Vice President and housing czar Jejomar C. Binay on Friday urged local government executives to develop more public space, saying that “more open spaces mean better people’s lives.”
“The challenge is upon us to protect and improve on existing public spaces and to bring public-private partnership in developing new ones. We must continue to fight for their development and we need champions who can push to protect, create, and make useful such public spaces,” Binay said during the Interactive Conference on Public Place and the New Urban Agenda.
“My friends, our cities are now at a crossroads. We can stay at status quo and let our cities continue to grow haphazardly, with overemphasis on economic growth and little regard for human and social needs and environmental consequences. Or we can change our priorities and create a more sustainable and livable urban system. As leaders of your cities, that choice is yours to make,” Binay added.
The Housing and Urban Development Coordinating Council in partnership with UN Habitat, United Cities and Local Governments Asia- Pacific, and the League of Cities of the Philippines organized the two-day conference, which seeks to discuss issues affecting public space and planned urban development.
The Vice President stressed the importance of public space in urban places. “In an urban setting, where buildings crowd the city, open public spaces play an environmental role by serving as a buffer zone for high density development; where you get fresh air and sunlight as such public places are often lined with trees thus serving as the urban lung of the city,” he said.
“Depending on how public spaces are created, they can also provide room for cultural exchanges among city dwellers; or a place for expressing opinions, where forums can be organized,” he added.
Binay deplored the fact that along with the material development of cities over time, a host of pressing issues arises such as population density growth, social disparity, pollution, public safety and security, congestion, and loss of biodiversity.
“With 50 percent of our country’s population living in urban areas, it means that every day, one out of two Filipinos experiences heavy traffic, is exposed to a polluted environment, and has limited access to certain basic goods and services. However, at the same time, by being in the city, one finds himself in a position to partake of the roughly 75 percent of the country’s economic output, which comes from these areas. That is, in a very general sense, the scenario we have today,” said Binay.
Binay noted that unless urban living conditions and social conditions in general are improved, the country cannot claim to be successful even in the face of the steady economic growth over the years.
“So long as half of our citizens are exposed to the ills that continue to plague our urban centers, we need to continue striving harder to make things better. We have to continuously work to make our urban areas and cities more viable, sustainable, enjoyable, and livable. We must manage urbanization well to ensure that it is more beneficial than disadvantageous to the people,” the Vice President said.
Binay added that the conference is designed to help address the issue of public space.
“Through an informative and interactive framework, this conference will not simply give our participants a better understanding of our urban systems and its issues, but more importantly, it will provide them with the necessary analytical tools to address the same,” he added.