mega manila and subic

monument to subic volunteers

“What is this Mega Manila? This is really the Subic-Clark area. This is intended to serve as part of the expansion of Metro Manila -- which is congested -- and they become one economy. So this becomes the interface between North Philippines and Metro Manila.” -PGMA (at the 2005 Trade Investment Progress and Tourism conference)

Subic and Clark are clearly going to be growth areas. Apart from the 94-kilometer Subic Clark Expressway Toll Project (SCTEP), the government is also investing in the Metro Clark Rapid Railway System (Northrail) and transferring the DOTC to Clark.

Subic captured the nation's imagination when it was protected from looting by volunteers after the dismantling of the US Naval Base. The volunteers were led by (then Olongapo Mayor) Senator Richard Gordon. Subic's highpoint was the 1996 APEC convention. but then it went downhill in 2000 with the Estrada-Payumo vs. Gordon standoff.

Tumultuous politics aside, my main concern is that ever since its turnover, Subic's development initiatives have all been anchored on tourism and low-tariff industrial zones. All the old base residential facilities were turned into hotels or vacation homes. Land was set aside as industrial parks as part of the Subic Bay Special Economic Zone. Apart from the factrories and Fedex, commerce was anchored on duty-free style warehouse stores. The biggest investment (of dubious success) was the Subic Bay Yacht Club. --There was no plan for workforce housing nor a cohesive development plan for the surrounding municipalities.

Fifteen years, and three administrations later, Subic has yet to deliver fully on the promise.

There is a new, very competent team on board led by Keiko Licuanan (ex-president of Ayala Land) and Patrick Gregorio (ex-president of Waterfront Hotels). Licuanan is credited with the success of Makati (built on McMicking's vision) and Gregorio is well known among tourism circles.

As accomplished as they are, the appoinment of Licuanan and his selection of Gregorio point to the priorities of the government in SBMA/SCAD and the kind of questions they are asking: i.e. "How do we make this a commercial success?" and "How do we make this a successful tourist spot?"

Given the size of the region, I think they have to start thinking beyond investment zones and tourist centers. I think the better questions should be:

  • What kind of city are we building?
  • Who will live here? Where will they live?
  • What will they do/ Where will they work?
  • How will people travel to get to where they work?
  • Where will people go to buy their daily needs?
  • What kind of place will this be?

Subic and the Subic-Clark corridor, if it hopes to decongest Metro Manila, must transcend the pressure to make money and begin to think itself as a real metropolis. Begin to envision how it will grow as a city. (Perhaps they are already thinking of this and asking the same questions, but have not given these play in the media.)

Cities are not built by tourists or by factories, they are built by residents. And the most successful cities in the world today -cities that bring in tourists and investors -are genuine places with full-time residents.

Subic will grow into a metropolis. The sooner it thinks itself as a metropolis (with the components of housing, retail, commerce and civic spaces), the better the vision it will create for itself. Otherwise, it will not solve the congestion problems of Metro Manila - it will only duplicate Metro Manila's congestion.

More on this later.


urbanization and population

Image credit: My Sari-sari Store

Replying to both of Sydney's comments:

The population IS growing - but the fertility is dropping. Metro Manila's population growth is driven by both in-migration (transfer from villages to cities) and birth rate (which is dropping but is still above the replenishment rate in the neighboring regions).

This is consistent with global trends - by 2007, the world will reach a tipping point where more than 50% of the world's population will live in cities. OECD countries reached that tipping point early in the 70's. By the 2000 census, some 48.05% of the country's population was already living in urbanized areas.

Metro Manila and the expanded region will continue to grow population wise, but the fertility rates will continue to drop as the region continues to urbanize. Drops in fertility rates mean parents will have more resources to provide their children, and more time for work. In other countries this trend has been accompanied by increases in productivity and in entrepreneurial activity.

That being said, the time horizon for the effect on Metro Manila of the confluence - a larger urban population nationwide (happening soon); and the drop below replenishment rate (not sure when but the numbers are trending) -is probably 20-30 years (about a generation and a half).

Knowing what's coming over the horizon means we have to consider these effects as we envision scenarios for the future of Metro Manila.


women and the greater metropolitan region

I know I said I'd post something about Subic's development but I had to deal with this to predicate that future post. (Warning: stats discussion ahead)

A little more tooling around the Census website led me to year 2000 stats for the regions neighboring Metro Manila: Central Luzon and Southern Tagalog.

While the NCR is experiencing a slowdown in growth (see previous post), these two regions are experiencing tremendous growth and rank 1st and 3rd by gross population size (NCR is 2nd). Taken together, these 3 regions hold over 30 million people, over a third of the nation's total. By the 2000 census, the tally was:

Southern Tagalog | 11,793,655
Metro Manila | 9,932,560
Central Luzon | 8,030,945

As the charts above show, the growth is trending upward. Does this negate my previous post? Not really.

Fertility rates are still high (Central Luzon at 2.57, NCR at 2.10 (the sub-replacement rate) and Southern Tagalog at 2.69) but significantly, family sizes are dropping:

Southern Tagalog | 4.88 persons (1995= 4.89)
Metro Manila | 4.63 persons (1995= 4.74)
Central Luzon | 4.91 persons (1995= 5.07)

Also, using Southern Tagalog as an example, the closer a province is to Metro Manila, the lower its fertility rate:

The other key trend is that the fertility rate for women ages 20-24 (traditionally the most reproductive age) in the Southern Tagalog provinces are all below 2.1, with the peak just at 1.6 (Occ. Mindoro). In the 25-29 age range, Cavite, Rizal, Batangas, Laguna and Lucena City all had birth rates below replenishment.

On average, the closer a woman is to Metro Manila, the less children she will have.


cities as population sinks

This is an answer to Sydney, who posted this comment on one of my previous posts. I'm not reacting to Sydney's post per se (i am very thankful for his kudos) but to a sentiment he expressed that I think is shared by a lot of pinoys. Sydney said:

"There is a lot of work to do in MM. There are some improvements going on but maybe it is too little too late especially with the ever growing population."

I looked through the population stats for Metro Manila (from the 2000 census) and it looks like, although the population is still growing, it is growing at a slower rate.

This corresponds to both Phillip Longman's and Stewart Brand's findings that cities are population sinks. Fertility drops when countries urbanize -as people who move to cities have less children -the rate drops below 2.1% (the replenishment rate). Most city growth in the next 50 years will be driven by in-migration. (Which is a perfect segue to what will be my next post: on Subic as a metropolis).


the long view

"cities go through tremendous change...but they endure" -Stewart Brand

May I recommend a set of very stimulating lectures about long term thinking sponsored by the Long Now Foundation. You can download mp3 files of most of the lectures here.

You can start with any lecture, but for city-philes I would suggest Stewart Brand's lecture on Cities and Time. The lecture is 1 hour 17 minutes long, so make sure you have a long enough moment to enjoy it.

Stewart Brand is one of my all time favorite thinkers and was greatly influenced by his book Clock of the Long Now. His discussion in the lecture (and in the book) on the pace of change cycles (pictured above) makes me think that the struggles of my home country is about changing culture and governance (not governments) -an exercise that we have been struggling with over the last 200 years. The paroxysms of the present are symptoms of the change taking place and the deeper layers.

thanks for the shout out

Carlos Celdran, famous Manila "streetwalker" posted a shout out and a link from his well-read site to mine. Thanks!

(If you haven't taken his tour, I am told it is a MUST.)

Like I said, we need more Carlos Celdrans in the city. Help us to appreciate home ground just a bit more.

On another note, I really need to expand my list of city oriented pinoy sites.

changing the image

My friend Juned, who runs several blogs has one called Pinoy Snapshots where he puts up his own great pictures of random places in Metro Manila. He's got a few great panoramic views.

Two didactic points (of course there has to be a "moral lesson") I get from his pictures:

The one above reminds us of how few green open spaces we have left in Metro Manila. Green and open spaces are democratic spaces. They provide places for play and relaxation for the masa. (Just visit the Quezon Memorial Circle on any Saturday and you'll know what I mean.) A rational, people-centric planning process would ensure that we retain open spaces for the city. (Check out Bogota's experience.)

The second is that re-imagining our city means re-imaging it. The mental picture we all have (born by pictures in local and foreign media) is of Smokey Mountain or Payatas. Very few media "establishing shots" show the city's skyline. This is something that the DOT or the Philippine Information Agency should undertake. I know images of beautiful islands are geared toward tourist sales -but juxtaposing it next to the modernity of our cities (at least part of it) will add to civic pride.

Maybe Philippine media can begin considering this as some sort of low-intensity advocacy?


planning departments

I surfed through several city websites of the constituent cities of Metro Manila to look for any postings about their planning departments. Most of them just listed the department but had little other info. The following had some kind of links to a planning or zoning department:

Only Mandaluyong listed an officer (with an email address) and only Muntilupa listed some sort of process or mission/vision for planning that committed to involving "stockholders." (I suppose they meant stakeholders.)

None talked about comprehensive plans or planning process. None had links to zoning maps.



Here's detail from Burnham's plan. (Colors have been altered, of course.)

You can clearly see the the diagonal boulevards and the grid. Also, the present Rizal Park was supposed to be a government center -with monumental buildings arranged in a half-arc facing the bay. The Executive Building (previously occupied by the Senate and now by the National Museum*) and the Finance Building were the only ones that got built. I think the Commonwealth Government set aside money for the project (saved over a decade) but then decided to spend it on rural irrigation projects instead.

The boulevards all terminated at the center of the arc of buildings - one road had a direct connection to the railroad station in Paco.

Notice also how the new government center butted-up right next to the walls of Intramuros -giving it an active edge. Currently, the Walls have open fields/parks/driving ranges as foreground -with no active edge connecting the old city to the new city.

(*isn't it sad that the National Museum doesn't seem to have it's own domain and seems to just be squatting on Tripod?)

burnham's manila

[note: minor change -the linked picture is now bigger]

Here's a treat for you manilaphiles and history buffs. An image of Daniel Burnham's 1905 plan for Manila. (I'll put a close-in detail picture in the next entry.) Burham was commissioned to create a masterplan for Manila (by then Governor General William Howard Taft if I'm not mistaken) in 1901 and he completed the commission in 1905.

So Burnham actually practiced on Manila before he tackled Chicago, San Francisco or DC. (Chicago pinoys i've met swear that Lakeshore Drive feels like Roxas Boulevard --well, now you know why.)

Notice the formal grid with the diagonal boulevards -which mark the City Beautiful Movement. DC denizens will recognize this pattern.

Parts of this plan were enacted (like Dewey/Roxas Boulevard and the Executive and Finance Buildings along with Manila City Hall) but the project was dropped post WWII. I know "what might have beens" are usually a waste of time, but imagine where we would be if we had followed the masterplan. (Chicago is still actually implementing parts of Burnham's Plan to this day.)

I've been visiting Carlos Celdran's and IvanM's sites lately. Both gentlemen offer very entertaining and educational historic walking tours of Manila. (I have friends who've taken the tour and think the world of them.) I think the work they do is invaluable in having our citizens re-frame how they view our home city.

Having a sense of the past can inspire us to re-imagine the future.


land use

I was browsing the HLURB web site and found jpegs of land use maps from the metro area. I wish they had a land use map of the whole metro. All the land use maps are dated 1981 - does that mean that none of the MM cities have undertaken a comprehensive land use mapping/zoning since then? The website says there is a GIS cookbook for LGU projects going on - as part of a preparation for comprehensive land use submissions by the cities. It seems like its a two year project that started in 2004 - so we'll probably have new land use plans in 2006.

Given the precedent, the new land use plans will be in force for the next 30 years. They will decide the shape of Metro Manila for the next 100.

What is telling is that the CLUPs are being done on a city/municipality basis. Will there be a regional plan?

More on this later.


lord of all you survey

Check out hi-resolution aerials of Cavite on google maps. As far as I can tell, only northern Cavite (south Manila Bay shore) and the Clark and Pampanga area seem to have images at this resolution.

The Cavite image i linked to above clearly shows the interchange at the end of Coastal Road - and you can see how bad the traffic is. Zooming up to a higher altitude, you can see the extent of the spread of the urbanized areas in the national capital region.

I hope more data becomes available, and that google puts this up on google maps. The more we understand our spatial environment, the more we can better plan our growth.


living machine

The World Bank is spending $ 64M to upgrade Metro Manila's sewers. I wish there was a citizen's voice or a green group that would find a place on the table.

The picture above is from Baima, China. It's a living machine -a constructed wetland that cleans an urban creek. Can you imagine something like this on the Pasig River, the Marikina River or on Tripa de Galina?

"In Baima, China, a series of canals (top) used to collect and channel sewage, commercial wastewater, and stormwater runoff threatened the health of the city's 6 million inhabitants. After just two months, a Restorer system supporting 12,000 plants of 20 native species (bottom) is reducing odors, eliminating solids, improving water clarity, and reducing bacteria in the effluent that flows to the area's major river."

image credits: Ocean Arks International

(more about this project after the link)

long hiatus

I haven't posted anything for over a month. Given the political turmoil in the country, I found it not prudent to discuss metropolitan issues. The nation's attention and energies are taken up by the "Hello Garci" scandal.

The upside to all of this, as I told a few friends of mine, is that it is getting harder and harder for any sitting president to be tainted with corruption. FVR barely escaped with Amari/PEA (an issue with urban planning implications, by the way); Erap was out in 2.5 years -and GMA lasted barely a year before the corruption charges came to fore.

The next chief executive (prime minister or president) will have to either be extremely subtle and extremely smart to be able to hide corruption or they will have to seriously be squeaky clean.

Having said that though, there are a number of issues that are coming down the pipe that are of serious consequences:

Metro Manila's shift to CNG buses
The third Metro Manila Sewerage project
The future sale of Camp Aguinaldo and Camp Crame

All of these have serious, long term implications on the growth and quality of life in Metro Manila.

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