Vice  President Leni Robredo delivered the keynote address and closing remarks during the 2016 International Conference on Urban Development, held at the Sofitel Philippine Plaza Manila on 13 July 2016.

            In her keynote address, the Vice President highlighted the importance of secondary cities as vital contributors to national wealth and productivity. According to Robredo, transforming these cities into engines of growth in the countryside would provide families the same socio-economic opportunities, and they would no longer have to migrate to Metro Manila and its surrounding areas.

            “Promoting secondary cities is becoming an urgent need every day, because more and more of our men and women head to the cities looking for jobs and better services. Our cities are not ready to receive them, so they end up unemployed and oftentimes homeless,” said Robredo, who was recently appointed chairperson of the Housing and Urban Development Coordinating Council (HUDCC).

            Vice President Robredo also mentioned the construction of more multi-storey in-city housing that would allow workers to stay close to their job, and transforming informal settlements into “vibrant, resilient, connected and inclusive communities”.

            “We want to address the 1.4-million housing backlog within our term. We will disrupt and innovate. We will enjoin the private sector to be our partners in providing not just houses, but decent and affordable communities where our people will find jobs, where their children can safely go to school, attend church, run around and play safely,” added Robredo.

            The 2016 International Conference on Urban Development is billed as the country’s biggest international conference on urban development and the potential of secondary cities as engines of growth. It is organized by the United States Agency for International Development, Department of the Interior and Local Government, The World Bank, United Nations Human Settlements Programme (UN-Habitat), and the National Competitiveness Council.

            The two-day conference, with its theme “Accelerating Resilience and Inclusive Growth”, brought together over 1,200 delegates that consist of international urban development experts, national and local government officials, as well as members from industries, donor agencies and professional organizations, civil society and the academe.

            Delegates at the conference were given a platform to share ideas, strategies and best practices in pursuing resilience and inclusive growth. The conference was divided into several breakout sessions that focus on key areas under urban development. The second day of the conference included sessions on climate change and disaster risk reduction, urban planning and infrastructure development, urban land tenure issues, metropolitan arrangements, promoting local economic development, urbanization and housing, promoting innovation through human capital development, and low emission development strategies.

            During the session on urbanization and housing, the HUDCC, represented by Director Avelino Tolentino III, gave a presentation on the urbanization trends in the Philippines and the country’s housing need. The HUDCC also cited several strategies and initiatives that can help address the various issues and challenges associated with rapid population growth and urbanization, such as the pursuit of more spatially-balanced growth and development, strengthening the capacities of local government units in climate change adaptation and disaster risk reduction and management, facilitating greater ease of doing business in the housing sector, and further promoting micro-finance and livelihood interventions for target housing beneficiaries.