Executive Director's Corner

Davao, my kind of town?


Davao, my kind of town?

/ 10:14 PM July 19, 2015

DAVAO has always been a well-known place: For conventions, banana, pomelo and durian. I spent my growing years there. Now comes our famous Mayor Rody Duterte. He transformed Davao into one of the top nine crime-free cities in the world (Numbeo.com). Topping the list of safest cities was Osaka, Japan, followed by Munich, Germany, Stavanger, Norway and Singapore.

Mayor Duterte is not the first Duterte to occupy a public position in Davao. His father, Vicente, was the governor of the entire province (now the whole region of five provinces) in 1959-1965.


Davao is more than politics. It is a major agribusiness center of the nation. It supplies banana to Asia and the Middle East plus coconut oil, desiccated coconut, coconut water, coco sugar, virgin coconut oil, pineapples, banana chips, frozen saba, natural rubber, and others. Perhaps, about a third of the country’s $6.4-billion agri-food exports are shipped through Davao.


Davao hosts several export companies: Del Monte Fresh, Dole, Davco, Lapanday Foods, Tadeco, Sumitomo Fruits, Unifrutti, Franklin Baker, Legaspi Oil, Davao Bay Coconut Oil, Pro-Food, Sagrex Foods, among others.

Davao is a well-known convention destination. There are starred hotels such as Marco Polo, Seda, Parkson Radisson, Davao Insular Waterfront, Grand Regal, Royal Mandaya, and Apo View. Soon, the city will host a Thai Dusit Hotel.   Add tourist destinations: Banana Beach, Eagle and Wildlife Center, Eden Resort, world-famous Pearl Farm, Malagos Garden Resort, Paradise Island, Crocodile Farm, plus others.

It is also an education center hosting Ateneo de Davao, University of Mindanao, University of Immaculate Conception, University of the Philippines, University of Southeastern Philippines, Holy Cross College, Rizal Memorial Colleges, Davao Doctors College, Davao Medical School Foundation, Philippine Women’s College, Jose Maria College, Ilagan College of Business and Tourism, MATS College, San Pedro College, and others.

Davao has a population of nearly 1.5 million. And it serves another seven million from 13 provinces: The five Davao region provinces, Agusan del Sur, Surigao del Sur, North Cotabato, Bukidnon, South Cotabato, Sarangani, Sultan Kudarat and Maguindanao. No wonder, there is a “mall explosion” in Davao City: Two SMs, several Gaisano malls, NCCC, Ayala Abreeza and other smaller malls.

With Davao as R & R center for the 13 provinces, developers like the Alcantaras, Ayala, Megaworld, Robinsons, Sta Lucia, and Vista Land are there with their condominiums and housing developments. Many out-of-towners own condo units in Davao. A relative in New Jersey bought a unit.

Davao is not only safe. It is also clean.

But is all well in Davao? Not all the time.

Davao is bursting at the seams because of rapid, disorderly development. It badly needs planning.

First, it is the only city in the world without a scenic seaside boulevard. Quezon Boulevard seaside is peppered by squatters. So are the Agdao shores. It is a big “sayang” (waste).

Second, all major roads are already four lanes—but they need real tree-lined sidewalks.   Widening of minor arteries is also urgent.

Third, historic streets like San Pedro, Claro Recto (the old Claveria), and Magsaysay (Uyanguren) need urban renewal. Ayala is building a twin-tower along Recto.

Fourth, Davao needs more green spaces. It is a city with few parks.

Fifth, perhaps, a new city seat of government may be needed a la Putra Jaya in Malaysia to decongest the city center.

Lastly, the Sasa port is heavily congested, and yet the Department of Transport and Communication wants a costly PPP. A better plan is to develop it into a cruise ship port to spur tourism in the region.

We quote a long-time Davao investor: “I should say there is the lack of any long term planning for the city. Davao City holds so much potential because of its proximity to so much economic activity in and around the region. It thus serves as the financial, educational and recreational center for not only the region but also for most of Mindanao. Unfortunately, the powers that be seem to lack a long term vision for the city and the appreciation of the fact that the prosperity of the city is hinged on the continuing success of the private sector’s various investments that creates all this economic activity that benefits the city. What is missing is the long term economic and urban plan for the city and the support and incentives to the private sector.”

Will Davao be reborn as one of the well-planned, destination cities of Southeast Asia? I hope ….

If not, General Santos City will be there first.

(This article reflects the personal opinion of the author and does not reflect the official stand of the Management Association of the Philippines. The author is the Vice Chair of the MAP Agribusiness and Countryside Development Committee, and the Executive Director of the Center for Food and AgriBusiness of the University of Asia & the Pacific. Feedback at <[email protected]> and < [email protected]>. For previous articles, please visit <map.org.ph>)

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