Building a #BetterUrbanPH
Since 2003, UN-Habitat Philippines has supported the government in building sustainable, safe, inclusive and resilient cities and human settlements in the country through the implementation of various programs and projects.
Towards a #BetterUrbanPH: Our Work in the Philippines
In the past two decades, UN-Habitat Philippines continues to build its knowledge base, experience, network, and expertise in localization of global goals, slum upgrading and secure tenure, climate change adaptation and mitigation, and recovery and resettlement.
In 2019, UN-Habitat launched the Strategic Plan 2020-2023, which focused on four key impact areas or “domains of change” namely, 1) reduced spatial inequality and poverty in communities across the urban – rural continuum; 2) enhanced shared prosperity of cities and regions; 3) strengthened climate action and improved urban environment; and 4)effective urban crisis prevention and response. UN-Habitat Philippines’ current work contributes mainly to the first, third, and fourth impact areas.
Click on the + to expand each section. For the full list of completed and ongoing projects of UN-Habitat in the Philippines, visit the project page.
The institutional presence of UN-Habitat in the Philippines was established in 2001 with the launch of the Good Urban Governance and Secure Tenure (GUG-ST) campaigns initiated by UN-Habitat Regional Office for Asia and Pacific in partnership with UNDP Office in the Philippines. The campaign provided the opportunity for the UN to purposively advocate urban development and advance the habitat agenda in national development. It also established formal platforms for consultations on urban governance, human settlements, and secure tenure, including the formation of the Philippine Urban Forum.
UN-Habitat was a major player in the implementation of the United Nations Development Assistance Framework (UNDAF 2005-2009) in the Philippines, particularly in the areas of good governance, environmental sustainability, and basic social services.
In 2003, UN-Habitat scaled up the twin campaign through a deliberate localization of the Millennium Development Goals with UNDP, the Philippine Urban Forum (PUF), national government agencies and CSO partners.
Utilizing the massive support from the twin campaigns, UN-Habitat expanded the Good Urban Governance track with the Localizing the Millennium Developer Goals (L-MDGs) Program in the Philippines in 2004. The L-MDGs aimed to establish local operational mechanisms that will drive local actions in achieving the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) and reducing human poverty and foster democratic governance by institutionalizing good governance reforms and practices in local government units, civil society organizations and the private sector.
Under the banner program were four projects that engaged different stakeholders and supported the localization of the MDGs from the provincial, city and municipal, barangay, down to family levels.
Download the L-MDGs program report here.
2005: Local Intergovernmental Actions for Integrated and Innovative Solutions Towards Attaining the Millennium Development Goals (Local GAINS for the MDGs)
UN Habitat in partnership with 12 cities initiated a structured localization process in Marikina, Pasay, Muntinlupa, Science City of Muñoz, San Jose del Monte, Antipolo, Tagaytay, Sorsogon, Manduae, Calbayog, Iligan, and in the Island Garden of Samar. Coached by a resource city – Naga City, the twelve cities have successfully completed the preliminary cycle of localizing the MDGs. This cycle involves mainstreaming MDG targets in the city’s development and investment plans, passage of legislative measures, appropriating resources, actual implementation of programs and projects, monitoring and assessing impacts and instituting constituency feedback systems.
Download Local GAINS report here.
Download the MDG Localization Toolkit: The Naga Experience here.
2006: Mitigating the Effects of External Threats to the MDGs through Rights-based Reforms in Governance for Greater Equity, Transparency, and Sustainability (MEET the MDG Targets)
MEET the MDGs aimed to equip and prepare local governments to overcome obstacles that will prevent, derail and slow down implementation of their MDG targets, pursue local reforms for improving governance particularly focusing on organizational and planning management. The project was implemented in cities that are highly vulnerable to natural and man-made disasters. MEET the MDGs also mainstreams critical development drivers and the good urban governance principles in mitigating threats.
Partner cities: Naga City, Science City of Munoz, Tuguergaro City, Sorsogon City, Iloilo City, Calbayog City, Pasay City, Island Garden City of Samal, Iligan City, San Vicente City
Download the MEET the MDGs report here.
2007: Citizens Action and Local Leadership to Achieve the MDGs in 2015 (CALL 2015)
CALL 2015 will put in place local transparency and accountability mechanisms and systems for the MDGs. CALL 2015 builds on current MDG localization gains and outcomes by harnessing citizens participation and local leadership in ensuring the MDG targets are met and implemented with integrity
2008: Family-Based Actions for Children and Their Environs in the Slums (FACES)
The FACES Project gave a human face to the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) by demonstrating family-based targets and actions using existing tools such as the Community Based Monitoring System (CBMS) in meeting the MDGs. The project highlighted the important role and participation of poor families, especially the women or mothers, in setting targets, identifying solutions and strategic actions towards the attainment of MDGs at the household level. The project strengthened the participatory process by putting in place a multi-sectoral mechanism that demonstrated quick and systematic responses to improve and sustain the delivery of services for the children in the slums.
Project implementation cities: Pasay, Mandaluyong, Santiago, Tuguegarao, Candon, Science City of Munoz, Ligao, Roxas, Bago, Maasin, Bais, Pagadian, Surigao, Dipolog, and Island Garden City of Samal.
Alongside UN-Habitat’s work on MDG localization was an expansion of the Secure Tenure track through the Integrated Approaches to Poverty Reduction at the Neighborhood Level-A Cities Without Slums Initiative (IMPACT).
IMPACT is a technical assistance supported and funded by the Cities Alliance using the resources of the Asian Development Bank and UN-Habitat as its members. The technical assistance is provided for the Philippine Government to develop the capabilities of the local government units and the urban poor communities or the Homeowners Associations in key cities outside Metro Manila. Together, they worked on developing shelter upgrading plans for capital investment financing through the Development of Poor Urban Communities Sector. IMPACT was implemented by a team of experts in shelter program development and management under the UN-Habitat with the then Housing and Urban Development Coordinating Council as the Executing Agency.
Download the IMPACT terminal report here.
UN-Habitat’s initial work on climate change began in 2008 with the Climate Change in Cities Initiative in Asia and the Pacific (CCCI-AP). Recognizing that cities significantly contribute to greenhouse gas emissions and are greatly affected by climate change impacts, CCCI-AP support cities and national governments in the region to climate-proof urban infrastructure, shelter, transport and public utilities; and make low-carbon urban planning solutions for buildings the norm, whilst paying particular attention to building the climate resilience of urban poor communities.
At the same time, the UN-System in the Philippines was then implementing a joint programme on “Strengthening the Philippines’ Institutional Capacity to Adapt to Climate Change,” in line with the UNDAF, supported by the Government of Spain thru the MDG Achievement Fund Thematic Window on Environment and Climate Change (MDGF).
As the CCCI strongly complements the MDG-F Joint Project on Climate Change in the Philippines, the UN-Habitat country office designed a joint project workplan that integrates the two initiatives, thus the “Strengthen Philippine City Capacities to Address Climate Change Impacts.” The project aimed to work at the regional, national and local levels to ensure that and that initiatives are harmonized thus sharing of good practices, tools, technologies and other resources remain plausible for dissemination to other countries and partners/stakeholders.
Sorsogon City was selected as the project demonstration site with the following accomplishments: the design of appropriate social and institutional infrastructures, piloting of innovative CC adaptation and mitigation initiatives, and codifying adaptation options for vulnerable human settlements.
The Strengthen Philippine Institutional Capacities to Address Climate Change was the first climate change project of UN-Habitat Philippines and laid the groundwork for future climate change projects of the agency in the country.
Download the MDGF-SPICACC report here.
Download the CCCI-AP regional strategy here.
The continuing rapid urbanization of Philippine cities urgently demanded for the readiness of local authorities and communities to achieve sustainable urban development through informed planning and efficient implementation of strategic policies and programmes. UN-Habitat recognized that strengthening technical and institutional capacities of cities and national government in urban planning and implementation is crucial to ensure sustainable urban development.
The Achieving Sustainable Urban Development (ASUD) is a global project of UN-Habitat. In the Philippines, the project aimed to strengthen the capacities of national government agencies and selected Philippine cities by demonstrating innovative and responsive approaches to manage urbanization processes. On the national urban policy level, the project supported the review of the National Urban Development and Housing Framework, the formulation of the Habitat III National Report and the enhancement of the government’s Local Shelter Planning Guidelines. At the city level, the project demonstrated the “planned city extension” approach to showcase innovative and pro-active urban planning processes and techniques by integrating urban design, legal frameworks and urban economy and finance.
Download the ASUD terminal report here.
Recovery and resettlement through the People’s Process
In November 2013, Typhoon Haiyan (local name, Typhoon Yolanda), battered the Visayas affecting 1.47 million families in 14 provinces throughout the Philippines.
UN-Habitat launched the Post-Yolanda Support for Safer Homes and Settlements project in the provinces of Capiz and Iloilo with funding support from the Government of Japan. The project aimed to capacitate Yolanda-affected communities as well as local governments in rebuilding homes and communities through a community-driven approach called the People’s Process. The process is hinged on self-recovery of shelter and community facilities and on strengthening the community’s technical capacities. The project resulted to accelerated recovery of 28 communities; 660 households in Capiz and Iloilo were provided resilient shelter; 323 semi-skilled artisans received training to upgrade their construction and DRR skills; 28 communities have 54 improved community facilities; 4,594 households were assessed by the House Assessment Guiders; and increased awareness for building back better safer at national and local level.
The success of the project became a demonstration of the effectiveness of the People’s Process and would open doors for funding and partnership on future recovery and resettlement projects using the community-driven approach.
Download the Post-Yolanda terminal report here.
Working with other UN agencies
UN-Habitat also developed and implemented Joint Programmes with other UN agencies in response to Haiyan.
Under the Strategic Response Plan (SRP) of the UN System in the Philippines, which supported the government’s response to the immediate humanitarian needs of the people affected by the typhoon,
UN-Habitat implemented with UNDP the Time-Critical Support to LGUs to Plan Recovery and Support Settlement Restoration After Typhoon Yolanda. The project aimed to strengthen LGUs’ capacity to lead the formulation of their RRP by means of sufficient and adequate city and settlement planning data and consultative support.
Download the UN-Habitat – UNDP JP report here.
Under the global partnership of UNICEF, UN Women, and UN-Habitat to implement the Safe and Friendly Cities for All Programme (SFCAP). Under SFCAP UN Habitat was signed to assist the pilot Metro Manila cities (Pasay, Mandaluyong and Quezon) and their partner LGUs in the Visayas, namely Tacloban, Guiuan, and Ormoc, given the ISF shelter issues in the post Typhoon Yolanda context. Apart from the direct technical support on ISF concerns, the LGUs were to improve their capacities through “LGU Twinning and Capacity Building Interventions.”
Download the UN-Habitat – UNICEF JP report here.
Despite having national climate and green growth strategies and targets in place, dynamic vertical policy coordination mechanisms between the national and local levels have not been established in many countries. It is against this backdrop that UN-Habitat supported the efforts of the Philippines and Vietnam in responding to challenges of climate change through improved multi-level governance.
UN-Habitat and Adelphi, a Germany-based non-profit institution for policy analysis and strategy consulting, jointly implemented “Vertical integration and learning for low emission development (V-LED)” with support from the International Climate Initiative (IKI)-Federal Ministry for the Environment, Nature Conservation, Building and Nuclear Safety (BMUB) of the Government of Germany.
The project was implemented from 2015 to 2021, supporting the governments of the Philippines, Vietnam, Kenya, and South Africa to promote climate-resilient and low-emission development pathways through improved multi-level governance and knowledge management.
In the Philippines, V-LED aimed to systematically strengthen sub-national and national government representatives’ local climate action planning, coordination and implementation capacities, particularly the vertical policy coordination and sustainable learning exchanges between national and sub-national policy-makers. These actions contribute to the achievement of national climate-resilient low-carbon targets and priorities.
Download the V-LED Philippine case study here.
Building Climate Resiliency through Urban Plans and Designs
Building on the groundwork of the V-LED project, UN-Habitat developed a climate change project that aimed to support the Philippine government in improving policies, regulations, and capacities to adapt to climate change through the promotion of climate-responsive sustainable urban development plans and designs.
In 2017, UN-Habitat gained funding support from the German government’s International Climate Initiative (IKI) to implement Building Climate Resiliency Through Urban Plans and Designs (BCRUPD). In support of existing national climate change frameworks and strategies, the project aimed to enhance national and subnational government representatives’ institutional capacities to guide and manage urban growth towards suitable areas and design the same incorporating resilience principles and practices. The project was implemented in partnership with Department of Human Settlements and Urban Development (DHSUD), Climate Change Commission, Department of the Interior and Local Government, National Economic and Development Authority, and League of Cities of the Philippines, and was demonstrated in the cities of Angeles, Cagayan de Oro, Legazpi, Ormoc, and Tagum.
In 2020, UN-Habitat was granted a project extension to expand BCRUPD’s work to include addressing the compounded socio-economic impacts of climate change and the COVID-19 pandemic. Phase 2 of the BCRUPD project currently works on the enhancement of the diagnostic/analytics tool of the Climate and Disaster Risk Assessment guide for LGUs, strengthening institutional capacity of DHSUD bureaus on integrating climate resilience building in human settlements planning and urban management including green-recovery from COVID-19 pandemic impacts, and developing the green recovery guide for LGUs. The demonstration sites for Phase 2 are Angeles and Tagum cities.
Know more about the project here.
Building on the demonstrated effectiveness of the People’s Process in the Post-Yolanda Support for Safer Homes and Settlements project, UN-Habitat once again utilized the community-driven approach for a rebuilding project, this time for people displaced by the Marawi conflict in 2017.
The Rebuilding Marawi through Community-Driven Shelter and Livelihood was funded by the Government of Japan to help conflict-affected and internally-displaced persons (IDPs) bounce back by providing permanent shelters and livelihood support. It also contextualizes the People’s Process in the Bangsamoro and Maranao setting to integrate other key components such as peace and development, gender, and environmental and social safeguards. As of March 2021, the project has constructed close to 600 permanent homes, supported the organization of 47 Homeowners Associations and 33 cooperatives, and set up peace and development structures.
Lessons learned from the Post-Yolanda and Rebuilding Marawi experience are informing the development of recovery and resettlement projects for communities affected by Typhoon Rai (local name, Odette) in December 2021.
Know more about the project here.
UN-Habitat recognizes the increasing global waste management crisis, where poor solid waste collection and management causes air and water pollution, marine litter and contributes to climate change, with the urban poor most affected. In the Philippine setting, studies have shown that even though the Philippines has among the highest trash collection rates in Southeast Asia, it has become the world’s third largest source of marine plastic litter.
In April 2020, UN-Habitat implemented the Healthy Oceans and Clean Cities Initiative (HOCCI) through funding support from the Government of Japan. The project aims to reduce marine plastic litter by strengthening the Philippine government’s institutional capacity to contribute to the operationalization and localization of the National Plan of Action on Marine Litter (NPOA-ML). HOCCI works with six partner cities – Cagayan de Oro, Calapan, Davao, Legazpi, Manila and Ormoc, in developing pilot City Plans of Action on Marine Litter, which localizes the NPOA-ML, and in demonstrating how marine litter can be reduced and managed by local stakeholders.
HOCCI is supported by the UN-Habitat’s Waste Wise Cities campaign and guided by the Project Advisory Committee chaired by the Department of Environment and Natural Resources, co-chaired by the Department of the Interior and Local Government, and composed of League of Cities of the Philippines, the private sector representative to the National Solid Waste Management Commission, and local chief executives of the partner cities.
Know more about the project here.
UN-Habitat continues to expand its work across different levels of local governments.
Currently, UN-Habitat is implementing the Provincial Climate Risk Diagnostics (PCRD) project funded by The World Bank, which aims to provide technical advice and support to the Philippine government in developing the PCRD Tool and applying it for provincial resilience investment planning.
UN-Habitat is also a consortium partner under the Strengthening Institutions and Empowering Localities Against Disasters and Climate Change (SHIELD) Program, led by the UNDP and funded by the Australian Government. SHIELD aims to support the Philippine government in building institutional and community resilience to climate change and all types of hazards.
UN-Habitat is also a cooperating partner of Transformative Actions for Climate and Ecological Protection and Development (TRANSCEND), where the agency is focused on the Resilient Communities and Built-environment Output.
Addressing the urban challenges in the Philippines
Philippines: The Urban Challenge
- Level of urbanisation grew from 51.2% in 2015 to 54% in 2020.
— Philippine Statistics Authority, 2022
- Average of 22 tropical cyclones enter the Philippine Area of Responsibility—around 6 to 7 make landfall and cause significant damage. At least 60% of the country’s total land area is exposed to multiple hazards, 74% of the population is vulnerable to their impact.
— UN OCHA Philippines, April 2019
- National housing backlog is at 6.38 million units with 3.62 million informal settler families
— HUDCC Consolidated Shelter Plan Data, December 2018
- With over 90 per cent of confirmed cases coming from urban areas, cities have been the epicentres of COVID-19. Lockdowns and other public health measures to control the spread of COVID-19 have exposed and worsened inequalities in cities.
– World Cities Report, 2020
- Support national priorities on urban development and housing as well as support cities and local governments, as drivers of sustainable and equitable development, in operationalizing national priorities in the local context.
- Strengthen national capacities for sustainable urban development and housing.
- Strengthen city capacities in sustainable urban development planning with a focus on urban planning and design, low emission development, and urban resilience and shelter planning.
- Strengthen capacities of communities to participate in development planning and to access adequate shelter and basic services
Working across different areas of urbanization
Urban Planning and Design
Marine Litter Reduction
Working across different areas of urbanization
Urban Planning and Design
Marine Litter Reduction
Know more about the Philippines’ urban development and human settlements landscape.
Download these national publications.
Cagayan de Oro
New Clark City
Making an impact in Provinces, Cities, and Communities
By working with the different levels of local government, we make sure we leave no one and no place behind.
Current Partner LGUs
Cities: Manila, Calapan, Cagayan de Oro, Legazpi, Davao, Ormoc, Angeles, Tagum, Marawi City, Cebu City, New Clark City
Provinces: Naga, General Santos, Southern Leyte, Bukidnon, Sultan Kudarat, Zamboanga del Norte
Past Partner LGUs
Antipolo, Bago, Bais, Calbayog, Candon, Capiz, Cauayan, Dipolog, Escalante, Guiuan, Iligan, Iloilo, Island Garden of Samal, Ligao, Maasin, Mandaluyong, Mandaue, Marikina, Muntinlupa, Naga, Olonggapo, Pagadian, Pasay, Puerto Princesa, Quezon, Rodriguez, Roxas, San Jose Del Monte, San Vicente, Santiago, Science City of Munoz, Sorsogon, Surigao, Tacloban, Tagaytay, Tuguegarao, Valenzuela, Zamboanga
Partner with UN-Habitat
UN-Habitat Philippines hopes to create socially and environmentally sustainable cities, provinces, villages and barangays in the Philippines, and welcomes partnerships with government, international agencies, civil society organisations and the private sector.