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The Philippines to Expand Smart City Initiatives

Smart cities are the future of urban living because technology will play a significant role in governance, making social services available, and ensuring that the future is sustainable for future generations. As the country strives to create more eco-friendly smart cities with improved livability and quality of life for all, there is still work to be done as new technologies and other innovative ideas for city living emerge in the coming years.

The Philippine government had recently pledged to complete its six smart city projects during the 4th ASEAN Smart Cities Network (ASCN) Annual Meeting, which was held virtually, according to the Department of Interior and Local Government (DILG). While the coronavirus disease 2019 (Covid-19) crisis slowed the introduction of smart city projects, the Philippines – through its participating local government units (LGUs) – remains committed to pursuing its smart city initiatives, according to DILG Undersecretary for Local Government, who represented DILG Secretary at the meeting.

Meeting challenges in the implementation of our smart city projects was inevitable primarily because of the Covid-19 crisis as local government resources were poured into pandemic response and imposition of health protocols.

– DILG Undersecretary

During the meeting, the DILG highlighted smart city projects such as the City of Manila’s Command Centre Upgrade and E-government Services, Cebu City’s Bus Rapid Transit System and Digital Traffic System, and Davao City’s Converged Command and Control Centre and Intelligent Transportation and Traffic Systems with Security. During the meeting, DILG Undersecretary for Local Government also stated that the challenges posed by the Covid-19 pandemic highlighted the need for local economies to shift to information and communication technology-based solutions to reduce health risks and increase coping capacities.

“Maintaining the symbiotic relationship between the network and its member countries and smart cities will help them ride out the pandemic and catalyse economic recovery,” he said.

According to the undersecretary, smart cities have realised that forging partnerships are necessary to overcome the challenges and to move forward. “The Philippine Government expresses its appreciation for the opportunities for partnerships extended through this platform. However, we would like to seek the ASCN’s support for the completion of the smart city projects needing digital infrastructure and applications support,” he said.

Given the country’s location in the Pacific Ring of Fire, he asserted that the design of these projects is centred on the need for an efficient emergency and crisis response centre that provides real-time information for safety, constituency protection, and increased resilience. According to him, efforts are being made to improve traffic management and transportation systems, as well as to provide e-services in government transactions, to reduce travel trips and provide efficient mass transportation systems to address the long-standing problem of mobility and traffic congestion in urban cities.

The city government officially launched the PHP200 million Smart City Command Centre, which was funded by the President’s Office (OP). The Philippine President, in a message read by a Department of Interior and Local Government (DILG) Undersecretary during the launch, congratulated the city on coming up with the innovation despite the pandemic.

“Transforming the city into data-driven and technologically –able during the time of emergency is worthy of recognition. Considering the many challenges that all local government units locally and globally are facing,” said the President.

The mayor, meanwhile, said the project will allow the city to respond to emergencies and improve the social and health system. The command centre will revolutionise how the city manages its critical assets, increase capacity to prevent and respond to emergencies and disasters, preserve the environment, speed up government services, improve social and health systems and protect lives and property. The government will be able to govern more efficiently by gathering data to identify, analyse, and solve problems.

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