METRO Manila only forms .2 percent of the total land area of the country, yet within that small space, 12 percent of the Philippine population lives and works, contributing an average of 36 percent of the entire economy. For many years, this has been the symbol of centric and imperial development.
But if you look closely at what has been happening in the past decade, one would notice that Metro Manila has also been expanding to Bulacan, Antipolo, Cavite, and Laguna, among others. In a paper that I submitted to Harvard in 2002, I referred to this expansion as the Manila Megalopolis. The Manila Megalopolis plan aims to address the distortions of poverty, unemployment, urban blight, population congestion, and numerous aesthetically offensive districts within the national capital. The plan hopes to create a proactive rehabilitation development initiative that can span several growth decades.
A megalopolis is a cluster of metropolitan areas. A metropolis on the other hand is a large city or a cluster of cities and municipalities that has a significant economic, political, cultural impact. Other forms of cities (or polis) that can be developed are aerotropolis (airport-driven city), aquapolis (seaport-driven city), agropolis (farm and the city), and ecopolis (eco-tourism and eco-centric development in environmentally critical areas).
In the next 30 years, there will be around 50 million more Filipinos. And according to a United Nations study, in the next decade around 70 to 80 percent of the population will move and live in the cities. With these in mind, the Philippines will need to develop at least 100 new cities.
As defined by the US Federal Aviation Administration, an aerotropolis is a “planned and coordinated multi-nodal freight and passenger transportation complex which provides efficient, cost-effective, sustainable, and intermodal connectivity to a defined region of economic significance centered around a major airport.”
The term aerotropolis was popularized by John D. Kasarda. According to him, “airports will shape business location and urban development in the 21st century, as much as highways did in the 20th century, railroads in the 19th, and seaports in the 18th.”
Aerotropolis is the center for growth. Altogether, it has three basic elements: spatial, functional, and connectivity. Spatial elements would include aviation-oriented businesses and associated residential areas. Aviation-oriented businesses such as hotels, convention centers, service industries, and others would be located within the core of the aerotropolis, while the residential areas develop within the outer ring of the aerotropolis and grow outwards. Functional elements include the spatial elements, businesses and business people relying on the airport for access as well. Lastly, the connectivity elements consist of the air routes and surface linkages (i.e. highways, railways, providing internal and external accessibility to the airport). These elements make up the skeleton and muscle of the aerotropolis.
Developing an aerotropolis and designing for a smart urban growth should be done hand in hand. Logistics, hotel facilities, free port zones, and other tourist accommodations should be strategically located within the vicinity, but away from the flight path. Transportation and road connections within the area should also be taken note of. The middle area comprises hospitals, service industries, and institutional establishments. Lastly, housing and other residential zones can be located in the outermost area of the aerotropolis.
Derived from the Greek words, “agros” meaning field and “polis” meaning city, the term has many interpretations such as the coagulation of the agricultural farms into the urban setting. Agropolis seeks to change the paradigm of creating food sources for the city as it tries to move food production out of the rural areas and into the city center itself. This allows the promise of a city to become self-sustaining, thereby reducing the carbon footprint.
In our ongoing development plan for Pampanga, it is envisioned that agriculture value-chains will be developed. From food production to food processing. The development of the agropolis can also transform farms into tourism areas by showcasing the different farming methods.
An aquapolis is a city that maximizes its waterfronts, coastal areas, and rivers and streams. The value chain of an aquapolis can center around water activities, marine education and tourism, and fishing.
But more than fishing, it can envision a city like Venice, wherein the canals are developed into transportation gateways and alfresco restaurants.
The Philippines has the third longest coastline in the world, even longer than the mainland United States. The Pasig River, is actually longer than the Grand Canal of Venice. The development of the aquapolis for our country is apt, since we are an archipelagic country.
Ecopolis is a term used to describe environment-oriented communities or clusters. It can be focused on enhancing nature-based tourism, or eco-tourism. While preserving the environment is critical, it is also important that economic opportunities be given to the community members, especially the indigenous communities. Without a proper economic value-chain that is central to environmental preservation, access to medicine, health care, education, and other opportunities will be difficult. For the ecopolis concept, the main thesis is balanced development.
Each city is unique; it has its own identity, character and culture, natural environment and geography, and political maturity. Each city has its own strengths as well as its own natural competitive and economic advantages.
Not all cities need to be filled with skyscrapers to be able to grow economically. The economy of a city can be developed around its natural environment. This also means that the cities will be more conscious in developing sustainable measures to protect their natural resources.