives like the GIDRM or donors like JICA into their CLUPs and other urban development plans and strategies.

  • Link water infrastructure investment with solid waste policies in order to achieve “co-benefits” across different sectors.

  • Collaborate with the DoF and Cebu province to create a metropolitan scale contingency fund.

  • Build on the successful activities of MCDCB and strengthening the legislative mandate of the metropolitan body for DRM planning and horizontal governance in Metro Cebu by establishing the Mega Cebu Development Authority.

  • Assist the 13 LGUs in building capacity to effectively access the growing quantity of private funds, including international climate funds.

  • Explore local private finance by raising the banking and investment communities’ awareness of the role they can play in supporting climate-resilient investments and initiatives.

  • Increase fiscal transparency of local governments by disclosing fiscal situations in an internationally comparative way.


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Marvette A. D (2014), “DENR-7: 14 barangays prone to landslide, flood”. News article on the Freeman.

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NDRRMC (2013a), Final Report re_Effects_of_Typhoon_Yolanda Haiyan, National Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Council, available at: (accessed 30 August 2018).

NDRRMC (2013b), Final Report re Effects of Magnitude 7.2 Sagbayan, Bohol Earthquake, National Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Council available at: (accessed 30 August 2018).

OECD (2017), Green Growth in Cebu, Philippines, OECD Green Growth Studies, OECD Publishing, Paris,

Silva V. (2015), Mapping of fault lines in Cebu done this year, available at: (accessed 29 August 2018).

UNISDR (2015), “The Human Cost of Weather Related Disasters”, available at: (accessed 28 August 2018).

United Nations University (UNU) (2015), World Risk Report 2015: Food insecurity increases the risk of disaster, available at: (accessed 28 August 2018).

World Bank (2015a), Implementation Completion and Results Report on a Loan in the Amount of US$ 500.00 Million to the Republic Of The Philippines for the Disaster Risk Management Development Policy Loan with a Catastrophe Deferred Drawdown Option (CAT-DDO), Washington, D.C.: The World Bank.

World Bank (2015b), “New Initiative to Boost Resilience Against Natural Disasters”, available at: (accessed 29 August 2018).

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