Economic growth in the Philippines has been highly concentrated in the three largest metropolitan areas of Metro Manila, Cebu, and Davao. This concentration has led to high population growth and congestion in these three cities, while also causing inequities and inequitable access to economic opportunities between the largest cities and secondary cities, and urban and rural areas. To address this problem, the USAID/Philippines SURGE activity, implemented by the International City/County Management Association (ICMA), assisted secondary cities and adjacent rural areas to support inclusive and sustainable economic growth through effective planning, providing basic public services, reducing business transaction costs, promoting competitiveness, supporting sustainable development, and reducing disaster risks.

CLAimDev conducted a final performance evaluation of SURGE’s implementation in eight secondary cities using a mixed-methods approach, with a deeper analysis in four of the Cities Development Initiative (CDI) cities and a focused analysis of SURGE’s water, sanitation, and hygiene (WASH) interventions. The evaluation parameters included relevance, effectiveness, and sustainability. The evaluation team used quantitative and qualitative tools for data collection and analysis, including a simple survey to gather feedback from a broad base of stakeholders. The qualitative tools included document reviews, key informant interviews (KIIs), focus group discussions (FGDs), and case studies. The evaluation team interpreted qualitative data through content and thematic analysis and quantitative information through trend analysis. They used baseline data and final outputs and outcomes for comparative analysis.



The SURGE evaluation team conducted a case study of SURGE’s support to Marawi City for WASH services. Water supply and sanitation services have been a perennial problem for Marawi City residents even before the five-month conflict in 2017 between the Philippine government and the Maute-ISIS terrorist group. The conflict heavily damaged water and sanitation services in the city. Marawi City developed a Master Plan to restore and extend WASH services. The evaluation found that SURGE’s demand-driven, collaborative approach was key to Marawi City’s successful development and implementation of the Master Plan.

  • Aligned with the needs of the LGUs

  • Effective overall project implementation approach

  • Achievements are likely to be sustained

  • Demand-driven project interventions

  • Strong commitment of CDI cities

  • Inconsistent performance and outcome indicator


Mainstreaming Disaster Risk Reduction and Climate Change Adaptation in Iloilo Development Planning

Iloilo City is one of the second-tier cities facing challenges in rapid urbanization, vulnerability to disruptions from negative impacts of climate change, and inadequate technical and institutional capacity
in climate-resilient and risk-sensitive urban planning and infrastructure development.

Comprehensive Land Use Plan (CLUPs) serve as the primary basis for regulating the use of the city’s land resources and as the framework
for the different development plans required of local government units. These are mandated by existing national laws and policies such as the Comprehensive Development Plan (CDP) under the Local Government Code of 1992, Local Climate Change Adaptation Plan under the Climate Change Act of 2009, and the Local Disaster Risk Reduction and Management (DRRM) Plan under the DRRM Act of 2010.

SURGE focused on improving Iloilo’s local capacity for inclusive and resilient urban development. At the same time, Water Security for Resilient Economic Growth and Stability, another USAID activity, complemented these by improving the city’s water and sanitation services.

Boosting Private Sector Investments in Puerto Princesa City

USAID engaged Puerto Princesa in July 2015 with a Cities and Municipalities Competitive Index (CMCI) rank of 27 (14 adjusted) and registered businesses of 8.597, generating Php14.1 billion in gross sales. The City generated PhP438 million locally and was dependent on the Internal Revenue Allotment (IRA) at 80 percent. By 2020, the City’s CMCI ranking improved to 17 (6 when adjusted), and registered businesses reached 11,678, generating PhP30.0 billion in gross sales. The City generated PhP817.6 million locally, and IRA dependency dropped to 73.7 percent.

Through SURGE, USAID conducted many assessments to determine the appropriate technical assistance needed by Puerto Princesa. These assessments covered: Geographic Information System Mapping, Skills Inventory, Rapid Urban System Analysis, Climate Disaster-Resilient Community, Land Use and Infrastructure, Business Permits and Licensing System (BPLS), Real Property Tax (RPT) and Land Tenure, Public Financial Management (PFM), and the Business Enabling Environment (BEE) of the City.

The skills assessment conducted in 2016 found that Puerto Princesa had a one-person team Local Economic and Investment Promotions Office (LEIPO), which was seconded by the City Planning and Development Office. Like many other cities, the LEIPO was not linked with the Negosyo Center and Public Employment Service Office. The person did not have the necessary skills to deal with investors and business clients. Investors were also unaware of the investment incentives program.

Restoring Water Supply Services in Marawi City

Water supply and sanitation services have been a perennial problem for residents of Marawi City even before the hostility broke out in 2017.However, after the five-month-long conflict between the Philippine Government and the Maute-ISIS Terrorists Group, the City of Marawi faced an unimaginable challenge in terms of Water Supply, Sanitation, and Hygiene (WASH) services. Apart from displacing people, the conflict completely paralyzed businesses and social service infrastructures and heavily damaged supply and sanitation facilities.

Three years after the conflict, normalcy reigned, and economic activities have been vibrant in the Less Affected Areas (LAA) in Marawi City while government agencies conduct full-scale reconstruction works. In particular, government agencies began constructing temporary and permanent shelters for Internally Displaced Persons (IDPs) in the eastern part of Marawi City.

The Marawi City Water District’s Development Master Plan includes providing deep wells within the seven barangays surrounding the Mindanao State University (MSU), the Department of Interior Local Government’s Sagana at Ligtas na Tubig Para sa Lahat (SALINTUBIG) Program, and the IDP’s permanent resettlement areas in the eastern host barangays.SURGE focused on supporting this Master Plan to increase service coverage.

  • Relevance

    To what extent has SURGE contributed to addressing the development challenges that motivated the Partnership for Growth (PFG)-CDI, the 2017–2022 Philippine Development Plan, USAID’s Country Development Cooperation Strategies, and USAID’s policies on urban resiliency and WASH?

    SURGE interventions to improve the institutional capacity of CDI cities in inclusive and resilient urban development contributed to USAID’s development priorities under the Cities Development Initiative-Partnership for Growth; CDCS and USAID’s policies on urban resilience and WASH; the Philippine Development Plan 2017–2022; USAID’s direction to improve the competitiveness of second-tier cities; and the National Spatial Strategy of the Government of the Philippines. The SURGE project was demand-driven and aligned with the needs of the CDI cities.

  • Effectiveness

    To what extent did SURGE achieve the three outcomes of improving local urban development processes, promoting local economic development, and expanding connectivity and access between urban and rural areas?

    SURGE strengthened capacity in inclusive and resilient urban development and improved the enabling environment for local economic development for the target CDI cities. SURGE also improved connectivity and access between urban and rural areas by addressing local regulatory constraints that limit the mobilization of investment capital and increase the costs of doing business in the target CDI cities.

  • Sustainability

    What is the likelihood that initiatives and gains will continue after the completion of the project?

    Overall, the evaluation team found that project activities to improve the capacity of local stakeholders for inclusive and resilient urban development are likely to be sustained by local and national government agencies that SURGE engaged and partnered with during the project. SURGE’s well-structured implementation will help ensure the sustainability of many project activities. SURGE used an integrated approach that emphasized the importance of operating under existing policies; helped organizations acquire the skills to run new programs and, in several cases, created partnerships to provide continuity in project capacity building activities; and helped SURGE’s local government counterparts improve local resource mobilization.

    Factors that will influence the sustainability of SURGE activities include:
    • The government initiating national laws mandating that local government units (LGUs) mainstream the interventions initiated. 
    • LGUs adopting policies and plans in areas supported by SURGE. 
    • Key city stakeholders acquiring the technical expertise to perform mandated functions as a result of the project’s capacity building activities.
    • LGUs having adequate budgets to implement immediate follow-through activities.
    • Changes in political leadership arising from the local elections in 2022, which could hinder sustainability.