Second of three parts
LAST week, I shared with you an overview of the discussions from the 19th FIABCI Asia Pacific Regional Secretariat Summit. Speakers from all over the Asia Pacific region shared their insights on the best practices in real estate, architecture, urban development, economy, and many others. This time, I would like to share with you important points from the presentations of Deputy Director-General Rolando G. Tungpalan of the National Economic and Development Authority (NEDA) and Chief Representative Noriaki Niwa of JICA-Philippines.
According to JICA Study Team 2014, the Philippines improved in the overall quality of infrastructure. Out of 144 economies, our country ranked 91st in 2014, an improvement from our 113th ranking out of 139 countries in 2010. However, we are still behind our Asean neighbors like Malaysia (25th), Thailand (48th), and Indonesia (56th). In order to improve the situation, NEDA and JICA came up with the “Dream Plan” for the long-term development of transportation and infrastructure. In effect, the plan also addresses the challenges to our nation’s progress like traffic congestion, pollution, and rapid increase in population density in Mega Manila.
The plan wishes address traffic congestion, household living in hazardous conditions, barriers for seamless mobility, excessive cost burden for low income groups, and air pollution. It integrates the National Capital Region, Region III (Central Luzon), and Region IV-A (CALABARZON) into an inclusive and innovative development. From a monocentric to a polycentric development strategy, the plan calls for development of new economic and lifestyle centers outside of Metro Manila. These growth centers will then have to be interconnected through expressways, railways, and road networks, among others. By developing such “counter-magnets” to Metro Manila, Filipinos will have other options for good housing and job opportunities. Thus, decongesting Metro Manila and minimizing the hazards of earthquakes, flooding, and landslides.
Aside from land-based strategies, the plan also seeks to improve our sea- and airports. A role-sharing among the three gateway ports of Subic, Manila, and Batangas is proposed. The goal is to increase the capacity of these ports, answering the congestion problems currently experienced. Clark International Airport and NAIA, on the other hand, will be repurposed as gateway airports to the Greater Capital Region. A new NAIA is proposed to be developed to be at par with the airports in Singapore and Hong Kong.
The Dream Plan has five major components. The first one includes the creation of at-grade urban roads, like the missing links in C-3 and C-5. New roads, fly-overs, sidewalks and pedestrian facilities are also proposed. Component 2 takes into account the main roads and expressway networks. There are on-going projects already like EDSA Rehabilitation, Plaridel Bypass (packages 3 and 4), DaangHari, SLEX Link Tollroad (Segments 1 and II), NLEX-SLEX Connectors (Skyway 3), NAIA Expressway Phase 2, and STAR Expressway in Batangas.
Component 3 brings about the much-needed urban and sub-urban rail networks. On the other hand, Component 4 calls for the improvement of road-based public transport modernization, including buses and jeepneys. Improvements come in the form of operation and management, and shift to low emission vehicles, among others. It also plans to have an integrated provincial bus terminal; and organizing routes, terminals, and interchange facilities.
Lastly, Component 5 aims to strengthen the traffic management. To this end, the Dream Plan proposes a comprehensive traffic management study to be undertaken. Modernization of traffic signals and improvement of road safety measured are also proposed.
Should the Dream Plan be effectively put into place, the Filipino people will be able to feel a significant impact socially, economically, and environmentally by 2030. It is projected that our country can save P1.9 billion per day in travel time, and as much as P 2.1 billion per day in vehicle operations. Such savings can be used for projects that will benefit more Filipinos like education, job creation, healthcare, and food production, among many others. I believe this will be a significant win for the Philippines, especially if we want to be in the roll of top economies sooner.
The inevitable growth of our cities make it more than necessary to improve our transportation and infrastructure. With plans already set up and funding easier to come by, we must not procrastinate on making major improvements. It would take a strong collaboration between experts like economists, architects, urban planners, government officials, and business leaders, among many others, to execute properly the integrated plan towards sustaining the growth of our cities. Most important is the visionary leadership to implement the strategies. Should we be successful in doing so, our cities will not just be prepared for urban growth. Our nation will also have a stronghold of its place in the top 20 economies of the world by 2021, as we celebrate 500 years since the country was discovered and given the name Philippines.