THE golden age of infrastructure in the Philippines now begins. Around P8 trillion are budgeted until 2021 in planning, developing and constructing mega-infrastructure projects. Some of the planned projects are interisland bridges inter-connecting the entire Philippines, the country’s longest bridge, railways and subways, disaster resiliency and flood control, and possibly the construction of one of the world’s biggest airports and seaports.
From the conversations I’ve had with several investors and business leaders, the opportunities are more than enough for local investors. Investors even said that definitely we would need the help of foreign contractors and developers to bring in expertise, technology, operations management and funding. It’s possible that in the next few years we might see 20 kilometer-long bridges, connecting Bataan to Calabarzon, which I have been proposing for a very long time, and a bridge connecting the Visayas to Mindanao. In other Asian countries, such as in the rich Pearl Delta region of China, they have constructed a bridge longer than 40 kilometers. It took around five years to finish. If we are to adopt the technology and open our country up for direct foreign investment, a 20km bridge may only take two to three years to finish.
Imagine, one can travel from the tip of Luzon to the southernmost portions of Mindanao by land or railway! In 2006, Maglev of Germany talked to me about the possibility of developing a Maglev railway in the country. It will only take three hours to travel from Laoag to Davao.
Metro Davao and Davao Gulf megalopolis
Just this October, the Mindanao Development Authority, in strategic partnership with the Davao Regional Development Council and National Economic Development Authority, awarded the Urban Master Plan of Metro Davao to Palafox Associates.
The total land area of Metro Davao is approximately 600,000 hectares and the entire Davao Gulf is approximately 860,000 hectares. This includes the municipalities of Panabo, Carmen, Tagum, Island Garden of Samal, Mabini, Maco, Pantukan, Banaybay, Lupon, San Isidro, Governor Generoso, Davao City, Sta. Cruz, Digos, Hagonoy, Padada, Sta. Maria, Malita, Don Marcelino, and Jose Abad Santos.
The Davao Gulf megalopolis is 16 times the size of Singapore, four times the size of Hong Kong, and twice the size of Dubai. We need to realize that there is more to our country beyond Metro Manila and start considering what other regions have to offer.
Metropolitan Davao is one of the fastest growing regions in the country. In 2016, the region grew 9.4 percent, the third fastest. In 2016, when Mayor Rodrigo R. Duterte won the national election as President of the Philippines, it helped propel the political significance, urban, and economic growth of the Davao region. And now the region is experiencing rapid urbanization. But through the Urban Master Plan, Metropolitan Davao, and the entire Davao Gulf, has the opportunity to become a model for sustainable, pedestrian and transit-oriented, technologically innovative, livable and resilient city in the country.
The big idea is to interconnect and synergize the entire Davao in becoming one economic superblock but at the same time maintaining a healthy city life, food security, environmental integrity, sense of culture, and safety. Metro Davao can possibly host the country’s biggest airport and seaport by 2021.
Pampanga megalopolis and Clark aerotropolis
Pampanga is the strongest counter-magnet to Metro Manila. In 2017, Palafox Associates is proud to share that it has completed the Pampanga Megalopolis plan. It included the new development of an outer and inner circumferential development corridors, bus rapid transits, transportation plans, tourism plans, and identification of water supply among many others.
The Pampanga Megalopolis has introduced the concepts of pairing spatial and physical strategies to economic value chains and development thrusts to maximize the economic competitive advantages of each city and municipality. The province has identified four metropolitan clusters which are the Aerotropolis, Agropolis, Ecopolis, and the Aquapolis.
The airport is a gateway, the front door, to a country. For any foreigner and returning Filipino expatriate, the airport is where they first set foot in the country. It is a welcome mat of our hospitality, character, culture and identity. Before you become an investor, you must first be a satisfied tourist.
In 2015, there were 36 million passengers. It means that the airport had the opportunity to showcase the entire country to millions of visitors. Inside the terminals, long walkways and waiting areas are places that give us an opportunity to present the beautiful islands and destinations of our country, as well as an opportunity to show the world-class craftsmanship of our artists, among others. As passengers are walking, there could be high-tech, digital screens that show the beauty of our country. There could also be interactive public art, sponsored by the National Commission for Culture and the Arts, and the National Historical Commission of the Philippines. The potential is limitless.
Airports should be appreciated through the light of holistic planning and holistic passenger experience and consumer journey, not only airport congestion. Just like traffic, congestion is a symptom of a confluence of issues, but ultimately is a sign of poor design and management.
For the inside of the terminals, we can take inspiration from Tokyo, Dubai, Hong Kong, San Francisco, and Paris. Beautifully designed, futuristic-looking sleeping pods and reading nooks are available for passengers. Instead of the passengers rushing through or waiting on the floors, these facilities are aesthetically designed to influence or to entice the passengers to use them. There should also be a lounge dedicated to PWDs and the elderly, and airport-certified personnel to assist them with boarding.
In terms of infrastructure development, things are looking quite exciting for the Philippines as proposed projects hit the ground running by 2018. With continuing visionary leadership, strong political will, good planning, good design, and good governance, we can bring the Philippines well into the 21st century – a globally competitive nation.