Manila tumbles in global safe cities index

The Philippine capital slipped eight notches in a global safe cities index as its ranking dropped in almost all indicators, especially on personal and health security.

Manila ranked 51st out of 60 cities, sliding eight notches from its 43rd ranking in 2019, according to the Safe Cities Index 2021 of UK-based The Economist Intelligence Unit (EIU). The index is produced biennially.

Out of 100, Manila scored 52.5 this year, a huge drop from the 59.2 two years ago. It also failed to hit the average of 66.1.

Copenhagen in Denmark rose to the top with a score of 82.4 followed by Canada’s Toronto with 82.2. Singapore made it to the third spot at 80.7. Completing the top five are Sydney and Tokyo.

EIU’s index ranks 60 cities across 76 indicators related to various aspects of urban safety covering digital, health, infrastructure, personal, and environmental security which was the latest addition to the categories.

Unfortunately, Manila saw its ranking dipped across the four original pillars.

It slipped the most in personal security, down 15 notches, to 55th with a score of 46.4 from the high of 74.7 in 2019. This pillar considers how at-risk citizens are from crime, violence, terrorist threats, natural disasters and economic vulnerabilities.

“Making sure that people feel being part of society benefits them. When people feel that they have a stake in what tomorrow will look like, they will make sure that today’s society is safe and protected,” EIU said.

Manila also saw its health security pillar down six notches to 54th with a score of 49.9. In 2019, it was at 48th place with 56.6.

This measures how cities fare on the level and quality of healthcare services and infrastructure in the city. It was also based on the availability, access and quality of healthcare service, as well as life expectancy, and infant mortality among others.

Unfortunately, the already feeble health system in the country was aggravated by the COVID-19 pandemic which severely overwhelmed the system prompting repeated lockdowns to forestall its collapse.

“Developing countries should adjust their health systems to respond to growing non-communicable diseases alongside dealing with communicable ones. Protecting the most vulnerable is not just ethical in itself, it protects the health security of everyone in the population,” EIU said.

In terms of infrastructure security, Manila also slipped six notches to 52nd at 52.9 from 46th at 53.6. This considers the built physical environment, measuring the availability, quality and sufficiency of existing city infrastructure and its vulnerability to man-made and natural disasters.

Further, Manila’s digital security also went down to the 49th spot from 45th. It assesses the ability of urban citizens to freely use the internet and other digital channels without fear of privacy violations, identity theft and malicious online attacks.

Of the 60 cities, only 15 have a smart city plan that explicitly focuses on cybersecurity of the smart city infrastructure or network. The remaining 45, including Manila, either have an existing smart city plan or plans to invest in the next five years.