Philippines 2015, Glimpses of the Future

Here's an article by Paulo Alcazaren from PCIJ from last year (2004).

Blueprint for a City's Soul

Metro Manila has a weak identity and its citizens feel little attachment to it. But the soullessness of the city is not fated. The future of the city of our dreams is in our hands and that of enlightened local governments and urban planners...



"urban beltway"

Just a quick post on arroyo's speech yesterday at the Philippine Infrastructure Conference in Makati. (Full text of speech here.)

Arroyo used the term "urban beltway" -very new. very significant.

It's supposed to stretch from Clark-Subic to Batangas Port through Metro Manila. I guess this is the projected growth area for the urban agglomeration.

Big question: what is the spine? A series of roadways or rail? Is there a regional plan or growth strategy? What are the eastward and westward axes? Who is the lead agency or cabinet cluster in charge of the plan?


1,000 friends of metro manila?

I just came back from from a national (US) conference of smart-growth/ anti-sprawl activitists. The conference represented a very broad coalition of organizations working on city issues - from anti-sprawl, to affordable housing, to transportation.

It inspired me/ made me wonder about what kind of coalition we can cobble together to create a citizens' forum to envision the future of metro manila. I need to get a clearer picture of what organizations actually work on urban related issues in Manila. Off the top of my head, I can only recall advocates for the urban poor (which represent housing advocacy), but don't know of any that talk about transport issues or density and development.


the future of metro manila

The jurisdictional creature that is the MMDA is under siege , mainly because of turf battles with the mayors of the component cities. This, I suppose was inevitable, given the growing power of local governments (spurned on by the empowerment given by R.A. 7160. It has also not been helped by BF's brusque administrative style.

I do wish that the HUDCC or Malacanang would weigh in on the need for a metrowide planning authority. So the city can find a happy balance between elective and appointive powers.

Why not have an elective metro planning council? Composed of representatives from each city who then get to appoint a director? Maybe malacanang can give them a share of tax receipts from the NCR as operating budget and they would be tasked with developing a long term planning vision for the metropolis? If the budget is substantial enough, they could provide counterpart funding to city projects that align with the planning objectives (including mass transit and the provision of housing.) Perhaps they could be funded from the road tax.

If the city mayors want to control traffic and clearance, then let them, but for the future's sake, we need to get beyond turf wars to a discussion of what Metro Manila will look like in the future.

future discussions

more a note to myself to discuss these issues in the next posts:

  • the mass transit system and housing

  • affordable housing as a development strategy

  • forging an urban issues coalition



Another article from last week talked about how well Bayani Fernando is doing as chair of the Metro Manila Development Authority.

I think from an enforcement perspective, he has been very effective. Creatively effective, in fact, but the current controversy about the police and administrative power of the MMDA should grow beyond turf and jurisdiction wars to a serious discussion of the need for a regional/metropolitan planning authority.

In it's current form the MMDA (as created by the MMDA Law) is an administrative, enforcement agency that is tasked with solving metrowide implementation issues - traffic, waste management, flood control. It does not have a forward looking, urban planning perspective.

Although I fully subscribe to the LGU Code and it's intent of decentralizing power, the cities and towns of metro manila cannot afford to balkanize on planning. The Metro has to think as a region and plan its growth as a region.


metro news

I've added a link to INQ7's metro page. (see sidebar)

What is sadly lacking is any discussion about city issues. The metro pages are mostly about crime.

I wish someone in the Philippines would invest money in a metro weekly/daily tabloid that was about city issues.

moving cities

Last week, this story caught my eye. It played, of course, as it often does in the media -as an issue of rising costs for the consumer. It follows a recent increase in jeepney fares in Metro Manila.

The burden mass transit has is it has to "earn" money while roads do not. Roads are assumed to be part of the infrastructure of a city or a country but rails are operations -people pay an operator directly so someone has to be making money. Road taxes, or tolls supposedly get the user to pay for the infrastructure but unless your doing congestion charging like London or other cities (notably Singapore) then the tolls pay for the long distance highways.

This article discusses the myths of road vs. rail costs.

Bottom line is, the National Government must view mass transit as a competitive advantage and must be aggresively develop and subsidize the infra and the operations.

I think only HK's MTR is a profitable entity -and that is borne by the incredible densities of the city.

Metro Manila has enough density to support a mass transit network - but it must evolve into a more extensive network. The other consideration is that mass transit does not have to equate to light or heavy rail. Bogota took Curitiba's success and turned it into the paradigm shifting Transmillenio. City-wide transportation networks should not be monocultural.

One of the things that bothered me most when they first put up Metro Manila's 2nd light rail line (the MRT) was that the stations were selected largely with real estate motives (i.e. -where can we put up a mall?) and ignored existing transport and activity nodes. The planners did not create a network where short hop jeepneys would deliver passengers to the MRT.

Mass transit systems (as all delivery and transport systems) are city shapers. The market forces will reorganize the built form around the stations and transport nodes -usually for the good of passengers.

Metro Manila has to:

1) make sure the trains run at maximum service capacity (even if with subsidies)
2) make sure the benefits of locational efficiencies of the stations are spread equitably (i.e. - it will not be the millionaire condominium owners that will benefit the most from being near a mass transit station)

more on this later.

bandwagon effect

Here's to maybe the start of something that will fail?

meant to be a blogomentary on possible futures for the philippines. particularly, urban philippines.

which will go something like this: i read the news. i speculate on what this means for the country another hundred years hence.

is the rizal allusion too kitschy? maybe. seeing that Pepe missed the target, maybe we can re-aim and shoot again.

maybe this is just therapy for my cognitive dissonance.

anyway, excuse me while I pass (virtual) wind.

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