Misty Sunrise: The City of Davao’s Vision Reality Gap

Waking up in the hour before the sun rises, when the stars in the black sky illuminate the world around you, and the first ray of that yellow globe intersects the horizon is a misty morning to look forward to in the thick forests of Mt. Apo overlooking the City of Davao. This is the first impression an academic observer on what about the City’s Vision and Mission statement. The bland prose that generally proclaims the vision of a people could be improved more. The vision statement to quote, “We envision Davao City as the Premier Socio-economic and tourism center in Mindanao, East Asean Growth Area (EAGA) and the Asia-Pacific Region propelled by enlightened leaders and empowered citizenry and committed to sustainable growth and development under the guidance of Divine Providence.” It generally put forward a clear and precise picture of what the City wants but without a clear time frame. Digging deeper on the VM Statement document, there were no clear success indicators identified that could strengthen the foundation of the Comprehensive Development Plan, although there specific goals, objectives in their respective documents (which will be looked into later in the article); a definite success indicator would allow the future picture of the City grounded in quantifiable reality.

The City of Davao is committed to sustainable growth and development. This said the vision statement is aligned with the nation’s sustainable development agenda. Sustainable Development as defined in the PA 21 (1996) –the ‘harmonious integration of a sound and viable economy, responsible governance, social cohesion and ecological integrity to ensure that development is a life-sustaining process’. Although not explicitly mentioned in the City’s vision statement, the City upon declaring a future of sustainability would like to achieve the following five goal elements declared in the Philippine Agenda (PA) 21: Poverty Reduction, Social Equity, Empowerment and Good Governance, Peace and Solidarity, & Ecological Integrity. However implied, the City’s vision statement would have had more teeth and clarity if it included these sustainable development goals.

Peering through the misty eyes of the City of Davao’s future, one needs to look at the vertical integration of the City’s vision to the National Framework for Physical Planning (NFPP 2001-2030) and the current administration’s midterm development plan (MTDP 2011-2016) as essential in understanding the bigger picture at the integration of national and local plans. Let us breakdown the City’s main and sectoral vision statement to see how there is or isn’t a clear integration especially on the environmental development sector.

The NFPP promotes principles consistent with the national direction of limited resources to physical planning and development. First, food security is an essential element of the NFPP wherein stated in the Economic sectoral mission statement said, Davao City aims to be the growth center in Mindanao. To attain this, it is going to engage the “the players” in the local economy to engage in propulsive industries, in industries with export potentials and in light, medium and heavy industries such as in agri-based industries[bold font emphasis made by the author]. As agri-based industries are well suited in developing the food security of the City, it is also important to look at the most efficient cost beneficial alternative to local production for food security since the Davao of City is also at a strategic location for food imports in the South East Asian region. Second, environmental stability and ecological integrity is also part of the framework which fortunately forms part of the City’s vision when it stated that it is committed to sustainable growth and development; more so found in the social vision statement, “Make Davao City and its people, free from cold, hunger and disease, unburdened by ignorance secure in their persons and domicile, enjoying the blessing of growth and development without sacrificing the quality of the environment.”The sectoral social vision statement had imbibed the essence of the NFPP with regards to Environmental stability and ecological integrity. Third, the NFPP recognizes the rights of indigenous people which the City of Davao has a diverse population of different ethno-linguistic affiliation. Part of its social vision statement manifested “Recognize the right of the Muslim People and Tribal Filipinos to self-determination and to give due respect to their ancestral domain and their culture. In any and all circumstances, the city shall adopt a policy on addressing their welfare and well-being.” Fourth, regional urban development is one of the core principles of the NFPP that was used by the City in its vision to guide its Land Use Sector vision statement; “Our mission is to transform Davao City into a modern and a well planned investment center in Mindanao and the Asia-Pacific region, propelled by socially enlightened leaders and empowered citizenry, spiritually committed to attain sustainable growth and optimum development within the context of balance ecology.” Following this statement, it shows the direction of the City towards a balanced built up area with the conservation of the protected areas and the sustainable management of production areas.

Continuing the assessment of the City of Davao’s vision statement under the lens of the MTDP or Philippine Development Plan (PDP) 2011-2016 follows an alignment of principles explicitly stated or implied. First, in pursuit of inclusive growth is the priority agenda of the PDP which includes poverty reduction, social mobility, and a stable political economy; factors on which were found in the economic sectoral mission statement “Davao City to become a major growth pole in the international market by engaging its empowered and participate citizenry in resource based and market-driven economic activities within the context of balanced ecology, sustainable growth and equity-led development.” The same can be said with the second agenda which is Macroeconomic Policy where in fiscal and institutional incentives are used to encourage investment in a location. Third, the competitive industry and service sectors have a sure footing in Davao City since these service sector industries like BPOs are located in the downtown area of Davao City. Fourth, which is in particular interest to the environmental development sector is the conservation, protection & rehabilitation of the Environment and Natural Resources. The line in the vision statement that said committed to sustainable growth and development is paramount. And this is where vision takes off to the specific goals and objectives under Air Quality, Watershed, Waste Management, Water Quality, and Climate Change/Disaster Risk. Although the goals for each subsector of the environment development sector, there were no clear targets for the strategic objectives in the plan, it is in this regard that the City should develop in its review clear measurable indicators to facilitate the movement of the plan from a document to action points.

However, despite the good intentions encapsulated by the vision and mission statement of the City, especially for its environmental sector, there remains a discrepancy on the real situation. Namely the situation on air quality wherein it is reported the following: 1) total suspended particle levels have remained virtually at the same level in 3 years and can only go up 2) the ideal target for PM10 emissions is set by WHO at 20 (Davao is at 61), the level that is considered acceptable for healthy air 3) 65% of pollutants come from mobile sources, which is expected to rise reaching 12,800 tons in 2015 and 16,020 in 2021 4) Not all areas are covered and monitored for air pollutants 5) Use of fossil fuel will probably increase if alternative sources are not developed. Also, the same concerns were noted in the same report for the watershed subsector which reported: 1) There are still 63,580 Has of brushlands within Timberland areas that can still be developed 2) There are CADTs that are within Timberland areas which pose management concerns. 3) There is unchecked encroachment in conservation areas 4) there are improper agricultural practices. Furthermore, solid waste as part of ecological balance and sustainable development has noted the situation that 1) if the current rate of disposal is maintained, the Sanitary Landfill will be filled to capacity by 2018 2) there are not enough composting facilities 3) there are not enough materials recovery facilities 4) the city is collecting 46% of waste generated instead of only 20%. Water quality is another problem area wherein the reality for rivers & creeks was noted the following 1) from 1994-2008, there was a 206% increase in residential areas, 311% in commercial areas and 124% in industrial areas 2) there is currently no wastewater treatment facility in Davao City 3) Less than 1% of the population area served by existing sewerage systems. In addition, coastal waters also do not fare much better despite the vision of the City to preserve the water quality in its jurisdiction. 1) indiscriminate garbage throwing in coastal Barangays still continue 2) there is no zoning of our coastal waters 3) public bathing beaches are unsafe. Groundwater situation also has its share of reported problems, namely; 1) indiscriminate garbage throwing in coastal barangays still continue 2) there is no zoning of coastal waters 3) public bathing beaches are unsafe.

The vision mission statement and the underlying plans of the environmental development sector follows the principles espoused on the NFPP and MTDP. Even with this alignment there are still factors that seem to hinder the successful realization of such classic visions into reality. However not explored deeper in this paper, it is imperative to understand that vision statements are the blank canvass on which the City’s spatial and comprehensive future of their land and their people are written, which is why the importance of conducting vision reality gaps at timely intervals to ensure course corrections of plans when necessary.


City of Davao, Republic of the Philippines. 2012. Comprehensive Land Use and Development Plan.

HLURB Guidelines. 2013. Volume 1.

Medium Term Development Plans. 2011. National Economic Development Authority.

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