Envisioning the future: The Philippines at 500

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Today, March 16, 2021, we celebrate the 500th anniversary of the Western world’s discovery of the Philippines. After our Nation’s seemingly losing battle with corruption, criminality, and climate change, we now see more than a light of hope at the end of the tunnel. It is with great pride that our country currently joins the ranks of the top economies of the world. It is indeed quite an amazing national feat, which all started with choosing the right leaders just six years ago in 2016.

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THAT, my dear readers, is an introduction I would wish to write in the future, specifically in 2021. I would like to believe that the Philippines can make it to the top 20 economies of the world. Luckily, we still have several months before the 2016 elections to seriously think about the future of our country and choose the right leaders.

In my observation of progressive nations, I concluded that their success can be attributed to five factors, namely: visionary leadership, political will, good planning, good design, and good governance. All of these ingredients are needed to bring the Philippines well into the 21st century.

In my previous speaking engagements, I shared my development vision for the Philippines, which hopefully could be achieved on its 500th year in 2021. This vision plan is created to inspire future leaders and show the people not just fantastic ideas but also doable solutions.

In this article and the succeeding ones, I would like to share in detail my vision plan for the Philippines, starting with the need to create growth centers outside of Metro Manila. Let us first look at what we presently have in order to know what we still need to work on.

Integration and development of Megalopolis Manila
Recently, the Department of Science and Technology (DOST) successfully developed a locally made hybrid bus. With this technology, it is most promising that Metro Manila is on track in developing the Bus Rapid Transit that can finally ease up the worsening traffic congestion and systemic gridlock. At the average additional rate of 120,000 cars per year in Manila, the innovation of DOST and the integration of right traffic principles and infrastructure, traffic efficiency would significantly improve and commuting time will decrease. Specifically EDSA and the Manila –Ortigas – Cainta Bus route would need to implement this mass-transportation scheme if it wishes to avoid the ever growing concern of traffic stagnation.

The National Economic Development Authority (NEDA) has already approved the integration and expansion of our Metro Rail Transit (MRT), which would make areas in Cavite (MRT 6) and Bulacan (MRT 7) accessible by train. Because of accessibility, new investments and economic spillovers will aid the emergence of new urban growth centers in the South (Cavite and Laguna) and in the North (Bulacan). New commercial centers, development of residential and sub-urban areas, and proliferation of small to enterprises and small business corporations are certainly possible.

Aside from land transport infrastructure, which is greatly necessary for development, utilization and redevelopment of ports and airports are also important. With new roads, highway and infrastructure already partially accomplished and laid out; it is now economically viable for traders to utilize the port of Batangas as the response to the port congestion of Manila. Because of shorter travel time between Manila and Batangas, the latter will emerge as the next trading center of Luzon and possibly a formidable economic zone for trade and warehousing. Mainly used for storage area of crude oil, the port of Batangas can also expand to other raw and value added goods. With better infrastructure, the CALABARZON area could experience a considerably rapid economic growth, and increase in domestic and international tourism.

On the other hand, Clark and Subic is set to become the new innovation and science hubs of the Philippines. The recent full operational capacity of the 93-kilometer Subic-Clark-Tarlac highway sets precedence in the development of Central Luzon because of accessibility, specifically Clark and Subic. Currently Subic enjoys being one of the premier trading centers of Luzon, and semi-conductors and electronic parts is the number one export of the area, care of Zambales. Clark, on the other hand, has moved towards its vision for the “Clark Future City.”

With the on-going improvement of the Clark International Airport and the Subic Bay port, the cities will be able to gain more from its special economic zone status, as foreign direct investment will be inclined to pour in more business ventures. Clark and Subic have the opportunity to become the Silicon Valley of the Philippines with a fusion of the smart city design of Singapore. Specifically, Clark city will also become the new gateway of the Manila Metropolis, extending all the way to CALABARZON. Most certainly, because of proximity, Pampanga will also be a major site for residential development.

By emphasizing and appreciating how transport infrastructure, regional integration bundled visionary leadership, political will, good design, good planning, and good governance, the Philippines being in the top 20 economies by 2021 becomes a realistic endeavor. Collective step by step gestures of sound and collaborative planning will create ripples throughout our nation beyond our immediate notice.

For my next article, I will describe a revitalized vision of Agora, Escolta and other places in the Megalopolis. For the succeeding ones, I will also tackle my vision for Visayas, Mindanao, and the whole country – the Philippines well into the 21st century.

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