“The proposal to build bike lanes may sound good to ease the impact of the rising cost of fuel products to motorists. But roads in Metro Manila are not safe for biking and the air quality in the cities is so dirty,” said (Health Secretary Francisco H.) Duque.

This Manila Times article reports DOH officials saying that encouraging biking in Metro Manila is not a good idea -because the pollution is bad for the cyclists.

So, let me get this straight: pollution from cars is bad for the cyclists so we should just all ride inside pollution causing cars so we are protected from pollution?

Is it just me or did logic take a vacation somewhere?

And why does Manila Times allow Jonathan Vicente (the reporter) to publish an article that is such an awkwardly disguised press release?

"The use of the Khaos Super Turbo Charger (KSTC) is being pushed by the government and several environmentalists to save on fuel consumption and promote clean-air quality in Metro Manila."

Seriously folks. Let's get with the program here.


vancouver's vision

"It starts with having a strong vision."

"We don't want ghettoes for the rich nor for the poor."

Larry Beasley
Co-Director of Planning and
Director of Current Planning
Vancouver BC, Canada

If you have the bandwidth, and the time, download Carol Coletta's interview (in her NPR radio show, Smart City) with Larry Beasley who has led Vancouver's amazing growth and has turned it into one of the most liveable cities in the world.

The MP3 link is here, but you can also download it via iTunes Podcast Directory (do a search for "Smart City").

The interview with Larry is just the first 30 minutes but it's a revealing look at how a clear vision, that goes beyond just economic growth, can create a wonderful livable city.

The interview with Tim Jones (the lower half of the program), CEO of Artscape, a Toronto organization that develops real estate and programs for the city's artists and creative sector, is also very insightful. (I personally think we don't do enough for our artists. And creativity is a definite comparative advantage in the globalized economy.)

Image credit: Vancover, BC -Home, Sweet Home!

...oh, well...

Licuanan resigns post, palace keeps mum.

Here we go again, Subic.

Image credit: BBC News


halo-halo together

1. Mix Land Uses. New, clustered development works best if it includes a mix of stores, jobs and homes. Single-use districts make life less convenient and require more driving.

from How to achieve Smart Growth

Monocultures are bad. Whether it be in forestry, farming, society, or in thinking and discourse -single-use, single-crop systems are fragile, energy inefficient systems.

Monocultures are convenient for management and efficiency experts. One crop/product makes the system predictable and easy to harvest but the choice is often very short-sighted. The cost of maintaining a monoculture increases exponentially as the single crop exhausts the land of a particular set of resources. A single crop farm will need more fertilizer, herbicide and fungicide than a in farms where the crops are mixed or rotated.

A large swath of land turned into single-crop plantation quickly exhausts the soil and makes the local economy vulnerable to collapse when the market for the crop fails.

Same goes for cities and urban districts. Monocultures -single use districts, are easy to parcel out and sell but lead to socially stratified cities and increases vehicular traffic. Separating uses means increasing travel distance between uses.

Single use districts are a product of euclidean zoning, which is itself a product of 19th and early 20th century industrial society that saw the efficiency of the assembly line and thought this would clean up the mess of cities. (cf -Congres Internationaux d'Architecture Moderne's "Functional City" in the 1933 Athens Charter).

Planners thought segregating uses, a response to the squalid conditions of the industrial cities, would create more livable cities. Commerce would stay in commercial zones, industry (and it's noxious byproducts) would be separated from residential areas and the city, in theory, would hum as cleanly as a Ford factory. As with all good ideas, this was of course taken too far such that, in the US, zoning separated even grocery stores from its customers and created auto-dependent development epitomized by monstrous suburban malls ringed by acres and acres of parking.

This is usually not a problem in traditional asian cities - walk through Hongkong, Shanghai, Seoul or Tokyo and the residential areas mix right in with the retail and services. Tokyo zoning, in fact, prescribes only what land use is NOT allowed and lets the citizens go their merry own way. The result is a more vibrant street life with residential needs closely knit to the places providing for those needs.

In our own city, this happy-mixing is captured by the corner sari-sari store in the projects of Quezon City. Manila's older parts have enough chaos that there are stores and groceries almost everywhere.

That state of affairs though is fast being lost in the suburbs north, south and east of Metro Manila, where land use plans took their cues from single-use zoning. From Better Living down to the new villages (with fancy, english sounding names) in Laguna and Cavite, finding the nearest grocery store means stepping into a car or a tricycle and driving out for a few kilometers. The subdivisions east of the metro - from Marikina to Antipolo also share the same problems arising from this same formulaic response: Master planned areas will neatly chop up areas for housing from areas for stores from areas for jobs then lay down wide roads in between to ferry people from one use to another.

Planning hindsight sees that mixing uses was not so bad after all as it allows residents to walk to get to their everyday needs -gives retail and restaurants a steady set of consumers -and more importantly puts more life on the street.

(I am glad that the Ayala Business District has lately turned to zoning rules mixing uses in the Legaspi and Salcedo districts. The ground floors are now allowed to sport restaurants, coffee bars and laundromats, it makes the street life all the more active.)

As the metropolis goes through it's cycle of new development and re-development, I hope we take more to Shanghai and Hongkong than to L.A. or Atlanta.


livable cities

Pioneer Courthouse Square, Portland, Oregon

Cebu city's goal to be the most livable city in Asia by 2015 leads to the question: "What makes a city livable?" or more aptly, "What kind of city do we want to live in?"

Most people know what kind city they don't want to live in. (The quick answer: Metro Manila in its present state. See batjay's commentary on living the auto-driven life in the real O.C. for comparison.) Few really think about what kind of city they want -moreso how to get there.

Here's one of my favorites from the Smart Growth movement - it's a roadmap to getting to smart growth, but I think it also serves as a measure of livability. Not everything is completely applicable to Metro Manila but they serve as good take-off points for discussing the future of our city:

  1. Mix Land Uses. New, clustered development works best if it includes a mix of stores, jobs and homes. Single-use districts make life less convenient and require more driving.

  2. Take Advantage of Existing Community Assets. From local parks to neighborhood schools to transit systems, public investments should focus on getting the most out of what we’ve already built.

  3. Create a Range of Housing Opportunities and Choices. Not everyone wants the same thing. Communities should offer a range of options: houses, condominiums, affordable homes for low income families, and “granny flats” for empty nesters.

  4. Foster “Walkable,” Close-Knit Neighborhoods. These places offer not just the opportunity to walk—sidewalks are a necessity—but something to walk to, whether it’s the corner store, the transit stop or a school. A compact, walkable neighborhood contributes to peoples’ sense of community because neighbors get to know each other, not just each other’s cars.

  5. Promote Distinctive, Attractive Communities with a Strong Sense of Place, Including the Rehabilitation and Use of Historic Buildings. In every community, there are things that make each place special, from train stations to local businesses. These should be protected and celebrated.

  6. Preserve Open Space, Farmland, Natural Beauty, and Critical Environmental Areas. People want to stay connected to nature and are willing to take action to protect farms, waterways, ecosystems and wildlife.

  7. Strengthen and Encourage Growth in Existing Communities. Before we plow up more forests and farms, we should look for opportunities to grow in already built-up areas.

  8. Provide a Variety of Transportation Choices. People can’t get out of their cars unless we provide them with another way to get where they’re going.More communities need safe and reliable public transportation, sidewalks and bike paths.

  9. Make Development Decisions Predictable, Fair, and Cost-Effective. Builders wishing to implement smart growth should face no more obstacles than those contributing to sprawl. In fact, communities may choose to provide incentives for smarter development.

  10. Encourage Citizen and Stakeholder Participation in Development Decisions. Plans developed without strong citizen involvement don’t have staying power.When people feel left out of important decisions, they won’t be there to help out when tough choices have to be made.

In future posts, I'll discuss each item to see how we might apply it to Metro Manila.

Image credit: Project for Public Spaces.


konting ipit lang po*
(...disorganized transport iii)

The Boundary System as a city shaper.

Cities are self-organizing systems. With the exception of planned cities like Brasilia or Chandigarh, very few cities arise ex-nihilo.

Cities respond to the needs of the individuals that comprise it and one of the key needs is mobility -to get from one point to another.

Cities are shaped by the current mode of transportation available when they grew up. So older european cities have narrow winding streets, suitable for carts and donkeys or walking. London grew up around the tube, and New York around the subway system. L.A., like Metro Manila, grew up around the automobile -so roads (at least in the newer parts of the metropolis) are wide and traffic fast.

The mode of transportation shapes the city and the demands of the city also shapes the transportation -particularly public transportation.

In our own city, public transport, as I previously discussed has been given over to the free market. The rewards/remuneration system of this particular urban sub-system, has shaped our city in ways that may have been invisible to us all these years.

The Boundary System is basically a vehicle rent system. The driver is "hired" by the transport operator, to run and maintain his jeep, bus, or FX cab. The driver can run as many trips within the boundary period (standard is 12 hours) as he wants but he basically has to pay the "boundary fee" (usually, daily) to the owner -and his source of income is whatever he makes over and above the boundary fee. The driver covers the cost of gasoline and minor repairs.

This remuneration/rent system has shaped metro-manila in subtle and not so subtle ways.

The boundary system brings a logic to earning money that shapes the driving habits of the renting drivers. If the driver only earns above the boundary, then logic dictates that he must get as many passengers as he can in as many trips as possible . The driver also benefits by having the vehicle on the road as many days as possible - as repairs and shutdowns mean no income for the day.

So, a driver will:

  1. soak up passengers by basically waiting as long as he can in a high traffic/passenger volume area and then
  2. speed up to the next high volume pickup point to soak in more passengers.
  3. he will also see other public utility vehicles plying the route as competition so waiting in a line does not make much sense,
  4. he will try to get ahead of the line (usually by doubling up on the pickup lane) so he can be closer to the "source" of passengers and so
  5. he won't be tied down on the line and can speed up to the next destination.
  6. It also means that shorter trips are preferred to longer trips and
  7. vehicle downtime and thus vehicle maintenance is kept to a minimum (=inefficient engines, =more pollution).

This system is behind the traffic chokepoints at the major junctions and intersections. The underpass in cubao, the flyovers in ortigas, the overpasses in santolan, even the grade separations in EDSA in Makati were driven by the logic of separating the buses, who spent an inordinate amount of time at the intersections waiting for passengers, from the rest of the road traffic.

The government has also probably thrown millions of pesos in soft costs at trying to manage the behavior of the public utility vehicles by throwing hundreds of traffic enforcers and by coming up with several management programs (from Oscar Orbos' bus numbering system, to Bayani Fernando's Organized Bus Routes).

The flyovers/overpasses/underpasses have made EDSA completely un-friendly to pedestrians, and the accumulation of vehicles in the intersections have concentrated exhaust/pollution in the areas around these passenger pickup junctions so these have become some of the worst parts of the city. (Ordinarily, the high pedestrian traffic junctions would be the most suitable places for commerce and retail.)

A serious re-thinking of the boundary system (legislating a wage based system seems the easy way out -but that will create it's own problems) would go a long way not only in solving intractable traffic problems but also in re-shaping the fabric of the city.

*-Part of "Konting ipit lang po, pituhan yan."

Roughly translated, "Please squeeze your thighs a bit more, this jeepney fits seven to a side."

Image credit:Manfred's Travel Pictures

and now a word from...

A reader and a friend asked why I haven't commented on Gloria-gate.

It's not out of apathy or resignation. I just think there are enough voices speaking out about the matter and my betters (MLQ, Sassy Lawyer, et. al.) are doing a good job of annotating the developments as they unfold. (Not that I agree with everything they say -I did get a total kick from Carlos Celdran's "Open Letter".)

I prefer to focus on 1) urban planning and design issues; 2) city livability; and more importantly, 3) the 50-100 year outlook. It's so easy to miss the forest for the trees -and the trees aren't looking so good right now. The forest stretches back 500 years and forward another 500. (Or in keeping with the above image -looking for the end of the tunnel, and the next tunnel...)

I figured I'd be more useful on the lookout perch than in melee on the ground.

Image credit: Thomas Hawk.


a cocoon by any other name

UPDATE 8.19.05: I hadn't been checking my email box - Sydney sent me the same story on the same day. Synchronicity for you! Or rather are birds of the same feather... ?

Caught this article in yesterday's BusinessWorld Online. Apparently the apple of the pinoy developer's eye is creating "work-live-play environments." In other places this would be called mixed-use development. And you see them developing around - Rockwell, Eastwood, the new Greenbelt...

Off-hand, this is a good thing, as any departure from the sprawl-inducing, traffic-causing euclidean zoning is good. BUT (of course there has to be a but) will it lead to another form of spatial insularity? Are these "cocoons" -built on high-end retail and entertainment centers -shaping up to be the new enclaves?
"I think the theme is still for most part affordability. Condominiums that are moving right now are the ones that address affordability concerns," (Richard T. Raymundo, director for the research and consultancy division of Colliers International Philippines) said. These are those that have studio types and one-bedroom units.

Affordable for whom?

Is it too much to dream that our cities can enact inclusionary zoning regulations? After all, we do have a staggering housing backlog (to the tune of close to 250,000 units a year).

Or can we impose exactions - like requiring publicly accessible parks and open spaces or creating special tax funds to benefit public schools and barangay health centers within a 5-kilometer distance from these "cocoons"?

Just asking.

Image credit: BusinessWorld Online


transport kudos

UPDATE 8.19.05: Sydney sent me a link to an article this story in philstar (link might be broken - I think Philstar doesn't archive). Looks like the Senate is also stepping into the fray (or the publicity) -let's hope it's not ningas cogon.
The soundbyte from Sen. Flavier:

"In a third world country like the Philippines with an acute transportation shortage and an ever-worsening air pollution problem, foot-powered bicycles may yet become one of the most efficient, inexpensive and practical means of public transport," Flavier said in the explanatory note of his bill. "

The confluence of higher gas prices, traffic and pollution is at last bringing authorities around to the logic of bike lanes in the city. (Thanks also to the work of the Firefly Brigade.)

Apart from bike lanes, the MMDA is also working on expanding sidewalks and pedestrian routes. About time -as the cars have been lording over planning choices in Metro Manila over the last 30 years.

Maybe this will lead them to Traffic Calming and Road Diets.

Image credit: Christian Science Monitor


...disorganized transport (ii)

Problems with free market transportation strategies:

From a pure economic efficiency standpoint, a laissez-faire regime in transportation delivers the services directly to the needs -so it is very responsive.

But the logic of market also creates problems. Maximizing resources means stuffing as many people as you can into the vehicle ("Konting ipit lang po, pituhan yan!"), and using the vehicles for as long as they can run on the road.

So you get overstuffed vehicles; "aircon" buses that have no airconditioning to speak of; buses, jeeps and taxis on the road that are probably held together by electrical tape. ( This was made worse in the late 80's when, in response to a transport crisis, DOTC (then under Oscar Orbos) liberalized the imporation of second-hand buses.)

The market also quickly retreats when it isn't cost effective to be running services -i.e., everytime there is a massive traffic jam or downpour, the buses and jeeps disappear because being stuck in traffic eats into their earnings -leaving commuters stranded and exacerbating the situation.

There are no safeguards for the welfare of the passengers and the regulatory regime only has control over fares and emissions. So you get the nearly annual transport strike as they agitate for higher fares. (One can only dream that there would somehow be a "pasahero strike" so passengers can get a better deal.)

Programs such as the Organized Bus Route, the AUV Express (which the FX drivers can't seem to get organized enough to protest), the CNG/NGVPPT, and the Greater Manila Mass Transport System are attempts by the government to impose order after the market has organized itself.

(It's noteworthy that the government feels they are doing the FX drivers a favor by legalizing them under the "AUV Express" regime and that the FX operators are protesting the requirement that they only stop at designated points on the route and set-up terminals complete with restrooms and waiting areas -regulations after the fact.)

What the national government/MMDA and the city governments are looking for is the right incentives vs. regulations approach that will control the free market without stiffling the entrepreneurship or the profit motive.

What the national government/MMDA and the city governments haven't grasped is that public transportation systems are city shapers, and transport nodes (even ones that aren't light rail stations) can be used to the city's advantage -i.e. -by encouraging Transit Oriented Development (TOD) at the nodes.

Imagine if they built affordable high density housing around and on top of FX terminals? All the makati white-collar workers would buy/rent the units. If the cities owned/developed the terminals, they could also impose no-engine-idling rules to further reduce emissions.

More about non-rail TODs and the "boundary system" as a city-shaper in succeeding posts.

image credit: Sherry and Larry's 'Round the World website

...disorganized transport (i)

Picking up the thought from my last post: Part of Metro Manila's weakness (and effectively the National Government's failure -as it manages the National Capital Region) is that it has taken an almost pure free market approach to meeting the transportation needs of the city. We have over 15 bus operators serving the EDSA Route, thousands of FX operators, thousands more jeepney operators, thousands more of tricycles and pedicabs -all of which are privately owned. From a regulatory standpoint, it doesn't take much to be a transport operator - you just need your own vehicle (maybe two) and a few forms from the DOTC and a couple more from the LTO and you're set.

Having a free market approach has probably done wonders for the informal economy -and has moved many jeepney entrepreneurs into the middle class. (The boundary system though has created its own problems -but i'll tackle that in another post.) It also has its advantages:

  1. It saves the government money
  2. It efficiently allocates resources to routes

On saving money: Many cities are in serious debt from maintaining municipal transport companies. As with any other endeavor the government enters into - government owned transport services, if badly managed (which is likely given that it is protected from market forces) , quickly become money pits. Government ownership means pricing strategy will be and route choice will be driven by electoral expediencies leading to even more inefficiencies and higher costs.

Private led transport industries are driven by the logic of profit and competition, so overhead costs are kept to a minimum and personnel are hired or fired based on performance and are not shielded by civil service laws.

On allocating routes: Privately owned transport companies also choose the most profitable routes and can quickly adapt to changes in demand by reallocating resources. So the needs of the routes with the most demand (i.e. -lots of passengers) are met first.

The classic example would be the rise of the FX Taxi (which the government prefers to call "AUV Express") -which responded to the lack of bus lines and the long waits at the bus stations (which exacerbated the commute times). FX taxis stepped in effectively as commercialized car pools.

... to be continued in my next post: problems with free market public transport strategies.

image credit: Aidan O'Rourke


organized bus routes...

Though I'm not too keen on Bayani's Fernando's design ethic (what with pink overpasses and pink fences) but his efforts to put together the organized bus route system is commendable. I know they are packaging it as a traffic solution (which gives lie to where the squeaky wheel is in urban planning decisions -pun intended) but it really is a step towards creating Bus Rapid Transit (BRT) system for Metro Manila.

BRT systems, also known as the "poor man's light rail," have been succesfully deployed in a number of Latin American cities. (Most notably: Curitiba, Brazil; in Bogota, Columbia; and lately, Mexico City, Mexico. BRT provides a cheaper way of organizing transport systems, and with political will, can do wonders for relieving urban gridlock while saving cities money.

It is generally not high on the list of systems recommended by multi-lateral funding agencies, or official aid programs as they can be implemented without expensive foreign engineering consultants or and don't require the recipient city to buy expensive technology from the sponsor country.

BRTs, if deployed correctly, offer a host of benefits apart from better public transport. Some notes from Bogota's Transmillenio:

The air is not pure in Bogota, either. The inefficiency of the public transport system in the Colombian capital is one more problem affecting the quality of life of the population, in addition to the violence associated with the illegal drug trade, the civil war and crime in general.

The mayor's office launched the "Transmilenio" plan in late 2000, aimed at improving transportation services and air quality in Bogota, the third most contaminated city in Latin America.

In two years, Transmilenio has increased the average speed of city buses from 10 kph to 25 kph, slashed the number of fatal traffic accidents and saved 10 million dollars a year in costs related to air pollution by reducing the incidence of respiratory illnesses.

Until the plan took effect, 22,000 outdated buses were used by more than 70 percent of Bogota's seven million residents, while just 19 percent traveled in 850,000 individual cars.

The Bogota bus fleet was too large (more than 3.5 buses for every 1,000 inhabitants), with a life of 14 years per unit and an average speed of 10 kph.

"Passengers spent an average of more than two hours a day in transit," said Transmilenio's chief of planning and administration, Angelica Castro.

The new system includes designated lanes for buses, four-lane roads with stops every 500 m along the meridian, leaving the exterior lanes for non-stop buses.

According to the plan, by 2016 the city will have 388 km of bus lanes, 300 km of bicycle routes and a new bus fleet equipped with catalytic converters to curb pollutants. They public buses will also be designed taking into account the needs of children, the elderly and the disabled.

The program seeks to dissuade the use of individual cars. In the works are a 100-percent hike in parking prices for downtown Bogota, and a 20 percent tax on gasoline. Half of those revenues will go toward financing infrastructure intended to fight air pollution.

-Interpress Service

BF's OBR, combined with a clear commitment fo converting to CNG buses would do wonders for Metro Manila. (Of course, they could do more with the aesthetics.)

The root of our transport problems though lies in how we have tended to view roads as investments, but public transport as a marketplace. -- more in next post.


cities moving forward

Time out for some good news. Eight cities shine amidst gloom.

"There is still hope for our country. While the national government is concerned with the impeachment, the cities are moving forward. The cities have bonded to ensure that basic services are delivered," said Iloilo Mayor Jerry Treñas.

The goals of the eight cities are as follows:

  • San Fernando: The Botanical Garden City by 2010
  • Tagbilaran: A Prime Eco-Tourism Hub by 2015
  • Calbayog: One City, One People, One Culture by 2015
  • Iloilo: Premier City by 2015
  • Naga City: Model City for Participatory Government by 2015
  • Samal: Island Garden City by 2015
  • Cebu: Most Livable City in Asia by 2015
  • Marikina: A World-class City by 2015

Of these goals, my favorites are Cebu's (livability) and Naga's (participatory government). If the lack of vision at the national level is getting you down, visit these cities and be inspired by what they are trying to do.

(More about the program from CIPE-ISA.)

image credit: Jim Guiao Punzalan for INQ7


the (spatial) roots of our discontent

I've often wondered about the roots of the political disconnection among the Philippine middle-class. I know the middle-class was the key swing sector in EDSA I and II, but apart from the involvement in severe convulsions of our body-politic, the middle-class seems to be content to play the role of critical bystander. It does not, raise new political leaders. (Admittedly, I have no data to support that claim.)

Why are electoral contests left to popular/populist media icons and scions of political families. Where are the children who grew up in middle-class homes with middle-class educational pedigrees?

I know the roots are many and obviously overdetermined, but may I offer up one contributing cause?

The political disconnect is mirrored in the spatial disconnect of the enviroment that the middle-class grows up in. Most live in middle-class gated villages. They go to exclusive schools that are usually an hour's drive or more away from where they live. (Paranaque kids who go to Ateneo or Poveda, QC kids who go to La Salle, etc.)

Few of them take public transport to their schools - most ride in cars. --Could it be this insularity (which finds it's roots way back in the segregation of all-spanish Intramuros from the servants' quarter of Binondo and the other arrabales) which keeps the rich and the middle class from involvement in society?

Sure, most private schools have immersion programs in urban poor communities and I do not discount the help they have extended -but as immersion programs, they teach young middle-class students that urban issues are "projects of philantrophy."

You ride a car, you do not hear the noise or smell the garbage - they are problems you pass by on your way to your destination. You study away from where you live and you have no part in community life (apart from your friends from school). You have no idea how your barangay works or where the barangay hall is. You do not even know what the communities outside your village walls look like.

Apart from traffic and pollution, which then become what the middle-class complains about (re: life in the city), you grow up without appreciating the lack of housing, the deterioration of civic monuments, the lack of public open spaces, the absence of sidewalks...

So here's the question: does the spatial organization of our cities weaken our sense of citizenship?


civic pride?

Philippine Senate

Self-referrent post #2:
How the heck can that thing inspire civic pride?

tayo na sa...

My last post got me wondering (sorry for the self-referrent post) about who has actually visited our legislative buildings.

So if you have a few seconds, can you take this quick poll.


and while we're at it...

While we consider constitutional changes to the form of our legislature (and I won't argue the rightness or wrongness of cha-cha and con-ass), may I suggest some critical design and spatial changes, too?

  1. Change the chairs used by senators and congressmen
  2. Change the tables
  3. Change the location of the legislature

Those chairs are large, comfortable and they recline and swivel. Check out the Bundestag, chairs are close together and they can't swivel all the way around. The Canadian Parliament like UK's House of Commons don't even have chairs or tables. The legislators sit on benches.

Why should legislators have chairs that are NOT comfortable and don't recline or swivel? Or have large tables?

It's easier to fall asleep in a comfortable reclining chair -hence those classic shots of privilege speeches with senators sleeping in the background. A swivelling chair makes it easy to turn around and have an on the floor caucus. -- Both indulgences allow a legislator to not listen to the business at hand. It may seem trivial but that means the real "business" of the senate and congress goes on outside the legislative floor -where points are clarified and deals are made. The floor is all just for show.

Large tables makes it easy to bring papers to work on or read while at the session floor distracting from what should be a debate about the items on the agenda. Again, this means the deals are done off the floor.

The Congress and the Philippine Senate are in hard to access areas -away from the business and commercial centers and away from main roads. This reduces the chances of ordinary citizens coming in to watch the proceedings and take part in the process. Apart from during major events like the SONA, the only people who will go out of their way to go to the Senate or Congress are people with vested interests -i.e. lobbyists.

If I had my druthers, I'd ask Ayala Land to donate part of Fort Bonifacio (in a very accessible area) for a new legislative building -that can be designed via a competition -and with citizen input.


deep and wide

There is no limit to what you can accomplish, as long as you are prepared to wait." Freeman Dyson

Maynila is at least 500 years old. By the time the Spanish got there in 1570, Maynila was already a thriving city with a population of 4,000.

As Stewart Brand puts it, "cities persist." Barring major natural cataclysms, Manila will still be here 450 years from now. The government's form, the shape of geopolitics, will be as similar and as different as Rajah Sulayman's court is from the current administration in Malacanang. The city's built fabric in 2450 will be shaped by the decisions we make now.

While it is easy to become frustrated by the current politics, long term vision and long term leadership means we must consider the future now. Ergo the title of this blog. In another hundred years, Arroyo, de Venecia, Cam, Estrada and the whole cast of characters will all be footnotes. Metro Manila will persist. In what form and in what condition depends on our current imagination of the horizon we have yet to see.
image credit: Maria Madonna Davidoff, cover art for "The West and the World"

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